Aleutian Islands Expedition

   Sea Kayaking / Touring
Aleutian Islands / Alaska - July 2015
2500km in 101 days along the Aleutian Islands and the Alaskan Peninsula.

   Sea Kayaking / Touring

Aleutian Islands / Alaska - July 2015

2500km in 101 days along the Aleutian Islands and the Alaskan Peninsula.

The team

Sarah Outen

Sarah Outen

The long volcanic arm of the Aleutian Islands is somewhere I have dreamt of paddling for years. The wild, rugged archipelago draws me in for the very reasons it makes me apprehensive. Strong currents, raging tidal races, relentless fog, long crossings, rocky landings, unchartered waters and hundreds of miles with no people."


No-one has succeeded in kayaking the length of the remote and stormy Aleutian Islands which stretch from Russia to Alaska. Explorers Justine Curgenven and Sarah Outen set out to paddle 2,500km along the archipelago, confronting more than 20 long crossings which separate the tiny unpopulated islands. Sarah faces an even more formidable challenge as this is part of her round-the-world human powered journey and she has limited kayaking experience. Alone for 101 days in one of the windiest, roughest places on earth, these two women are swept away from land by unknown currents, pounded by rough seas and approached by bears. Experiencing an edge-of-your-seat journey, they gain a rare insight into themselves, the rich wildlife and the lives of the few people who live in this harsh yet beautiful landscape.

“The bear was running towards us, splashing loudly in the stream. I could see every shaggy golden hair on his back. His concentration was absolute, focusing on a fat salmon that was equally intent on escaping the bear’s powerful claws. I grinned from ear to ear, watching this magnificent hunter chase his prey. Sarah and I sat with a guide from Hallo Bay bear camp and 4 of their guests, observing brown bears splashing futilely or expertly swiping a salmon, depending on their skill level. We watched them snoozing in the afternoon sun and playfully fighting with one another in the cool water, all the time feeling incredibly lucky.

I love remote sea kayaking journeys, but it’s often time on land in wild corners of the earth that stick in my memory the longest. Our 2 days at the bear camp, a sauna and cocktails at the isolated Blue Fox Bay Lodge, a bush pilot flying 20 meters above our heads near Akutan, checking ancient murelet nests with biologists on Aiktak Island and eating sea lion soup in Atka - these experiences will make me smile for years to come.

Not that the kayaking wasn’t memorable. I’ve never paddled so many 14 hour plus days as Sarah Outen and I fought unknown currents, impending darkness and long stretches of open ocean to join the dots along the Aleutian island chain from Atka to Unimak, and from the Alaskan Peninsula to Homer. Twice we were swept away from land by strong currents and I hoped that the tide would weaken or change direction. Fortunately it did in both cases - eventually!

Parties of 50 otters, rocks covered with grunting and snorting sea lions, the gentle blow of whale breath and thousands of chirping birds kept us company on our 101 day paddle. Wildflowers erupted into life, making the most of a short summer season.

I once thought I might grow out of going on long remote sea kayaking trips, but the opposite is true. The more time I spend living simply from my kayak in beautiful parts of the world, the more alive and happy I feel. One thing that strikes me about the 2,500km stretch of Alaska that I just paddled is how wild and unspoiled it is. In the modern age it’s great to know that there is such a large tract of wilderness where nature rules.” Justine Curgenven

The long volcanic arm of the Aleutian Islands is somewhere I have dreamt of paddling for years. The wild, rugged archipelago draws me in for the very reasons it makes me apprehensive. Strong currents, raging tidal races, relentless fog, long crossings, rocky landings, unchartered waters and hundreds of miles with no people."


The Gear that Made This Possible