Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Kwethluk, a small Yup'ik village in Alaska's hinterland, served by hovercraft !

Kwethluk (Kuiggluk in Alaskan Yup'ik) is a village near Bethel in Alaska, at the confluence of two rivers - the Kwethluk and the Kuskokwim.

Kwethluk river


Coordinates: 60° 48′ N, 161° 25′ W
                    (sub arctic, tundra)
Population: ~ 800
                    (native Yup'ik residents)

Kwethlik suffers for being cut off from the rest of the world - there are no roads in or out. The village is frequently flooded, so houses are built on stilts, or on raised platforms, and instead of streets there are boardwalks from door to door.

A typical house - wooden walls, raised above ground, fish hanging to dry around the sunniest window.

A post office was established in 1947

The school has around 200 students, who speak Yupik as their native tongue.

School playground.

A basic need - the washeteria.

In winter, mud is covered by hard ice and transport is easier, everyone has his snowmobile.

Subsistence is still the way of life for the villagers; they spend their summers fishing and catching salmon, caribou and berries of all kinds.

The rivers abound in fish, but small boat fishing is just a family affair.

The tundra offers a variety of berries.

Women in traditional Kuspuks.

Elderly Yupik at home: minimal living standards.

The historic St. Nicholas Orthodox Church is a wood-frame structure, resting on a log foundation, and is completely built out of cedar. A gabled roof supports two small onion domes with crosses. It was built in 1935.

Well, now, this is what makes this village different: a hovercraft regular service down the Kuskokwim and Kwethluk Rivers. The USPS Hovercraft runs twice each week, every week of the year. It brings in mail and supplies.

The world's only mail-delivery hovercraft !

The Hovercraft floats and "docks" into the village. Just a mud embankment that has been cleared of bush serves as docking quay.

But for people transportation the plane is by far the best option. An airstrip was cleared in 1956, and flights are operated by local companies.

A Cessna landing at Kwethluk.

Sunset at river Kwethluk.