Attu Island is so far west, it’s actually in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is the westernmost of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, even farther west than the Hawaiian Islands. At roughly 32 by 56 kilometers (20 by 35 miles), the island lies roughly 1,700 kilometers (1,100 miles) from mainland Alaska. Its location made the island a highly contested spot in World War II. In early June 1942, Japanese invaded Attu Island, and many Americans feared it would become a staging ground for attacks on mainland North America. About a year later, Americans recaptured the island and began using it as a staging ground for attacks on Japan.
The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite took this picture of Attu on July 4, 2000. Even in the Northern Hemisphere summer, the island is largely covered with snow, which appears brilliant white compared to the island’s otherwise green landscape. Typical weather on Attu is cloudy, foggy, and rainy, and sunny days are rare.
As part of the Aleutian Islands, Attu is also part of the “Ring of Fire”—a region of frequent seismic and volcanic activity encircling the Pacific Ocean. The island does not, however, support any active volcanoes. Although Aleutians lived on the island prior to the Japanese invasion, the only people living permanently on the island today are U.S. Coast Guard personnel.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using ASTER data made available by NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.
Attu Island is so far west, it’s actually in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is the westernmost of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, even farther west than the Hawaiian Islands.
Semisopochnoi is the “Island of the Seven Mountains, ” or more precisely in Russian: “having seven hills.” This uninhabited volcanic island is also an important nesting area for maritime birds of the North Pacific.
The ghostly white shapes northeast and immediately southwest of Wrangel Island are sea ice. Over the course of the satellite record, Arctic sea ice has advanced and retreated past Wrangel Island many times. From 1979 to 2000, the sea ice edge at the end of summer generally fell somewhere in the vicinity of Wrangel Island, but this is not the first summer when the sea ice edge has retreated well north of the island.