Alaska’s Active Volcano: How does this impact air shipping?

Alaska’s Active Volcano: How does this impact air shipping?

You are most likely familiar with the Pacific Ocean’s Aleutian Islands. They make up what is known as the “Ring-of-Fire” which is a horse-shoe shaped zone of islands known for frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. One of these islands, Bogoslof Island, is one of Alaska’s most remote areas. It’s a small island covering about 169 acres with its peak being only about 490 feet, however, below its surface is an active volcano that has erupted more than two dozen times since December 2016.

So what does this have to do with shipping? A lot actually. A recent Seattle Times article offers some fascinating historical details about this remote island, but we’d like to focus on how its explosive eruptions can impact shipping, specifically air travel.


Magma Interruptions

The volcano extends down 5,500 feet with its base on the floor of the Bering Sea. During eruptions, the volcano sends up clouds of ice crystals and rock fragments that are the result of the volcano’s magma interacting with the seawater.

The first of these explosions was confirmed to have happened on December 14th, off the island’s northeast side causing two acres to disappear in the eruptions. Since then, more than two dozen eruptions have happened and some have exploded as high as 20,000 feet, which can be dangerous for aircraft traveling across the pacific between North America and Asia. Or in our case, from the continental United States to Alaska.

Air traffic controllers receive real-time updates on the situation and so far, no eruptions have caused major problems. However, should they continue, it may become necessary to reroute aircraft in order to prevent a dangerous situation.


Alternative Routes

Since the eruptions started they have been monitored very carefully by geologists. Bogoslof Island is not an inhabited island, unlike others in the Aleutian Islands, so at this point, shipping via air or waterways has not been significantly impacted.
Unimak Pass is the most heavily utilized pass for ships traveling through the Aleutian Islands and while hazards can exist around all these islands due to harsh weather, sea conditions and volcanic eruptions, Unimak Pass’ main channel is quite wide, deep and unobstructed providing a shield from these conditions.


You Can Count On Us

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One of the benefits of shipping with Alaska Air Forwarding is that we know how to work around even the most treacherous of environmental conditions, such as volcanos. Our Dutch Harbor office is in close proximity to the Aleutian Islands, including the Unimak Pass which allows us to monitor conditions that can impact shipping to these areas.

With this strategic office, we can more easily plan ahead when there’s the possibility of shipments getting rerouted. While other shipping companies may be limited when it comes to shipping to remote Alaska, Alaska Air Forwarding is not. Contact us for information on how we can help you.

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