Alaska’s Relentless Aleutian Wind

Nelson Lagoon black sand beach with Bering Sea wind blowing the wavesNelson Lagoon, Alaska on Bering Sea 1995

The weather in Nelson Lagoon, Alaska, was “dramatic and irregular, with constant twenty to twenty-five mph winds,” according to Wikipedia. On some stormy days, the wind reached over one hundred mph. It was intense and, at times, frightening. This photo was taken on a relatively nice day; though you might not know it with the blowing waves and grey skies—it could get MUCH worse.

“Is that the wind or an earthquake?” I seriously asked one night. Earthquakes, tidal waves, and volcanic eruptions struck the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Chain. But it was the never-ending sound of the wind in the background combined with the rolling waves and squawking seagulls, that I will remember.

The wind. Oh, the wind. It was relentless, unforgiving, unmerciful, and a significant cause of a person’s madness during the long winter months. Its strength, unpredictability, and ruthlessness were unmatched by anything else we endured in Alaska. Okay, the Tongass National Forest’s rain was almost as maddening as the Aleutian wind, but not quite. I was never afraid of the Tongass rain.

The Aleut village of Nelson Lagoon from the air showing the lagoon and the Bering Sea.
Nelson Lagoon, Alaska from the air in 1994

Now, for the rest of the Alaska story.

Melissa Cook sitting on a four-wheeler in a red coat bundled up on the Bering Sea
Melissa Cook enjoys a nice day on the Bering Sea, 1995

Most of the text above is a direct quote from (Amazon affiliate) The Call of the Last Frontier, chapter twenty, “Relentless Wind.” Normally, I don’t quote the book in my blog. However, I felt the feature image of this post called out for it.

I stood on this Bering Sea beach with the waves rolling at my feet during a storm. The wind swirled, drenching me with spraying wave particles and rain. My memoir’s prologue begins with that moment on the beach in the midst of the storm.


“I am alone on a beach in Alaska. I have been isolated here for eighteen months and might as well be on another planet. It is wintertime, and a storm is blowing mist off the Bering Sea waves as they crash onto the black sand at my feet. I cradle my frozen self and stare out across the endless white caps of the angry sea.

My coat is soaked, but I don’t care. I know people are out there, I remind myself, for all the good they will do me here.

Memories from my childhood in Detroit surface, and I leave this sandy spit for the busy city streets, if only in my imagination. I remember the hustle of people along the city sidewalks and the conversations heard as people pass by, hurrying to their destinations. I picture myself standing on a busy street corner with the smell of fresh wet pavement and the sound of water splashing under the tires. A sprinkle of spring rain touches my face and then I am pulled back to my reality. Thick Alaskan raindrops painfully pelt my tender skin as the wind picks up. Cold rain runs down my bright red cheeks

“Come out of the storm!” The raging waves and wind drown out my husband’s voice. He is becoming impatient and worried as I stand in the furious wind. He hollers to me. “You’re soaked. Let’s go!”

Elgin & Ethan Cook on a four-wheeler on the Bering Sea bundled up for the cold weather
Elgin & Ethan Cook on the Bering Sea – September 1995
Elgin & Ethan Cook on a four-wheeler on the Bering Sea bundled up for the cold
Elgin & Ethan Cook on the Bering Sea – September 1995

The creak of the rusty Suburban door is lost in the ferocious wind. My husband’s voice radiates across the beach as he steps out into the storm. “Come on!” He is worried about me. Am I losing my grip as he did last winter? He recognizes the signs of cabin fever.

As I turn my back to the sea, the wind presses my red coat against my body. Rain peppers my backside, drenching my remaining dry spots as I work my way back down the beach and climb the hill to my waiting family. They are all I have out here. We spend every waking hour together, and yet my loneliness reaches to the depths of my soul at times.

When you live in a city like Detroit, it’s hard to believe there is a place like this. When you live in a place like this, it’s hard to believe there is a city like Detroit.
– Melissa L. Cook, 1996”

Excerpt From: (Amazon affiliate) The Call of the Last Frontier: The True Story of a Woman’s Twenty-Year Alaska Adventure

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