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Alaskan Adventures in Wales

mapproject2Grizzlies, Whale Harvest, & Boiler Service with the Eskimos

By Dan Phinney

It’s never dull working in Alaska. I was recently in Wales, Alaska on the Bering Strait across from Russia. I was training native Eskimos on how to repair and service boilers. The supervisor came to me and said, “Class is canceled. We all need to butcher a whale that just beached on shore.” So off I went with the rest of the tribe and we worked away storing meat, blubber, and everything else. This harvest will sustain the village for a few months.

Teaching Eskimos to Fix Boilers

A few years ago I had my first opportunity to teach a class on boiler repair in Alaska. Obviously being able to get reliable heat in Alaska is a very big deal. It is surprising as I have traveled around various areas in Alaska and especially in the little villages what a great need there is. Often people bought their boilers years ago. With no local service, many are in disrepair. How you survive in Alaska with little or minimal heat is beyond me, but they do.

walesinthedistanceSo when I teach a class up there I try to teach from scratch. I get a few men who want to learn and we go out to the junk yards and collect all of the discarded boilers. We bring them to the shop and we fix them. I have to ship a bunch of parts ahead of time so I’m prepared. So we get to work. The men get so encouraged when they learn they can do it themselves. The joy is seeing little old grandmas receive the gift of a fixed boiler.

Below are some photographs of a recent trip to Wales, Alaska. You can actually see Russia from Wales. It’s about as remote as it gets. The people are very friendly. I was taken out on a grizzly hunt, the whale harvest, and many other incredible adventures. You can walk down the beach and find all kinds of walrus tusks and other items.


Soon we will be replacing a boiler in the church in Wales that was planted there over 100 years ago. Dunkirk Boilers is donating the boiler for the project. More to come on that in the next blog.


i am teaching a class about how to trouble shoot and maintain boilers.


All kinds of things along the beach including this walrus.


A student in my boiler class. The classes are sponsored by the University of Alaska – Fairbanks


This is the church planted in the late 1800’s. With the help of Dunkirk we will be outfitting the church with a new boiler hopefully in 2015.


We went on a bear hunt and were successful.


The villagers are friendly and saw me off at the airport.


Village life



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