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Gambell, Alaska

Gambell, Alaska Visitor Guide

Gambell is a small, remote village located on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, approximately 200 miles (322 km) southwest of mainland Alaska. The village is known for its rich Alaska Native heritage and unique location, which provides opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. This guide will cover the latitude and longitude of Gambell, directions from Anchorage, things to do, the area’s history, RV and camping information, and annual festivals and events.

Gambell is located at approximately 63.7797° N latitude and 171.7311° W longitude.

Getting to Gambell from Anchorage

Due to its remote location, the primary way to reach Gambell from Anchorage is by air.

By Air

1. Fly from Anchorage to Nome with airlines such as Alaska Airlines or Ravn Alaska. Flight duration is approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.
2. From Nome, fly with a local air carrier, such as Bering Air or Grant Aviation, to Gambell. The flight duration is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Please note that flight schedules and availability may vary depending on the season and weather conditions.

Things to Do

Gambell offers a unique cultural experience and opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.


Gambell’s location on St. Lawrence Island makes it a prime destination for birdwatching, particularly during the spring and fall migrations. The island is home to many species of seabirds, as well as rare Asiatic species that occasionally make their way to the area.

Wildlife Viewing

Visitors to Gambell may have the opportunity to observe various marine mammals, such as seals, walruses, and whales, from the island’s shores. Sightings are more common during the spring and fall migrations.

Cultural Experiences

Gambell is home to the Siberian Yupik people, who maintain a strong connection to their traditional culture and subsistence way of life. Visitors can learn about the local history, customs, and artwork by engaging with community members and observing traditional skills such as carving and dance.

Detailed History

Gambell is one of two villages on St. Lawrence Island and has been inhabited by the Siberian Yupik people for thousands of years. The village is named after Vene and Gambell, a whaling ship that was wrecked off the island’s coast in the 1800s.

The Siberian Yupik people of Gambell have a long history of living off the land and sea, relying on the rich marine resources of the Bering Sea for subsistence. Traditional practices, such as hunting, fishing, and carving, remain an integral part of daily life in the village.

In recent years, Gambell has gained recognition as a birdwatching destination, attracting visitors from around the world who are interested in observing the island’s unique avian species.

RV and Camping Information

Due to its remote location and limited infrastructure, there are no RV parks or established campgrounds in Gambell. Visitors should be prepared for rustic accommodations and limited facilities. It is essential to coordinate with local hosts or guides to arrange lodging and ensure a safe and respectful visit to the community.

Annual Festivals and Events

Gambell hosts several cultural events throughout the year that celebrate the community’s rich heritage and traditions.

Whaling Festival

The Whaling Festival is held annually in Gambell to celebrate the successful whale hunt and the community’s connection to the sea. The event features traditional dancing, singing, and feasting, as well as games and competitions.

Dance Festival

The Dance Festival is an annual event that showcases the traditional dance and music of the Siberian Yupik people. The festival often includes performances by dance groups from other Alaska Native communities, providing an opportunity for cultural exchange and celebration.

Traditional Art and Carving

Gambell is known for its skilled artists and carvers, who create intricate works of art using materials such as walrus ivory, whalebone, and baleen. Visitors have the opportunity to observe local artists at work and learn about the cultural significance of these traditional art forms. With permission, it may also be possible to purchase authentic pieces directly from the artists as a unique memento of your visit.

Guided Tours

To make the most of your time in Gambell, consider arranging a guided tour with a local resident or guide. Local guides can share their knowledge of the area’s history, culture, and wildlife, as well as provide access to prime birdwatching and wildlife viewing spots. A guided tour can also help ensure that your visit is respectful of the community and its customs.

Community Events and Potlatches

During your visit, you may have the chance to participate in community events, such as potlatches, which are traditional Native Alaskan gatherings involving feasting, gift-giving, and dancing. These events provide an opportunity to experience the vibrant culture of Gambell firsthand and engage with community members in a meaningful way.

Subsistence Activities

Visitors to Gambell may have the opportunity to learn about and observe traditional subsistence activities practiced by the Siberian Yupik people, such as hunting, fishing, and food processing. By gaining an understanding of these practices, visitors can better appreciate the deep connection between the people of Gambell and their environment.

Hiking and Exploring the Landscape

Gambell’s rugged and remote landscape offers opportunities for hiking and exploration. With the guidance of a local resident, visitors can explore the island’s coastline, tundra, and unique geological features. Please note that hiking and exploring should always be done with the utmost respect for the land and local customs.

Cultural Etiquette and Respect

When visiting Gambell, it is essential to remember that you are a guest in a remote and culturally distinct community. It is crucial to be respectful of local customs, traditions, and sensitivities, and to ask for permission before taking photographs, participating in activities, or entering private spaces. By treating the community and its people with respect, you can help ensure a positive and mutually beneficial visit.

In conclusion, Gambell, Alaska, offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich culture, history, and natural beauty of this remote and fascinating part of the world. By engaging with the local community, participating in traditional activities, and exploring the island’s unique environment, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the resilience,