SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


The Five Islands of Ketchikan



December 10, 2012
Monday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska
- Interesting title, no?
jpg Dave Kiffer

Sounds kind of like one those philosophical self help books like the “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” or “The Five People You Will Meet In Heaven.”

Makes you want to turn to it so see what those five islands really are. Are they physical? Are they metaphorical?  What are the “five” islands of Ketchikan? And why only five?

Actually, it is the title of a brief travel story about Ketchikan that was in USA Today recently. I found out about it because I subscribe to Google Alerts, which - unsurprisingly enough - alerts me whenever Ketchikan shows up in significant places on the Internet.

About 99.9 percent of the time, Ketchikan shows up on the Internet in relation to the Bridge to Nowhere.

Just about every week there is a story in some media outlet somewhere about some “important” federal project that is desperately needed by some locale. The only way to get it is an “earmark.” But thank goodness it is not as bad as that “awful Ketchikan Alaska Bridge to Nowhere” which has given all earmarks – even this important, needed by (insert your town name here) one – a bad name.

Well, as a teacher once told me it is better to be a bad example than not to be an example at all.

You’re welcome, America!

But I digress.

Back to “The Five Islands of Ketchikan.”

Naturally, I checked out the website and the story in question. It is indeed about the Five Islands of Ketchikan. But like many stories about Ketchikan, even the ones that are not about Bridges to Nowhere, it’s a little light on the facts.

According to the story, the five islands of Ketchikan are Revillagigedo, Gravina, Annette, Pennock, and Betton.


First of all, I’m not sure that our good friends in Metlakatla would appreciate being lumped into “Ketchikan.” Yes, they are part of what is generally considered “Greater Ketchikan” by the census enumerators and other consolidators, but then so are Hyder and Meyers Chuck.

None of those three communities, by the way, are part of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and none has ever expressed any interest in being part of the Borough. Therefore, you might just as well say that Kodiak or St. Lawrence  or Little Diomede is one of the “Five Islands of Ketchikan.”

Tain’t never gonna happen.

I think we can agree that generally Revilla, Pennock and Gravina are the “islands” of Ketchikan.

Betton? Why Betton? Why not Grant or Stack or Back or Bell or any one of the zillion other islands in cozy confines of the Borough, which now stretches some 6,000 scintillating square miles from the Canadian border to the upper reaches of the Cleveland Peninsula.

The story pretty much says you need to know about Betton. “The island is undeveloped and unpopulated…there are no facilities.”

Okay, that about covers it. And about 600 other islands of varying size in “Ketchikan.”

Gravina gets fairly short shrift as well. The story mentions there are about 50 residents and it has the airport. That’s the same incomplete info you see in the all Bridge to Nowhere stories. Yet, oddly enough, this story does not actually mention the Bridge to Nowhere or Sarah Palin. Quelle Horreur!

The paragraph on Pennock is very interesting.

“Pennock Island is considered uninhabited, but there are at least two people living there: Mike and Donna Holman, proprietors of the Snow's Cove Lodge.”


Last time I checked, there were a couple of hundred other residents of that “uninhabited” isle. But far be it from me to question anything I read on the Internet. Every day, I run into someone telling that some interesting “factoid” must be true because they “read it on the Internet.”

And that, my friends, is good enough for me.

Of course, the author did leave himself a little wiggle room. He said there were “at least” two residents. Other residents of Pennock, of course, are both possible and hypothetical!

That would be like me saying that based on my own nuclear family, there are “at least” three residents in Ketchikan. The rest of you? Well, you’re apparently on your own.

Revillagigedo (which is clearly an island of Ketchikan) also didn’t fare so well in the story. We all know that little old Ketchikan only occupies a tiny portion of Revilla, which is roughly the size of Rhode Island.

Unfortunately, the author seems to have conflated the legendary description of Ketchikan with that of the island itself.

Here is what he came up.

“The island is 31 miles long but only 10 blocks wide for a total surface area of 3.4 square miles.”


And that concludes our lesson today, boys and girls.

In order to unlock the wisdom within “The Five Islands of Ketchikan” first you must master the wisdom in the “Seven Step Ups of Deer Mountain” and the “Five Three Eye Toads You Will Encounter in Ward Cove.”

And, yes, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.  

On the Web:

More Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2012

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