The man feeding a remote Alaska town with a Costco card and a ship

On a Tuesday afternoon in late April, a small barge set off from Gustavus, Alaska, en route to the world’s most remote Costco warehouse.

The 96-foot ship hummed through the choppy waters of the Icy Strait, past vast expanses of wilderness, snow-capped peaks, and breaching whales. Seven hours later, when it reached Juneau, a few intrepid men loaded its deck with $20k worth of eggs, flour, meat, canned goods, and produce. 

It returned to Gustavus in the twilight haze, like a bird bearing provisions for its chicks.

Life at the edge of a glacier

Gustavus is remote in a way that only Alaskans can truly grasp.

Situated on a 38-square-mile plain along the Icy Strait, it is a place where moose outnumber people — where rugged seascapes meet towering glaciers, hemlock forests, and grassy knolls. It is home to 40 mammal species, 500 varieties of moss, flocks of kittiwakes, and a K-12 school with just 54 students.

The town had no electricity until 1985, and no phones until the mid-90s. To this day, no roads connect it to the outside world.

Scenes from Gustavus, Alaska (Sean Neilson)

“You either gotta fly here or boat here,” says Calvin Casipit, the town’s volunteer mayor. “And everybody knows each other in 3 or 4 different ways.”

Its residents — a mélange of biologists, retirees, and innkeepers — live on streets named Glen’s Ditch Road and Weedle Fish Drive, and gather once a year for a 4th of July parade featuring slug races and a game called Chicken Poop Bingo.

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Its residents — a mélange of biologists, retirees, and innkeepers — live on streets named Glen’s Ditch Road and Weedle Fish Drive, and gather once a year for a 4th of July parade featuring slug races and a game called Chicken Poop Bingo.

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