The largest of the Near Islands are Attu and Agattu. Besides a few rocks in the channel between Attu and Agattu, the other important islands are the Semichi Islands to their northeast, notable among which are Alaid, Nizki and Shemya. About 20 miles to the east-southeast from Shemya are the small rocky reefs known as the Ingenstrem Rocks. The total land area of all of the Near Islands is 1,143.785 km² (441.618 sq mi), and their total population was 47 persons as of the 2000 census. The only populated islands are Shemya and Attu.
The islands were named Near Islands by Russian explorers in the 1700s because they were the nearest of the Aleutian Islands to Russia. They are the farthest of the islands from mainland Alaska.