Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Little Diomede

Image result for Diomede Picture By Unites States Coast Guard, Petty Officer Richard Brahm [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. 

There is a small remote island about half way between Alaska and Russia called Little Diomede.  Its about 1.5 miles from the International Date line and about 2.5 miles from Big Diomede, the other half of the pair.  Little Diomede is American while Big Diomede is Russian.

The island is about 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. The village which you see in the picture is on the Russian side of the island.  In order to see Alaska, you have to climb to the top of the island or you have to take a boat around to the other side.  The only real way is by helicopter most of the year or by plane if the ocean between the two island freezes solidly enough.

A long time ago, everyone lived on Big Diomede but over the years part of the population moved over to Little Diomede.  Sometime during the late 1940's or early 50's the population on Big Diomede was removed from the village located on the east side of the island facing Little Diomede and relocated on the Russian Mainland.

When I worked on the island, I cleaned out several file cabinets and found hand written cards with names, entrance and exit dates for residents of Big Diomede who came over to visit their relatives.  The cards are dated back to the late 40's with nothing recent.  This supports the stories residents tell of having lost relatives when Russia made the island a military outpost.

I heard stories from the elders that during the 50's to about the 70's, the national guard would watch the Russian outpost while the Russians monitored us.  It is kind of sad that many of the families lost touch with those members who were moved to the Russian mainland.

In early fall, when the top was fog free, we'd often climb, hoping to have a gorgeous 360 view.  To the east you could see the mainland part of Alaska and to the west, you could see all the way to Siberia.  The view is describable and breath taking. We could see 20 to 25 miles in any direction.  Although it looked like a short climb it took a couple hours up and another couple down. 

On my first trip up, the person who took us up, pointed out the spot a plane had run into the side of the island.  I guess it had been foggy that time and the pilot did not see the island until it was too late.  There are also the remains of one or two satellite installations.

In the spring, when it starts warming up, everyone goes out to the ice either to play or dig holes in the ice for fishing.  People would attach sleds to their snow machines, running shuttles down to the furthest hole and back on a regular basis.  Sometimes, kids would be in the sled and enjoy several round trip rides before heading off to do thing.

I spend three years there before I moved on.  I'll probably talk about it again sometime because it is such a special place that filled me with so many wonderful memories.

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