In the Arctic is an American “city” a stone’s throw from Russia and one of the most remote communities in the United States.
Have you ever heard of the small American colony of Diomede just over 2 miles from Russia? Little Diomede is separated from the Russian island Big Diomede in the Bering Strait by a short stretch of stormy sea. It is one of the most remote destinations in the United States.
During the last ice age, these islands would have been hills on the great flat bridge of Bering Land that once connected North America to Asia – remnants of this are now in the Bering National Reserve Land Bridge in Alaska.
About The “City” of Diomede
There is a very small community on this small island referred to as a “town”. All settlement buildings are located on the west coast of Little Diomede and Diomede Settlement is the only settlement on Little Diomede Island.
The colony’s population peaked at 178 in 1990, but fell to 83 in the 2020 census. It has a native name “Iŋaliqwhich translates to “the other” or “the one over there”.
The composition of the population in the year 2000 was 92% Native American, 6% White, and 1% from two or more races. Men also outnumbered women in the colony.
- Population: 83 (peak 178)
- Native: The facility is primarily an Inuit Aboriginal settlement
- Cut: The village has a total designated area of 2.84 square miles
The island is located about 25 miles west of the Alsakan mainland and sits in the middle of the Bering Strait. It is only 0.6 miles or less than 1 kilometer from the International Date Line (the difference of being yesterday or tomorrow – Big Diomede is always tomorrow from Little Diomede’s point of view, likewise Little Diomede is still yesterday from Big Diomede’s point of view).
- International date line: It is less than a mile from the International Date Line
The settlement is just south of the Arctic Circle, but has a dry summer polar climate. The winters are freezing while the thawed Bering Sea has an extreme moderating effect during the summers, creating very cool summers.
Most plants cannot grow there, and the maximum recorded temperature was only 73°F (22.8°C).
History of Diomedes
Some archaeologists believe that the current location of the town was inhabited for around 3,000 years and was originally a spring hunting campsite.
The first known European to reach the Diomede Islands was Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev in 1648. Later they were rediscovered by Vitus Bering – a Danish navigator who rediscovered them in 1728 and named them after the martyr Saint Diomede.
- First European on the island: Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev in 1648
Both islands became part of the Russian Empire until the Russians decided to sell off their North American possessions following the Crimean War. The United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867 (including the smaller but inhabited Little Diomede Island).
In 1970 the whole island was incorporated into the town of Diomede, before that it first appeared in the 1880 US census as the unincorporated Inuit village of Inalit. In 1992 Little Diomede was officially recognized as a whaling community.
The first square building on the island was a small Catholic church built in the 1930s to 1940s. Today there are around 30 buildings on the island and most of them were built in the 70s and 80. The island also has a school, a satellite dish for television and the Internet, a heliport and a library.
- General store: There is a general store
Don’t expect a lot of services there, there is no bank or restaurant on the island and the main store has only a few food, drinks, clothes, guns , ammunition and fuel. If other items like snacks, clothing, etc. are desired, these are often ordered from Anchorage Walmart and Fred Meyer stores by parcel or mail.
- Alcohol: Prohibited (as in many other Alaska Native villages with a ban on importing and selling alcohol)
Getting to the Island
If it is difficult to get to the island, it is also possible. Going by boat is very difficult due to the extreme conditions of the Bering Sea. Big boats don’t even come to the island normally, instead they stay offshore to avoid damage. There are two small bumps on the shore for small boats.
- Stationery: Ships are received per ship every year
If one wishes to fly, then Bering Air is the only airline that operates seasonally. There are flights to and from Nome in winter when the sea is frozen (there is no real airstrip).
- Transport: Difficult but possible by plane, helicopter and sea
Alternatively, you can arrive by helicopter – there is a heliport in Diomede. It is served by Erickson Aviation year-round with flights to and from Nome. They also deliver supplies and passengers.
There are also no roads on the island. There are also no hotels or lodges – plan ahead to stay with one of the locals.
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