Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Diomede Islands - Worlds Apart



The Diomede Islands are 4 kms (2.4-ish miles) apart in the middle of the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. The Big Diomede is in Russia and Little D belongs to Alaska.

These Islands are so close that if they were idling luxury cars one would almost be able to ask the other for some Grey Poupon. In addition to the unique national logistics, the International Dateline runs between them putting them within sight of a completely different day of the week. They are approximately 21 hours apart.

Two islands in different countries, different continents and different days of the week, two and a half miles and a whole world apart.

Geographically this is an interesting story but there were family relationships that ended up as casualties to this imaginary boundary line. As the Basement Geographer explains, when the US bought Alaska from Russia in 1867 the new boundary was simply drawn between the two islands and how easy was that! In spite of being separated by their new nationalities the Inupiat living on the islands continued to cross freely between the islands as they always had but this changed when the cold war began after WWII and Big Diomede became a Soviet Military base. The Soviets moved the inhabitants off Big D onto the Russian mainland separating families for the next forty years. The Inupiat are once again free to travel between the islands but there isn't much to see on Big D anymore.





Little Diomede Village

Visit here and you will be treated to an absolutely stunning 360 degree panoramic view of Little Diomede Village. It's the same village as the above picture only in the dead of winter and taken from ground level. Look for the tank, seen above at the entrance to the village.

And if you visit here you will be treated to a live cam you can steer (requires Java). Currently the surf is up with a water temperature of 4C (39.2F) and light precipitation. Sundown will be sometime in September.

Live web cam screen capture 10:30 pm Mountain Time

The Big Diomede Island is considered the easternmost point of Russia.

During winter, an ice bridge usually spans the distance between these two islands; therefore it is possible to walk from the United States to Russia, or vice versa.

Proposals have been made to connect Russia and Alaska by bridge with the Diomede Islands helping to span the divide. It was seen as a literal bridge but also a bridge to peace between two super powers. This has turned out to be a lofty idea with many proposals but none that have been able to surmount the obstacles involved in this effort. The Bering Strait Crossing would link two countries across water and land that are noted for their extremes in temperature and even the hours of daylight in which work could take place. There are no icebergs in the Bering Strait but there are ice flows that would put a lot of pressure on any structure built in their path. It's relatively shallow with the average depth being 55 metres (180 feet). Read more about the Bering Strait Crossing here

The Basement Geographer did an interesting series on islands or island groups that have been politically isolated from each other or from their mainland country like the two Diomedes. The series cites examples around the globe where islands were initially separated by a simple line drawn on a map but came to be divided in reality as time went by. Part one is here and part two is here.

4 comments:

kuschk said...

As always, thank you for the ahout-out!

My favourite Diomede fact: one of the 30 buildings in the village is a washeteria, where residents can not only do their laundry but grab a shower as well. Mostly I just like saying 'washeteria'.

Frimmy said...

Washeteria is an epic word.

Bob's Blog said...

It only took four years and 9 months for your comments to emerge resulting from Google searches starting with "tunnel from Spain to Morocco" and one thing leading to another, but I have to agree, "Washeteria" is an epic word.

Frimmy said...

=D