Diomede - Nome Census Area, Alaska - American Local History Network

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St. Lawrence, King and Little Diomede Islands                     

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Located in the west coast of Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait. It is 80 miles northwest of Teller and 130 miles northwest of Nome. Both scheduled and charter airplane and helicopter service is available from Nome. The population of Diomede is 157 residents. The zip code for Diomede is 99762.

Little Diomede has a maritime climate when the strait is ice free which occurs from June through November. When the strait and the Bering and Chukchi seas freeze there is an abrupt change to a cold continental climate. Winter is cold and windy with an average of 35 inches of snowfall. Annual percipitation is 10 inches. Thick fog covers the island in May and June. The winter temperatures average between -10° and 6°F. Summer temperatures average between 40° and 50°.

Diomede does not have an airstrip but there is a helicopter landing pad. Access can be gained by float plane in the summer months. Ski-equipped planes can land on the frozen strait in the winter months when the sea is frozen over.

Diomede is only 2.5 miles from the Russian controlled Big Diomede Island. The International boundary between Russia and the United States lies between the two islands. Early Eskimos on the Island were great travelers, visiting both Siberia and the Alaska mainland, conducting trade with both continents. The present site of Diomede on Little Diomede Island was originally a spring hunting camp. In time, it gradually became a permanent settlement. The Native name for the village is Inalik, meaning "the other one." The village is commonly known as Diomede.

On August 16, 1728, Captain Commander Vitus Bering named the islands in honor of St. Diomede. Explorers discovered that the Diomedes had an advanced culture with elaborate whale hunting ceremonies. after World War II, the Soviet Union established the Iron Curtain and Big Diomede became a Russian military base. All Native residents were moved to mainland Russia and the residents of Little Diomede never saw their relatives again. During the post war cold war, Little Diomede residents who strayed into Soviet waters were taken captive and held as prisoners in Siberia for a whole summer. The villagers are very cautious about straying into Russian waters even today.

The Natives of Diomede depend almost entirely on a subsistence economy. Fish are harvested during the summer months and walrus, whale, seal and bear are hunted during spring and fall when these animals migrate through the area. Seal hides are traded for mukluks, rope, harpoon lines and mittens, and walrus hides are used for boat hulls. Salmonberries, greens and some roots are found on the island. Migratory birds and their eggs supplement the subsistence diet.

The Diomede Natives are excellent irvory carvers and many villagers market there crafts in Anchorage, Teller, Kotzebue and Nome.

Diomede is a second class city incorporated in 1970. The village has a single telephone but relies on the mail plane, radio and TV for communication. The community has a church and a school with grades preschool through 12 grade. There is a community electricity system and a community water tank. There is no sewage system. Due to its isolation, freight is delivered by plane in winter and barge in summer. However, freight delivery can be hampered by ice or weather conditons.

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copyright © 2005 by Everette Carr.  All rights reserved.

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