October 1, 2008

Been there, done that

CNN went to Little Diomede island to check out how, indeed, you can see Russia from Alaska.

I've done that. In the late spring of 2007, I spent a couple nights on the floor of the Little Diomede school. Unlike CNN, I couldn't afford the helicopter ride, so I could only go when the sea was frozen and a plane could land on the ice in front of the village. Then the weather turned bad and I got stuck there longer than I planned because the planes couldn't land. (Only one extra night in my case; I knew a guy in Nome who got stuck there three weeks once.)

The CNN story makes it sound like the residents there are an uneducated bunch - no one seems to be asked a question that allowed for more than a two-word response and the reporter seems to be the star of the segment. I found the opposite to be the case. As with many other residents of remote Alaskan villages I met during my two years reporting on the region, I found people in Little Diomede to be interested in and up-to-date on what is going on in the world. Ask them about global warming, bird flu, alcoholism, or a host of other topics and you'll get some fascinating responses.

In fact, I've managed to dredge up two of my radio stories from that visit. Both were broadcast on the Alaska Public Radio Network's AK show. The first was about the impact of global warming on the community and the second about its proximity to Big Diomede. The first story is the lead segment of this show. (You can see the text rundown of the show.) The second story is in the last third of this show (text rundown is here).

Incidentally, there are at least two other places in Alaska you can see Russia and I've been to both. The first is Gambell on St. Lawrence Island and the second is Wales, the westernmost point on the North American continent.

This is a picture I took from the beach in Wales, looking west around midnight on Labor Day 2007. The land mass in the center of the picture is the Diomedes and on the right is the Russian mainland.


löki gale said...


I am so sorry I did not reply to your email...I guess I have now joined the internet cafe-age in developing countries...


I will respond when I get to a faster internet connection in the city! I promise!