Diomede Islands and the Yukon
April 25 - 30, 1993
Early in the year, we took two sales trips, one along the road system to Fairbanks and the other by plane to villages in the Bush. The response was incredible. My enthusiasm for my book and other ideas was rekindled as we met principals, teachers, and kids who wanted, needed and loved Facts Plus.
We had excellent weather for the Bush trip. The first night we flew to Manley Hot Springs and took a swim, then slept in a tent under the wing. We got to school just as it opened Monday morning. From there we went down the Yukon River, stopping at each village to visit the school. A teaching couple treated us to a moose dinner and a warm place to sleep in Galena. We met a biker at Koyukuk who'd ridden on the Yukon River ice all the way from Whitehorse!
Tuesday was bright and beautiful. We cut across Norton Sound on the Bering Sea, and stopped at village after village on the coast. Dennis hoped the weather would permit a flight to the Diomede Islands.
Little Diomede is a rocky island belonging to Alaska. It is located in the middle of the Bering Strait, just five miles from another rocky island belonging to Russia. In the photo, Little Diomede is the closest, Big Diomede (Russia) is just beyond it. In the distance is the Russian mainland. During the Cold War, each side kept continual watch on the other across the channel between the two islands.
Dennis had checked with air taxi pilots in Nome and learned that the ice runway between the islands was still frozen solid and safe. They cautioned him to fly to the north over the ocean where the ice was stronger, in case an emergency landing was necessary.
The weather was clear the next day, so we took off for Diomede. The air was calm and clear, but I held my breath as I looked down at huge floating chunks of ice. We found the airstrip positioned exactly between the two islands. It seemed closer to the Russian island at first, but a tiny trail led toward an Eskimo village clinging to the cliffs on the American side. We landed on the ice, right on the International Date Line. On one side of the airstrip it was Wednesday; on the other side it was Tuesday!
Briefcase in hand, we started hiking toward the village, bundled in heavy parkas to protect us from the howling north wind blowing off the ice pack. Through a ground blizzard, we saw a snowmachine towing a large sledge coming our way. It was driven by Moses, a quintessential Eskimo elder, short and round, with a warm, almost toothless smile. "Where are you going?" he asked. "To the school," we shouted. He waved us into the sledge and gave us a quick jarring ride over rock-hard snowdrifts to the village, where we talked with the principal, toured the school, and sold a few books.
We learned later that a good friend of ours had engineered and built that K-12 school hanging on the cliff (red roof in the photo)! We also learned that Moses had mistaken us for teachers he'd been sent to fetch when we told him we were going to the school. He had to hurry back out to pick up the real teachers, who had since landed and were waiting for a ride in the wind at the airstrip.
A postscript about the photo of the two islands above: A German gentleman found it on my web site and contacted me to ask if he could use the image for a set of postcards he was publishing that depicted remote islands around the world. I sent him the photo and he sent me several postcards in return.
Another postscript about that photo: We're Sarah Palin fans and assure you that the media caricature of her is just that. She once said you can see Russia from Alaska. She never said she could see Russia from her house (Tina Fey, mocking her, was the one who said that, though critics aren't much bothered about using lies to discredit a person). In the first photo above, you can see the Russian mainland in the distance. Big Diomede and Little Diomede are twin islands, one Russian, one American. So now you can say you've seen Russia from America, though not in person.
Go on to read Too Much Wind
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony