In the middle of the Bering Strait, where Alaska in America ends and Siberia in Russia begins, lies a remote and fascinating land. This world are the two islands known as Little Diomede and Big Diomede. Known in Russia as the Gvozdev Islands, these remote islands in one of the worlds most dangerous passages of water, surrounded by fog and stormy seas are a dream to those seeking adventure in the wilderness, like motivational speaker adventureman!
The two islands have an interesting history. Originally, they both belonged to Russia, as did Alaska. During the 1800s, Russia was experiencing financial difficulties and they sold Alaska to the United States in 1867. With the Alaskan mainland came one of the two islands – little Diomede. Not much changed for the native islanders, the Yupik Eskimos, who had been living on the island for over 3000 years. Many of the old ways of life were still going strong – traditional hunting practices and a simple way of life were enjoyed by the inhabitants of the two islands.
Since the two islands were divided between the two countries, they were also split in another way – the international date line runs right in the middle of them – meaning that Big Diomede is a day ahead of Little Diomede! This is what leads to the islands sometimes being dubbed ‘Tomorrow Island’ and ‘Yesterday Isle’.
The islanders remained unconcerned with date lines, or any international developments. As far as they were concerned, this remote part of the world was the same as it always had been. The two islands, only 3.8 kilometres apart, are linked together in the winter by the frozen sea ice, allowing the islanders to move between the two. This all carried on as normal until the end of the Second World War, when a new war had started, which would have a huge impact on the remote islanders.
As the Second World War drew to a close, Russia and the United States entered into the Cold War – this is when things began to change for the people of the Diomede islands. The Russians wanted the island of Big Diomede for a military base. This meant moving the people who lived there away. So, they were quickly moved and rehomed in Siberia, ready for the Russian military to move in.
The people living on Little Diomede, learned that their friends and family on the other island had been removed, and were no longer allowed access to Big Diomede. Like The famous ‘Iron Curtain’ in Berlin, this was named the ‘ice Curtain’.
Years later, nothing has changed since the days of the Cold War. The inhabitants of Little Diomede still continue life on their island but are still not allowed to cross the water to Big Diomede, which is still guarded by Russian soldiers. It is possible to visit the island of Little Diomede from Alaska, but don’t try to cross to the other island!