Satellite image, Big Diomede on the left, Little Diomede on the right.
|Area||29 km2 (11 sq mi)|
Big Diomede Island (Russian: о́стров Ратма́нова, ostrov Ratmanova; native name Imaqłiq) is an island among the Diomede Islands in the middle of the Bering Strait. The island is a part of the Chukotsky District of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of Russia.
Big Diomede Island is located about 45 km (28 mi) southeast of Cape Dezhnev on the Chukchi Peninsula and is Russia's easternmost point. The coordinates are Coordinates: . The rocky tuya-type island has an area of about 29 km2 (11 sq mi) The International Date Line is about 1.3 km (0.81 mi) east of the island.
The island was originally inhabited by Yupik peoples. During the Cold War all local population was forcibly moved to Chukotka in order to prevent contacts with American Little Diomede Island Inupiat inhabitants. The First Alaskans Institute says that, "The people of the Diomede and King Islands are Inupiat...".
The first European to reach the islands was the Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnyov in 1648. The Danish navigator (in Russian service) Vitus Bering re-discovered the Diomede Islands on August 16, 1728, the day on which the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the martyr St. Diomede.
In 1867, during the Alaska Purchase, the new border between the nations was drawn between the Big Diomede and Little Diomede islands.
After World War II, the native population was forced off Big Diomede Island to the mainland in order to avoid contacts across the border. Today, it has no permanent population but it is the site of a Russian weather station and a base of Russian Border Guard troops (FSB).
During the Cold War, the section of the border between the USA and the Soviet Union separating Big and Little Diomede became known as the "Ice Curtain". In 1987, however, Lynne Cox swam from Little Diomede to Big Diomede (approx. 2.2 miles (3.5 km)) and was congratulated jointly by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.
11 species of birds have been found on Big Diomede. In 1976 a Rufous Hummingbird was identified on the island. This finding, unique so far in Russia, was very likely due to a dispersed specimen. Bowhead and Gray Whales inhabit the waters around the island.