Diomede Islands: Little Diomede (left) and Big Diomede (right). Picture taken towards South.
Satellite photo of the Bering Strait, with the Diomede Islands at center
The Diomede Islands[pronunciation?] (Russian: острова Диомида , ostrová Diomída), also known in Russia as Gvozdev Islands (Russian: острова Гвоздева, ostrová Gvozdjeva), consist of two rocky, tuya-like islands:
- The U.S. island of Little Diomede or, in its native language, Ignaluk (it is also known as Krusenstern Island, though this may also refer to other places), and
- The Russian island of Big Diomede (part of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug), also known as Imaqliq, Inaliq, Nunarbuk or Ratmanov Island.
The Diomede Islands are located in the middle of the Bering Strait between mainland Alaska and Siberia, with the Chukchi Sea to the north and the Bering Sea to the south. 9.3 km (5.8 mi) to the southeast is Fairway Rock, which is generally not considered part of the Diomede Islands. The islands are sometimes called Tomorrow Island (Big Diomede) and Yesterday Isle (Little Diomede) because of the fact that they are separated by the International Date Line, thus Big Diomede is 23 hours ahead of Little Diomede.
The islands are separated by an international border, which is also part of the International Date Line, approximately 2 km (1 mi) from each island, at 168°58'37"W. At the closest distance between Little Diomede and Big Diomede, the two islands are about 3.8 km (2.4 mi) apart. The small habitation on Little Diomede Island is centered on the west side of the island at the village of Diomede.
The Big Diomede Island is considered the easternmost point of Russia.
The first European to reach the Bering Strait was the Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev in 1648. He reported two islands whose natives had bone lip ornaments, but it is not certain that these were the Diomedes. A Danish navigator (in Russian service), Vitus Bering, re-discovered the Diomede Islands on 16 August (O.S., 26 August N.S.) 1728, the day when the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the martyr St. Diomede (hence, the name of the islands). In 1732, a Russian geodesist, Mikhail Gvozdev, plotted the islands on the map.
The text of the 1867 treaty finalizing the sale of Alaska uses the islands to designate the boundary between the two nations: The border separates "equidistantly Krusenstern Island, or Ignaluk, from Ratmanov Island, or Nunarbuk, and heads northward infinitely until it disappears completely in the Arctic Ocean."
During the Cold War, that gap constituted the border between the USA and the USSR, and became known as the "Ice Curtain". In 1987, however, Lynne Cox swam from one island to the other, and was congratulated by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.
In summer 1995, British television actor and documentary presenter Michael Palin started his counterclockwise circumnavigation of the Pacific Rim, encompassing 18 different countries, on Little Diomede Island, as part of the BBC series Full Circle. He intended to set foot on it again at the very end of his journey lasting nearly eight months, but was unable to do so because he was returning during the following winter (on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro), and the sea became too rough to allow him and his film crew to land on the island.
Big Diomede Island was traditionally the easternmost landmass before the International Date Line, and the first landmass to ring in a new year, if using local solar time. When using official time, a large area in eastern Russia, as well as New Zealand, shares the same time zone. New Zealand also has Daylight Saving time in effect during late December, but Russia does not (see time in New Zealand and time in Russia). Starting in 1995 however, the IDL was moved to the east of Kiribati and that country's easternmost time zone (GMT+14) is now the world's earliest.
The native population of Big Diomede Island was relocated by the Soviet government to mainland Russia and the island is currently home to a small Russian military presence. Little Diomede has an Inupiat Inuit population of 170, entirely in the village site on the west side of the island, though the island as a whole comprises the City of Diomede. This village has a school and a store. Some Inuit residents are famous for their ivory carving. Passenger travel and mail delivery are by plane or helicopter, weather permitting.
See also 
- "Could a Russia-US rail tunnel be built?". BBC News. 21 October 2011.
- "Map of the New Discoveries in the Eastern Ocean". World Digital Library. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Tuchman, Gary (30 September 2008). "You CAN see Russia from here!". Anderson Cooper 360° (CNN). Retrieved 12 June 2011.
- "Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Navigation Improvements and Airport, Little Diomede Island, AK". U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Diomede Islands|
- Images of the islands
- Little Diomede page, with images
- Proposed Trans-Global Highway and AmerAsian Peace Tunnel
- Images of the islands
- Michael Palin site about Diomedes
- Dateliner Webcam: vantage of Big Diomede from Little Diomede