Little Diomede Island

Coordinates: 65°45′15″N 168°55′15″W / 65.75417°N 168.92083°W / 65.75417; -168.92083
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Little Diomede
Native name:
Iŋaliq (Inupiaq)
The native Iñupiat village of Diomede/Iŋaliq on Little Diomede Island
Little Diomede is located in Alaska
Little Diomede
Little Diomede
LocationBering Strait
Coordinates65°45′15″N 168°55′15″W / 65.75417°N 168.92083°W / 65.75417; -168.92083
ArchipelagoDiomede Islands
Area2.43 sq mi (6.3 km2)
Highest elevation1,621 ft (494.1 m)
United States United States
Population82[1] (2021)
Pop. density33.72/sq mi (13.019/km2)
Ethnic groups96% Iŋaliq Iñupiaq[2]
Additional information
Time zone

Little Diomede Island or "Yesterday Isle" (Inupiaq: Iŋaliq, formerly known as Krusenstern Island,[a][3] Russian: остров Крузенштерна, romanizedostrov Kruzenshterna) is an island of Alaska, United States. It is the smaller of the two Diomede Islands located in the middle of the Bering Strait between the Alaska mainland and Siberia.

Little Diomede's neighboring island, Big Diomede, is about 2.33 miles (3.75 kilometers) to the west, but Big Diomede is part of Russia and west of the International Date Line. Unlike its larger Russian neighbor, Little Diomede retains a permanent native population. As of 2021, Little Diomede had a population of 82, down from its recorded peak of 178 in 1990.[1] The entirety of the island is in the City of Diomede (named Iŋaliq as well).[2] The island is not part of any organized borough, so some services are provided directly by the state. For census purposes, it is included in the Nome Census Area.

During the Cold War, the section of the border between the U.S. and the USSR separating Big and Little Diomede became known as the "Ice Curtain". In August 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.[4]


The Diomede Islands are named after Saint Diomedes. Danish-Russian navigator Vitus Bering (after whom the Bering Strait is named) sighted the Diomede Islands on August 16 (O.S., August 27 N.S.), 1728, the day on which the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the saint.[5]

Its Inupiaq name Iŋaliq means "the other one" or "the one over there".[6]


Diomede (Inalik) village on the west coast of Little Diomede Island, Alaska
Satellite image of the Bering Strait; Little Diomede Island can be clearly seen in the middle of the strait, to the right of Big Diomede.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the island has a total area of 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2), all of it land. On the western shore of the island is the village of Diomede, also known as Iŋaliq.

Little Diomede Island is located about 25 kilometers (16 mi) west from the mainland, in the middle of the Bering Strait. It is only 0.6 kilometers (0.4 mi) from the International Date Line and about 2.4 miles (3.9 km) from the Russian island of Big Diomede.

The highest point on Little Diomede Island is 494 meters (1,621 feet) (about halfway along the west coast, about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) southeast of the village, facing the southern tip of Big Diomede).

There is a heliport, the Diomede Heliport, with regular helicopter flights. In the past, locals carved a runway into the thick ice sheet so that bush planes could deliver vital products, such as medicine and grocery supplies. Due to annual variations of the ice sheet, the runway would change position every year. However, climate change has meant that sea ice has not been thick nor stable enough to support landing a plane safely on an ice runway (minimum required sea-ice thickness was 4.5 feet, and no open water to the north of the island), so the last Bering Air flight landed here in May 2013 and there has not been an ice runway since.[7][8]


Summer temperatures average 40 to 50 °F (4 to 10 °C). Winter temperatures average from 6 to 10 °F (−14 to −12 °C). Annual precipitation averages 10 inches (250 mm), and annual snowfall averages 30 inches (76 cm). During summer months, cloudy skies and fog prevail. Winds blow consistently from the north, averaging 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h), with gusts of 60 to 80 miles per hour (97–129 km/h). The Bering Strait is generally frozen between mid-December and mid-June.[2]


The Little Diomede island is composed of Cretaceous age granite or quartz monzonite.[9][10] The location of the city is the only area which does not have near-vertical cliffs to the water. Behind the city and around the entire island rocky slopes rise at about 40° up to the relatively flattened top in 1,148–1,191 feet (350–363 m). The island has very scant vegetation.

In popular culture[edit]

Little Diomede was featured in the first episode of Full Circle with Michael Palin, a 1997 BBC documentary series in which the broadcaster Michael Palin traversed many of the countries of the Pacific Rim.[11] The Diomede Islands are also featured in the novel Further Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin, and the miniseries based on the book. In addition, Alexander Armstrong visited the island as part of his 2015 series Land of the Midnight Sun.

Little Diomede was also featured in the 1952 film Arctic Flight, starring Wayne Morris and Lola Albright.

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Krusenstern Island may also refer to other places; see Krusenstern Island (disambiguation)


  1. ^ a b "SUB-IP-EST2021-POP-02.xlsx". US Census Bureau. Retrieved December 29, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Local Economic Development Plan for Diomede, 2012–2017, citing 2010 U.S. census (and this was a decline since the 2000 census). Archived 2016-12-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "The American Local History Network". Archived from the original on April 24, 2012.
  4. ^ "Lynne Cox swims into communist territory". History. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  5. ^ "". Archived from the original on September 20, 2008.
  6. ^ Milepost (1990). Alaska Wilderness Milepost. Graphic Arts Center. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-88240-289-5. [N]ame for the village is Inalik, meaning 'the other one' or 'the one over there'.
  7. ^ "Q&A: On a Bering Sea island, disappearing ice threatens a way of life". Retrieved 2023-05-22.
  8. ^ "Little Diomede". Bering Air. Retrieved 2023-05-22.
  9. ^ Till, A. B., et al., Bedrock Geologic Map of the Seward Peninsula, Alaska, and Accompanying Conodont Data, Pamphlet to accompany Scientific Investigations Map 3131, USGS
  10. ^ Gualtieri, Lyn; Julie Brigham-Grette (March 2001). "The Age and Origin of the Little Diomede Island Upland Surface" (PDF). Arctic. 54 (1): 12–21. doi:10.14430/arctic759. JSTOR 40512273.
  11. ^ "Palin's Travels - Full Circle". Retrieved 8 March 2016.

External links[edit]