Just 2.4 miles from Russia, the ‘eyes and ears’ of the United States meet on Alaska’s Little Diomede Island.

Big Diomede Island, Russia (left) and Little Diomede Island, Alaska (right).Orbital Horizon/Copernicus Sentinel Data 2018/Gallo Images/Getty Images

  • Life in Diomede, Alaska, is unlike anywhere else in the United States.

  • Just 2.4 miles from Russia’s Big Diomede Island, this town of 83 people overlooks the coast.

  • “We’re safe, as long as we sleep well at night,” one resident told Insider. “We have eyes and ears.”

The geopolitical relationship between Russia and the United States is often viewed through the lens of geography, with the two countries exerting power on opposite sides of the earth in multiple time zones.

As the world’s two major nuclear powers — and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine entering its sixth month, U.S.-Russian relations are at an all-time low — fears of armed conflict in far-flung regions loom large. Conjures up images of missile attacks and proxy wars. , or for Baby Boomers, “duck and cover” exercises at school.

Yet in the middle of the Bering Strait, there are Americans who can literally see Russia from their homes.

“We’re the back door to the country — or the front door,” lifelong Diomede resident Edward Solok, 55, told Insider in a phone interview.

Russian soldiers stationed on Big Diomede Island, 2.4 miles away, will shout in English at any boat that goes too close to their shore. He’s even been known to fire the occasional warning shot, Solok said — he’s never personally heard a warning shot.

“We’re safe, as long as we sleep well at night,” Soluk told Insider, adding that life on the island hasn’t changed dramatically since Russia invaded Ukraine. “We have eyes and ears.”

The town of Diomede, Alaska, on Little Diomede Island, has a population of 83 as of the 2020 census.

Big Diomede Island features the same barren landscape as Little Diomede Island, but is also home to a small Russian military base and a destroyed Soviet Lisonov Li-2 aircraft from 1972.

Big Diomede is 21 hours ahead of Little Diomede in the time zone, but the two islands have clear views of each other, and Alaska City faces directly onto the rocks of the Big Island.

The border of the frontier

Little Diomede is unknown to most Americans. But that has changed quite a bit in the last several weeks.

For example, in the growing sub-genre of TikTok videos based on Google Maps, a post by map_nerd about islands has already received more than 1.6 million likes on the social media app.

A virtual tour of Little Diomede is the perfect way to get there. Unless you charter or commandeer a boat when the sea isn’t frozen, there’s only one way to get to Diomede — by helicopter.

Pathfinder Aviation offers helicopter tours from Nome to Diomede, on the west coast of Alaska. These include emergency flights, which the company says are available 24 hours a day. A representative for Pathfinder declined to comment for this story.

Bering Air, which also declined to comment for this story, suspended flights to Diomede in 2018 after a storm broke a frozen landing strip. “We hope to resume service in the future!” says the company on its website.

According to Alaska Magazine, 2018 is unprecedented in the history of the islands and has been since.

“Climate change is real, and it is demanding that we as people learn to live around new seasons, weather, snow conditions, and even the loss of our culture,” Diomede’s environment coordinator Opek Okenga told the magazine. Told to “Soon, we won’t see the manners we follow, the behaviors our ancestors gave us to survive.”

For more than 3,000 years, the Ingalikmiut people have navigated the islands and surrounding ice sheets, conquering the conditions and rocky surfaces to escape fish and other natural resources in the Bering Strait.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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