Big Diomede Island



Big Diomede Island


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Big Diomede Island is a large, uninhabited island in the middle of the Bering Strait. It’s been described as a “small California” and is known for its plentiful birdlife, including the largest population of seabirds in North America. The island is also a popular destination for wildlife photographers and animal lovers, who come to explore its barren landscape and abundant wildlife.

Big Diomede Island


Big Diomede Island was first discovered by Spanish explorers in the early 18th century. The Dutch claimed it in the 17th century, but never settled there. It was briefly explored by Russian fur traders during the late 1700s, but again no permanent settlements were made.

American explorer Robert Bartlett reached the island in 1881 and named it for Prince di Monza, commander of an Italian cavalry regiment fighting against Russia alongside Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1920, Soviet cartographers renamed the island Kherson after Vladimir Lenin’s birthplace hometown.[1]

Geography and climate

Big Diomede is located in the Bering Sea about 760 miles northeast of Spitzbergen, Greenland and 497 nautical miles (1,103 kilometers) south of Bristol Bay. It’s made up entirely of a series of snowy peaks and ridges with no forest cover on its barren slopes.

The highest point on Big Diomede Island is 740 feet (228 meters), but even this summit at Mount Bryant can only be reached by hiking or snowmobiling over some challenging terrain. A handful 8″ x 10″ black-and-white photos taken from the air have been taken from the summit.

While there are no permanent residents on Big Diomede Island none of its wildlife posed a threat to human life during the Cold War when extensive surveillance was carried out by Soviet fishermen and military personnel over satellite radio equipment mounted outside their boats; in 1963, U.S spy planes began using microwave radar that could track ships at sea.[2] In recent decades only three native species – pintail duck, tundra swan, and northern fulmar – remain on Big Diomede’s coast other than those brought across by researchers or tourists.


No permanent settlements have ever been established on Big Diomede Island, but during the late 1700s and early 1800s its shores were frequented by Danish, Norwegian, British, and American traders who bartered fur for goods with the native Diomedeans. In 1920 Kherson (then called Vladimir Lenin Island) was renamed Big Diomede in honor of Vladimir Lenin,[3] although it is not known if he ever visited the island.

The first reported sighting of a human being on Big Diomede Island was made by an American explorer named Robert Bartlett in 1881 while exploring the island; Bartlett said he had seen a man standing near one of its northern extremities, walking around without any clothes on. The next day another American explorer, Luther Weigle, allegedly found and killed an elderly native who claimed to know about the body.[4] Local Alaska Natives also tried to protect their nesting place of sable inseminated by King Island foxes (Lycalopex fulvipes), which produce two red-tinted offspring during late spring while breeding season lasts until June.


Big Diomede Island is part of the Aleutian Islands chain, which fall under U.S. control as a result of the treaty that ended World War II; it is also claimed by Russia. The island has no permanent population, and its economy relies on tourism and resource extraction (mainly for oil). Since 2005 the Russian Federation has been administering Big Diomede with financial help from Moscow.[5]


The islands are home to about 60 species of birds, including northern fulmar (fulva), black-legged kittiwake (Rissa trid actyla), northern gannet (Morus bassanus), common murre (Uria aalge) and arctic tern – all species associated with frigid waters. Other birdlife on Big Diomede, like in most of the Americas, are shorebirds not very numerous during autumn migration but which return at the end of winter gathering food for breeding.

Government services

The United States Coast Guard maintains a weather station on the island. While Alaska Natives are given permission to hunt sable, the fur is not allowed for export because of global concerns over extinction.

Big Diomede Island was first sighted by Westerners in 1881 and explored in 1910 during a “great race” organized by Guglielmo Marconi.[6] Although Peter I of Russia managed to secretly establish an administration center on Kosmadia Reef[7] south-west of the island with fifty men,[8] there is no evidence showing any Russian protests at this unusual situation until after World War II.

Another group financed itself providing radio services at the island, without authority. A landing party composed of a survivor’s crew and an occasional member of Esquimalt Navy visited Big Diomede in early 1942.[9] This isolated existence continued on after World War II until 1975 when the Soviet Union moved its station from Russia to this island territory.


Russian tours of the island started in the early 1990s. Kosmadia Reef was part of Kure Maritime Territory until Soviet Union termination, after which territorial waters were transferred to Japan.


With its diverse terrain, Big Diomede Island is an ideal spot for hiking, biking, and camping. The island is also home to the Southeastern Alaska Native Heritage Center, which offers visitors a glimpse into the history and culture of the region’s First Nations people. The center also includes a museum with exhibits on the island’s natural resources and cultural heritage. In addition, the island is a popular spot for birdwatching, as it is home to a wide variety of bird species. If you’re looking to explore the island by land or sea, be sure to check out our blog for tips on how to get there!


What Is The Climate Like On Big Diomede Island?

The island has a temperate climate, with average temperatures ranging from 11 to 22 degrees Celsius. The weather can change quickly, so be prepared for anything!

Is There Any Wildlife On Big Diomede Island?

Yes – the island is home to a diverse range of bird species, as well as many mammal and amphibian populations. You’re likely to see seals, deer, bears and moose while you’re there!

How Do I Get To Big Diomede Island?

There is no official ferry service to the island, but there are a number of private companies that offer transport from various ports around Alaska. Alternatively, you can fly into Cold Bay or Wrangell and take a tour out to the island on an airplane charter.

What Is The Population Of Big Diomede Island?

As of 2010, the island had a population of just over 200 people – which makes it one of Alaska’s smallest towns!

Is There Any Accommodation Available On Big Diomede Island?

Yes – the island has a few small hotels and hostels, as well as rustic cabins for rent.

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