Two Islands Only 2.4 Miles, But Time Difference of 21 Hours: Diomede Islands
Two islands that are only 2.4 miles (3.8 km) apart and with a time difference of exactly 20 hours: The Diomedes Islands are separated not only by two different time zones, but also by two continents.
Located in the center of the Bering Strait, the rocky Diomede Islands are about 4 km from each other. However, the two neighboring islands are on different continents. Big Diomede Island, also called Ratmanov Island, is the easternmost point of Russia. Little Diomedes Island, as well as Krusenstein Island, belong to Alaska and, accordingly, to the USA. Due to their small size, their population is quite low, with only 115 people living in an area of about seven square kilometers.
Although the two islands are side by side in the Bering Strait, they are separated by different time zones. For this reason, they are also known as “Tomorrow’s Island” and “Yesterday’s Island” among the people. So the resident on the big Diomedes Island is a full day ahead of his neighbors on the small Diomedes Island. The difference is approximately 20 hours. It’s the only place in the world where you can look back, so to speak. However, the large Diomedes Island is uninhabited. It only served as a Soviet military base during the Cold War.
An ice bridge formed between the two islands in winter allows the inhabitants of the small Diomedes Island to travel back in time with a short, albeit illegal, walk. So theoretically it is possible to walk from the United States to Russia. Of course, the route can be traveled by sailing or boat in about ten minutes.
Diomede Islands History
The Diomede Islands are a unique place. It is a pair of rocky islands located in the Bering Strait between mainland Alaska and Siberia. They are separated by a distance of 3.8 km, the international date line and the Russian-American border. Big Diomede (Ratmanov Island) belongs to Russia, Little Diomede (Krusenstern Island) belongs to the USA.
Both islands are characterized by an isolated location between flat hills, steep slopes and rough seas where fog covers them in the warm season. Sometimes in winter, drifting ice blocks collide in open waters and form an ice bridge connecting the two islands.
The indigenous people of the islands are the Eskimos who lived there 3000 years ago. In 1648, the Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev reached these places. Eighty years later, one of the islands was discovered by Dane Vitus Bering’s expedition. This became the Day of Remembrance of the Martyr Saint Diomede on August 16, 1728. In 1867, the United States bought Alaska from Russia, along with Little Diomede. The new border stretched between the two Diomede Islands.
Yesterday and Tomorrow in the Diomede Islands
The international date line also runs along the state line between the islands. The fact is that after the sale of Alaska and a number of US islands, the dates in them were pushed back one day to synchronize time with the United States. While the locals celebrate Saturday morning on the American Little Diome Island, they have already arrived on the neighboring Russian island by Sunday. That is why they are often called the “Tomorrow” and “Yesterday” islands.
A small community of about 75 people lives on the tiny island of Diomede. They have their own churches, schools and shops. Eskimos make their living by hunting fish and crabs, hunting beluga whales, walruses, seals and polar bears. Big Diome Island has an air station and a base for Russian border troops.
Climate in the Diomede Islands
Summer temperatures average 40 to 50 °F (4–10 °C). Winter temperatures average between 10 and 6 °F (−12 to -14 °C). Annual precipitation averages 10 inches (250 mm) and annual snowfall averages 30 inches (76 cm). In summer, cloudy skies and fog prevail. Winds are consistently from the north, averaging 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h), winds blowing between 60 and 80 miles per hour (97-129 km/h). The Bering Strait usually freezes between mid-December and mid-June.