17 July, 2003
Return to Little
We arrived at Little Diomede Island last evening and dropped anchor just a few yards where I sat on the ice and watched the residents catch king crab this past April. The island looked totally different only the shape seemed the same to me.
Only the bottom half of the island was clearly visible when we arrived the top half was just a silhouette in the misty fog. But the bottom half was beautiful. Patches of green, a color that was absent in March/April, seemed stitched into the gray and brown rocks. Surrounding the green patchwork were fields of rock and boulders like giant granola spilled around a green tablecloth.
The island had a surreal look about it, a kind of prehistoric atmosphere. And birds-hundreds of thousands of birds were everywhere. Nesting on rocks, skimming the water and flying overhead swirling in and out of the fog.
When I could finally get my attention off the bird life and looked off to the east, resting on the edge of the sea lay the Village of Diomede almost camouflaged against its island backdrop. It was quite a contrast view of the village from the winter where it stood out in great detail against the white frozen mountain island.
Just after dinner Lee (Dr. Cooper), Jackie (Dr. Grebmeier), Rebecca and I were taken by zodiac craft (motorized raft) to the island to retrieve materials and supplies that were remaining in the science shack and to "touch base" with local officials.
Several children and a handful of adults greeted us on the beach. Recognizing most of the young ones I waved. Once I removed my hood and hat from the weather exposure suit I was wearing they recognized me and I was greeted with several "I know you" statements from the little ones. The older children were more talkative and asked questions about the ship, what I've been doing... Another more vocal group of boys chimed out in chorus "Hey Lee!" to Dr. Cooper then proceeded to show off for us by scaling the rocks.
"Killer whales by your ship!" one of the youngsters yelled. We directed our attention towards the sea in time to watch 2-3 whales swim by the bow of the Laurier. We walked with a few of the men from the village to the science shack. It was great to speak to then again about what been going on since we left. The walrus hunt this year was not parcticularly good this year but an unusually good run on seals kept meat on the tables we were told.
I was still in awe of my surroundings. It was so different from what I had witnessed just a few months earlier. Buildings that I had walked up 5-6 steps to get into now had 10-15 steps; snow and ice had covered most. The pathway that I walked through part of the village I could now see had taken me over many snow covered structures and boulder piles.
Patches of green grasses and a variety of wildflowers were neatly growing between rocks, swarms of birds could be heard overhead and the voices of children playing rang through the air, a far different view for me this time. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the island during two seasons and witness first hand its true natural beauty and better understand why its residents are so protective of it.
With the help of a few of the residents we loaded the materials onto the zodiac and sent it back to the ship. Within a half hour we too were on our way back to the Laurier. Looking back as we pulled away from the beach watching the children wave I could not help to wonder what kind of future awaits this remote community.
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