Where you can see Russia from your window

Posted: Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It's frightening to pick up the Empire and read the daily comments on the editorial page. The level of vitriol and calumny is overwhelming.

The rants take away from the better qualities of our nature. It demeans us all and degrades the body politic. It diminishes our pride in being something special, a part of a time and place, of being an Alaskan.

Thank goodness there are still some good things happening in this world that makes one proud to be part of the human race, as the old saying goes.

Such an event happened a few days ago when a desperately ill child in the far off Bering Sea needed emergency care. Little Diomede Island was his home. A call for help went out Wednesday. Only a helicopter could provide relief. There is no airfield on the island.

At about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, an Air National Guard helicopter took off from Anchorage. But this is a long trip, so a Hercules airplane with extra fuel left at the same time. Twice on the journey the helicopter was refueled.

No one asked then what political party the boy belonged to. They were only interested in saving a precious life.

The helicopter arrived at about 6:30 p.m. and flew the young child to the Norton Sound Regional Hospital at Nome. No one asked how much the rescue would cost the taxpayer. Only that one special life could be saved.

I spoke to Robert Soolook at the city office on Little Diomede last Thursday. He told me that the young boy is doing well.

About 120 to 130 people live on Little Diomede. This is where the international boundary is located. The neighbor island is Big Diomede, which is part of Russia. People are still related even though it is difficult to move freely. There is no airfield on Little Diomede, so service is mainly provided by a weekly helicopter visit in the spring and summer. In the winter months from February to April or May there is an ice field that is built between the two islands that can receive fixed wing aircraft.

Fuel oil is brought in annually by barge, but since there is no dock the fuel is transferred by hose to the storage tanks. Skin boats are still used but in the fall and winter months the sea as Robert says "is not calm and the water is always rough" so that the little boy could not be transported by boat.

The nearest town on the mainland is Wales, only 27½ miles away. In the summer months people travel to Wales or Teller by skin boat.

What a great place Alaska is when people unite to save a young boy and when all Alaskans work together to maintain our lives in far off places such as Little Diomede as well as big cities like Juneau and Anchorage.

• Lifelong Alaskan Elton Engstrom is a retired fish buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved.  | Contact Us