My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Little Diomede, you CAN see Russia from this Alaska town!

Jan. 15-16, 2015

opik crabbing_10201918398510867_6874398955344371888_n Opik and her scoop to help grab the crabs with! (photo courtsey of Opik Ahkinga)
little with big distance224_10202162234806622_8244573605986660090_n this photo was taken on Little Diomede but you can see how close Big Diomede is. Big is part of Russia! (photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga)
little-diomede Little Diomede sits in the Bering Sea just off the coast of AK near Nome.
the town201832445082085_6403267181590825491_n This is Little Diomede (photo by Opik Ahkinga)
helicopter land big background201063887468625_996764091_n There is one helicopter flight in/out of Little Diomede each week, there are no planes as there is no place for a runway. This is a remote community.(photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Okay, NO I did not get to go to Little Diomede, but there was a woman at my training ( which was held at the regional office in Unalakleet https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/flying-wild-alaska-unalakleet-adventure-jan-16-18-2012/?preview=true&preview_id=34&preview_nonce=6a772c9321 ) that grew up there.  I felt like a reporter asking her questions about her home town!  Her name is Opik Ahkinga, Opik is her Eskimo name and the name she has always gone by.  Opik translates to “snow owl”!

opik and crab0179335674_269752413_n Happy Crabber Opik Ahkinga! So blessed to meet this woman! (photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga)
hole1918323989004_4710106530687486734_n the hole made in the ice to get crab! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Opik spends much of her time helping her village become aware of humans environmental impact.  She shared many stories of growing up there and how for years there were ‘disposable’ items such as water bottles.  They had never seen such a thing, but once ‘western ways’ moved to Little Diomede there was a need to educate on how to remove unwanted material.

pile oh crab4702046678404_1030976808_n a days catch! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)
crab hole253503_413916261_n one by one! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Another interesting discussion I had with Opik was her talking about subsistence living.   She is a crabber.  She crabs by digging a hole through the ice of the Bering Sea and dropping a line with bait.  She prefers smelt, but any fish is acceptable.  She drops down about 60-80 feet but can go down as deep as 100 feet.  Opik talked about 2 main kinds of crab that she gets; Blue King which is very tasty, Blue King is fished where there is a rocky bottom.  The other is Red King, not as good as good as Blue but still yummy.  Red King is caught in more mucky bottom areas.  In the winter these crab come ‘in’ to spawn where in the fall and summer they are further off shore.

And though Blue King is so sweet and tasty, the Spiny King is the best!  Historically  these Spiny Kings were found Japan and eastern Russia.  The first time they were found in AK were off of Little Diomede in 2003.  However, by 2010 they were really showing up in the waters around St. Lawrence Island and other communities in the Bering Sea.

Opik shared other interesting stories with me including the fact that she remembers going with her Grandpa to the international date line to trade with the Russians. Big Diomede is part of Russia, though it is just miles from Little Diomede and can been seen across the Bering Sea.  The international date line separated them and they are less than 2 miles apart.  Big Diomede is actually only a Russian military base.  Both Big and Little Diomded ‘communities’ are on the west side of the islands.  She shared that her father used to go to school on Big Diomede.  Another story was that  in 1952 her uncle (mom’s brother) went out to hunt and  was found and taken by the Russians.  He was kept captive for 50 days before he was released and sent home.

There is so much history in this part of our great state and so few know anything about it.  I feel blessed to have met Opik and look forward to more conversations in the years ahead.

side note that made me smile; the mascot for Little Diomede; the “dateliners”  isn’t that cute?

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Camp Life; Windfall Island


the solar powered fence

June 24-29, 2013

Living in a remote field camp for a week gave me a bit of an insight to what the staff that live there all summer experience daily. There are 3 tent platform structures. These are put up and taken down each year. The first one you see is the cook tent, it has a table, sink, stove/oven and many bear proof food boxes. There is a small propane heater here as well for those cold wet days of southeast AK. This structure is surrounded by a solar powered electric fence as even more assurance of bears not getting into the structure. IMG_1camp cooktent

The staff and volunteers stay in one of two tent platform structures. There is one for Fish and Game folks and one for Forest Service folks. There are cots inside and a heater just in case it gets a bit cool. We never had to use it, but I am sure it is nice for those wet cold SE, AK nights. Each night I laid in bed reading (with my head lamp) and enjoyed the quiet of living so remote. One of the nights it rained, because of the tarp over the tent is sounded as if it were POURING, but it really wasn’t… the rain was a great white noise for sleeping!

IMG_9damp home

IMG_8camp home

our tent from the outside

Using the ‘outhouse’ is certainly a part of life in the wilderness. The outhouse on Windfall is really just a tarp with a nice seat! The view is my favorite part of using the throne at camp! IMG_15camp outhouse view Before entering the toilet area you must first turn the sign around to indicate that it is occupied… when you leave you rotate it back to VACANT. IMG_6camp

Typically holes for outhouses need to be moved after a few years because they become too full or the smell too much to handle… however, this field crew has learned if you burn your TP after use and not put in the hole, it does not fill up so quickly AND the staff put a packet of RTB 740 into the hole… this speeds up the natural degradation process in the composting/outhouse toilet. Not only does it increase in digestion efficiency, odors are controlled by preventing their formation. Pit toilets will not have to be emptied or moved as often and composting toilets will function better with less chance of overload. It was amazingly nice for an outhouse.


the view as you approach the toilet!


the cans and torch to burn the paper in/with.


me taking care of my TP!

Lastly a few other shots of important parts of the field camp on Windfall Island!

IMG_2camp water source

collection of rain water

IMG_3camp solar

solar panel used to gather energy to charge items while at camp


the boat outhaul for the skiffs, kayaks or canoes!