Did you know that it’s possible to walk just two and a half miles from the U.S. to Russia, but that by the time you got there, you would arrive 21 hours later than when you started?
The key is crossing the Bering Strait, the body of water that separates Alaska from northeastern Siberia. While the strait is a little over 50 miles wide, in the middle there are two small islands: Big Diomede, which is part of Russia, and Little Diomede, which is part of the United States. Native Alaskans have lived on Little Diomede for over 5,000 years, and about 100 Inupiat live there today in the Native Village of Little Diomede, also known as Inalik.
The two islands are separated by about two and a half miles of water. However, the frozen winter months provide enough solid ice that it’s possible to walk the distance. While today extensive permitting would be necessary to traverse the international border, in years past people sometimes made the crossing by foot.
If you were to go from Little to Big Diomede, you wouldn’t just travel from the U.S. into Russia: you’d also cross the International Date Line, the line that marks the boundary between one calendar day and the other. It runs right between the Diomede Islands. So when people on Little Diomede look across the water, their neighbors are 21 hours ahead.
Hunters from Little Diomede are used to this time travel. They have an old saying: “We go hunting today. We kill it tomorrow. And we butcher and eat it yesterday.”