In the remotest of remote places

Lt. Cmdr. Doug Junnusch, commanding officer, Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, and Lt. Ian Hanna, executive officer of the SPAR, gather with Little Diomede Island residents on the cutter's bridge while moored at the island July 13, 2014.

Lt. Cmdr. Doug Junnusch, commanding officer, Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, and Lt. Ian Hanna, executive officer of the SPAR, gather with Diomede, Alaska, residents on the cutter’s bridge while moored at Little Diomede Island July 13, 2014.

In the middle of the Bering Strait, where natives create rawhide ropes from bearded seals, airtight buoys from seal skin and harpoons using Baleen whale, rests Little Diomede Island.

Less than three miles from the Russian border, this small, remote U.S. island has a population of approximately 100 residents and consists of a city office, water processing plant, clinic, store and an elementary and high school.

During a recent patrol, the crew of Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, an oceangoing buoy tender homeported in Kodiak, Alaska, had an opportunity to visit with the residents of Little Diomede Island, which included Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Jannusch, the SPAR’s commanding officer, and three other crewmembers, touring the island with Mayor Isaac Ahkvaluk.

Jannusch learned that the residents rely on walrus and other marine animals for subsistence and rain water or glacial ice for drinking water.  Residents of the island also lacked the means to dispose of batteries and e-waste, so the crewmembers aboard SPAR offered to help.

“During the course of the visit, we removed six lead-acid batteries and 191 pounds of e-waste,” said Jannusch. “We will transfer the waste in Nome for recycling.”

The Coast Guard has a long history of working with local and tribal partners to ensure Alaska and the Arctic remains a safe, secure and environmentally protected region.

This commitment goes as far back as 1897 when crewmembers from the Revenue Cutter Bear drove a herd of reindeer across 1,500 miles of Arctic ice and snow to rescue 300 starving whalers trapped by ice, and continues today with Operation Arctic Shield.

“This has been a great opportunity for us to meet the residents and gain an understanding of their culture and how they live,” said Jannusch.  “We value and are committed to our relationships with local and tribal partners, especially in the most remote communities of Alaska.”

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