News and Events of the Bering Strait School District
Saturday November 25th 2017
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Crab Boat to Dio

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By Willis Ferenbaugh, teacher, Diomede

People in rural Alaska know what comes with the territory. Teachers out here quickly learn about the particular circumstances they face, and they learn that even these circumstances may change from day to day. Flexibility is essential in this part of the world.

Getting out to Little Diomede Island has always been a significant task, from boats to ice runways to the weekly helicopter service that has delivered mail for almost 30 years. But passenger service was not available in August, and so the staff of the Diomede School jumped on the crab boat INALIQ in Nome so that the school year could start on time. This trip was unusual and unexpected for both the teachers and the crew of the boat, and we all cozied up for an overnight trip with some weather coming into the Bering Strait area.

Five teachers hunkered down with the captain and two crew members in the comfortable but crowded quarters. Departing just after noon, we watched Nome drift away slowly… extremely slowly, having become accustomed to the whizzing of the helicopter. The adventure of the trip was tempered by waves on the open ocean and the rocking in our heads and stomachs. We took shifts for napping in the four bunks, and it’s safe to say that it wasn’t the most sound sleep for anyone. It was a long night at sea. But when dawn brightened the night’s thick fog, we could see the south side of our little island destination.

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Because Diomede doesn’t have a large boat dock, this was not the end of our journey. The seas weren’t calm enough to attempt a landing, so we sat anchored near the north side of the island until evening. The ocean wasn’t settling down, so some of the local men of the village braved the waves in a small skiff to transfer passengers and many boxes to the island. Men, women, and children helped to transfer all of the cargo up the slippery rocks on the shore. And finally, about 30 hours after sailing out of Nome, everything had been transferred to the Diomede School. We were all tired, and there was a lot of sleeping to be done before our preparations could begin to start the school year in less than four days. But we had arrived.

We are looking forward to a great year at the Diomede School. Many thanks to Captain Greg Alexander and crew members Louis and Thomas for keeping the cramped quarters comfy — as much as possible. (Greg should be especially complimented for his fine cooking, though some of us weren’t able to fully enjoy a big meal.) And thanks to NSEDC for helping to arrange the trip with BSSD.

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