Big Diomede Island, also known as Ratmanov Island, is the easternmost territory of Russia: it is 6,315 kilometers from Moscow in a straight line.
This island was inhabited by Eskimos for thousands of years. In 1648 the Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnyov found it. In 1867, when the Russian Empire sold Alaska to the United States, the dividing line between the two countries was set to the east of this island, halfway between its neighboring island, Diomede Minor. During World War II, the Red Army set up a military base on Diomedes Mayor, and after the war the last remaining Eskimos on the island were expelled from there. Since then, its only inhabitants have been soldiers of the Soviet Border Troops and, currently, the guards of the Russian FSB border service and some scientists who are in charge of a meteorological station.
A few years ago, an Internet user made a curious discovery through Google Maps: he observed that there was an abandoned plane on the island, with the typical silhouette of an American Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport plane from the Second World War. But what was that old plane doing abandoned there?
In 2011, a Russian Internet user, who worked as a radio operator in that island, told the story of that plane. It is a Lisunov Li-2T, a version of the Douglas DC-3 manufactured in the USSR during World War II. Specifically, the Li-2T was a 1945 variant. On Sunday, June 13, 1971, at 10:00 a.m., that plane flew to the island of Diomedes Mayor to deliver mail to the Soviet military detachment there. The weather was bad for flying that day.
The plane couldn't land on the island, as there wasn't even a dirt runway, so the Li-2 dropped its cargo with a small parachute. From the Soviet base of Big Diomede, located in the north end of the island, thanked him for the service, wished him a safe flight home, and waved goodbye over the radio. Three quarters of an hour later they received a radio warning that the plane had not returned, so a search operation was launched on the island.
The Li-2 had crashed in Diómedes Mayor. After delivering the mail, the plane began to turn south but encountered a thick bank of fog. Fortunately, the collision was made at an angle similar to that of the relief of the island. The aircraft was relatively intact, but all four crew members were injured. Due to the damage sustained, the plane was no longer fit to fly, so it was abandoned there. There it continues today, withstanding the harsh inclement weather of that island.
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