A former Soviet radio operator told the story of this Lisunov Li-2T

An old Soviet military plane abandoned from 1971 on a Russian island near Alaska

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.

A desert in which three strategic bombers from the Cold War are abandoned
Balalae: aeronautical relics of the World War II in an airfield with a macabre past

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.

A photo of the Li-2 of Big Diomede. The red stars on its wings are clearly visible (Photo: Mirrow/Wikimapia).

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.

An image that shows the damage suffered by the Li-2 in its 1971 accident and also the damage caused by the passage of time and by inclement weather (Photo: Vbnhjafy/Wikimapia).

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.

A photo of the Li-2 taken from a Russian Kamov military helicopter (probably a Ka-27). The Li-2 is almost in the center of Big Diomede. The Russian border post is located on the northern tip of the island (Photo: Vbnhjafy/Wikimapia).

Don't miss the news and content that interest you. Receive the free daily newsletter in your email:

Opina sobre esta entrada:

Debes iniciar sesión para comentar. Pulsa aquí para iniciar sesión. Si aún no te has registrado, pulsa aquí para registrarte.