Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sledge Island

If you've ever been to Nome you would notice that there is this tiny island just off the coast of Nome called Sledge Island (Also known as Ayak Island).  Not too many people from Nome have been there.  Since I was a child I wanted to go to this mysterious Island that looks like flat cold stone rock. 

Sledge Island is located about 5 miles from the southwestern shore of the Seward Peninsula and about 26 miles from Nome, Alaska.  More information about the island go to Wikipedia.

In my youth I had heard that there was a plane crash there and possible dead bodies.  Maybe it's creepiness was intriguing to me.

Our family recently purchased a boat and one of my first thoughts (besides fishing) was Sledge Island.  My husband, Sean, was leery about taking the boat to Sledge because it still had a few kinks in it.  At this time the boat could be unpredictable on whether or not it wanted to start properly but once it started it ran just fine.

We had to wait for the perfect day with perfect weather and calm seas.  That day was August 24, 2013.  With the help of an old mining friend named, Randy Smith, we talked to my husband about taking out the boat for a ride on such a nice day.  We also threw in the idea of Sledge Island and how we had all never been there but had always wanted to go...  my husband was not comfortable with this idea of going to Sledge Island but said we could take the boat out.  We also recruited our friend Dan and my husband's sister April.

So we headed out to take a short fishing trip into the Bering Sea.
 View of Nome from sea
 The Crew

 Some random fuel barge

 Happy crew mates enjoying the ride.  Then Sean asks me if I want to drive the boat and tells me to find a good fishing spot.

Of course I want to drive.
 See how happy I am.  Can you guess what happened next? I turn the boat and head towards Sledge Island.  
After 20 minutes Randy asks, "Kim are we headed to Sledge Island?"  I just gave him a coy look *what ever to you mean?  Next question, "Do we have enough gas?"  Sean comes over checks the gauges and says, "yes".  But we would have to go a little faster so Captain Sean was back in the driver's seat.  Besides the Island didn't seem too far away as if you could lean over and grab it (okay I'm exaggerating here).  So about another hour later we arrived!

But Sean wasn't going to land the boat because of possible unseen rocks in the water and he started to drive around the island. 

I did not come all this way, after all these years, just to see Sledge Island from a boat.  If he didn't land it, believe me, I would have jumped out and swam to the Island.

I encouraged Sean to drive in slow and land the boat.  Which he did.

 April enjoying it's beauty and commenting on how unexpectedly green it is.

 Randy happy to be here.

The boat

 Some weird coast guard thing on the Island

Dan enjoying the view and his meal on the beach.

 Oh look we found a dead body ;-)

April standing in the beach grass.

 Randy and I looking for berries.  There were blueberries, salmonberries, lignon berries, and crowberries on the island.  Similar vegetation to Nome but we did not see any animals not even a small vole.

 Randy in his own element.  He was happy to be there.

 Lots of drift wood

 Sean in the beach grass.

The Island was beautiful.  I had wanted to climb to the top of Sledge but I had completed my first half marathon that morning and was exhausted.  Then Sean asked, "Kim are you going to climb to the top?"  "Of course I am", was my reply.  I just had to I didn't know when I'd ever be back again.

 Views of the beach as I was heading up

Hi it's me!
 There's our boat to the right.

 This photo doesn't do the height of this Island justice.  This was as far as I was going to go up.  I am squatting down on a rock ledge that is about a foot squared.  Randy is a little white speck at the base of the rocks (upper right center).  Sean, April, and Dan are somewhere on the beach.

Here's a short video I took:

 We look like a bunch of castaways for a show called Survivor: Sledge Island :-)
 Sean and I and the boat.  Oh and I climbed Sledge Island in my pink rain boots.

 Sean and I at the base of Sledge Island.  I climbed that thing and almost made it to the top till the rocks started to roll beneath my feet.
 Goodbye my island.  Oh how I will miss you.  I hope to go back to explore the other side of the island.  I hear there are puffins.  We don't have puffins in Nome.

 Captain Dan

 Thank you Sean for assisting me in making one of my life long goals come true.  Had a wonderful time there.

 Random cabin off the coast of Nome pretty far out and near Sledge Island

 Gold Prospectors of America Association (GPAA) Cripple River Mining Camp

 Passing by my schoolmate Shawn Pomrenke's crawler "Christine Rose" from the "Bering Sea Gold" show on Discovery channel.

 Some humungous gold dredge that we passed by.

 Dredge #6 view from the Bering sea and the WWII "White Alices" on top of Anvil Mountain.

The Crew

We all arrived home safely pondering our day trip.  Typically this is were my post would end. I felt inclined to do a little online research on Sledge Island.  What about the stories of a plane crash and dead bodies that I heard in my youth?  

Here's what I found:

There was a plane crash in 1993 just off the shore of Sledge Island.  There is an amazing survival story it is currently the only plane crash in the Bering Sea with survivors. You've got to read this story.

But I recalled an old plane crash well before 1993.  I've heard that it was a WWII aircraft on the east side of the island.  I can't find anything online on this.  If I get more information on this I will post here.

As for dead bodies?
I found this photo in Alaska Digital Archives at the following link
 I had do some research and found the following info.

Title: Inuit graves (above ground), Sledge Island, Alaska.
Date: [ca. 1903-1915]
Photographer/Illustrator: Lomen Brothers, Nome, Alaska / Bell, Nome (?), Alaska.
Remarks: Sledge on top of one grave; plain wooden cross next to other grave. 'Bell' appears in photograph annotation.
Here's another photo of Sledge Island
Photo was taken by the Lomen Brother around 1896-1913

There use to be native inhabitants on Sledge Island but there seems to be no signs of ancient relics, graves, or ruins now. The remains of 19 Sledge Island individuals were removed from Sledge Island in the early 1900's and stored at the Smithsonian.  See the link below for more information.

There is some interesting information about the last known person who lived on Sledge Island as a baby and has no memory of the island.

Also some interesting blogs from individuals from Nome attempting to go to Sledge or arriving there by snowmachine in the winter.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and a little history.

UPDATE: Sledge Island Trip 2... I found a plane crash
Me and my island.


  1. Neat! I had no idea what it looked like up close! Thanks for posting, that was really interesting!

  2. I "googled" my way to this incredible photo of Sledge Island, an amazing shot of this lone, snow dotted wedge in a flat, single shade of blue. A serendipitous visual delight which captivated me and the yearning began! Then I googled around and found your blog. Thanks for posting your photos, impressions and additional information. Very awesome that you live so close and can go back to see it during various times of the year. Happy Travels!

    1. Thanks Marilyn, I'm glad you like my posts.

    2. Thanks for posting these pictures and your interesting adventure. I was one of the survivors of the 1993 plane crash. My name is Don Wharton. I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was an incredible miracle event. The people of Nome went above and beyond the call of duty to aid in our rescue. We will never forget their heroics.

    3. Hi Don,
      Thanks for posting a comment. While researching I did find some online articles on your rescue story. The survival story of all seven of you brought me to tears and I just had to share, this was definitely a miraculous event.

  3. I was searching the web for information about Don Wharton's plane crash. I enjoyed the pictures and commentary that you posted on Sledge Island. Thanks for posting!

  4. I know this was written over 3 years o but i found it fascinating. I stumbled across it after Sledge Island was mentioned by Zeke Tenhoff, a compatriot miner of Shawn Pomrenke's on Bering Sea Gold

    1. Hey LP1Guy! Glad you enjoyed the blog posts. I haven't watched any recent episodes of Bering Sea Gold though Zeke says I should :-)

  5. Fantastic article Lynn..... Great read and really well put together.

    1. Hey Rob,
      Thanks, though Lynn (my sis) didn't write this. I know we look a like. This is Kim.

  6. Nice story and good pics.
    Watch the show on Nat Geo right now...i had never heard about the island and it's intrigate me very mutch.thanx for share this story.
    Mistery is solved ;)

  7. Kim loved reading your story and being able to enjoy your pictures and video.

    I am so jealous of you and only wish I could have been there with you and continued to top.

    Good job and thanks!

  8. Hi dear. I am watching right now on discovery channel fron france the gold fisher show. And they spoke about sledge island.. So i decided to google it and i found your very interesting blog. But i wonder if the discovery channel show about the gold fisher is the true life or do you think it has been changed to be more watchable?
    Regards from France

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. My great grandfather was born on that island.