Monday, August 4, 2014

Sledge Island -Trip 2

We had such as AMAZING day!  It was August 2, 2014 with perfect weather, calm seas, kinda day to take the boat out to Sledge Island.  My goal this time was to the explore the east, south, and west side of island and to try to find the old WWII plane crash and any sign of ancient habitation or dead bodies :-)  If you haven't read about my first trip you will want to do that now before going on... so that the previous comment will make more sense. Click on the link to read about my first trip

This trip Sean and I brought our friend Randy Smith who went with us last year and we brought all our kids who had never been to Sledge Island and they thought this was "the best day ever!"

So as were were gazing at the beauty of the island from the boat I saw something shining on the island that look like a cross shining on the tundra.

 Do you see it?  In the middle of this photo.

I zoomed in on the object and got this...

I began to question if it was cross or the WWII plane wreckage I had heard.  There was only one way to find out.  So I went swimming

I don't know the water temp but it was cold it took my breath away at first but I got use to it.  Lots of large boulders so we didn't want to bring the boat to shore.  The water was calm and very clear I could easily see the bottom rocks with slimy algae and little jelly fish that I avoided.

 I made it shore and in my bare feet I climb sledge island.

It wasn't a cross... it was the tail to the old plane crash it's wings are diagonal in this picture.  This is were I wish I had created a water proof pouch for my camera and taken it along with me.  Or remember to have packed the Go Pro...  there was wreckage scattered all over this side of the island.

You can see debris near the top where the plane must of hit and there's me at the bottom left of this photo with the tail.  I don't know when the crash occured or if there were survivors.  This is still a mystery. 

UPDATE:  This was not a WWII crash (not sure if there was a WWII crash on this island) this is a Ryan Air plane crash that occured in 1989 with 1 person on board which was the pilot.  He did not survive.  Information collected by Doug Holee was a long time resident and bush pilot in Nome.

I did find an old fallen down log cabin though.  Built using square nails. I also found a rusted round thingy in the shape of a wok with no bottom on the floor of the cabin.  I'm assuming it was part of an old stove.

I looked for burial sites, old graves but did not find any.

I hear the Smithsonian will return the 19 ancient graves that taken in the early 1900's but I don't know when that would be and have HUGE concerns.  Though I wish for them to be returned no one lives on the island so therefore no one watches it.  Anyone can come and go and if the graves were put back they could be ransacked again.

Information from my friend Brenna Outwater who worked at Nome Eskimo Communtiy during 2011 recounts 11 ancient graves  and 7 funerary objects that were taken from Sledge Island in 1928 were returned to Nome Eskimo Community in 2011.  There were originally 14 graves but 3 of them fell off the rocky mountain side during the removal and were destroyed so only 11 were reported to the Smithsonian but 14 was recorded in a journal I believe by Henry B. Collins (I have yet to find this record).  There was a 4 year old child, 7 females, and 3 males I believe. None of them predates before 1900's so it is assumed that they all died during the influenza epidemic of 1918.  The graves were not return to Sledge Island (probably due to concerns I mentioned earlier) but were buried near Cape Nome on Sitnasauk Native Corporation land.  The only landmark is a brown wooden cross near the unmarked graves.  There was a small funeral consisting of the pastor, my friend Brenna, and person performing the burial.

I know it doesn't look like much but i was pretty impressed with myself  for swimming to the island, climbing boulders,  walking barefoot over driftwood, though tall grass, rusty nails, while being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

It was time for me to return to the boat as the kids were getting ornery.

Now, I had heard there were birds on the south west side of the island... particularly puffins... which I've never seen anywhere near Nome.  Saw them in Seward, AK but not Nome.  I was not prepared for THIS...

This was AMAZING!

Murres and Kittiwakes.  Thousands and thousands of them.

Murres that look like penguins

Cormorant flying

More Murres

Do you see what I see?   one Puffin, Murres, Kittiwakes, and Cormorants.  Can you see the Puffin at the top?

Cormorants.  As we headed around the south point above there were less cliffs and less birds.  The water was a little rougher on this side, but overall the sea was calm.

This is the west side of the north point of the island.  Where there's a coast guard reflector thingy.

 We landed the boat on the North west side and had a a little picnic and built a fire.

Mmm roasted Hot dogs and marshmallows tasted so good.


Kids exploring the island, rocks, shells, crab, and bones.

 BONES!!!  I'm pretty sure they are walrus or seal bones... they were all over.  Who knows maybe they were remnants of dead bodies :-)

 Here's our friend Randy.  I think he really enjoyed being here and relaxing.

 Here's us the Knudsen's plus our dog Ginger.

Like the kids said it was "THE BEST DAY EVER!"

Leaving the island

I hate leaving the island.  I could live there... I'm not sure if the family would join me.  As we headed home I pondered on what a great day it had been and how grateful for the opportunity to go to Sledge Island not many people do.  Even those who have lived in Nome their whole lives never been here, but yet you can see it from the shore of Nome.  I'm thankful for my husband and kids being patient with me and letting me explore the island.  

I felt satisfied in finding the plane wreckage, the old cabin, and all the beautiful birds.  I'm okay with not finding graves or dead bodies.  I felt at peace there.

THEN I WENT HOME, told a friend I had gone to Sledge and he asked did you find the shipwreck?  WHAT SHIPWRECK?!?

Apparently there was a shipwreck in the 1942.  I heard for years you could see the smoke stacks sticking out of the water.  Can't see them now.
US cargo Crown City (5433 GRT/20) wrecked SE end Sledge Island, Alaska, 20 m W off Nome on 2/9/42.
Here's a photo of the ship stuck in the ice near Sledge Island.
My friend Cussy told me the following story " sat on that rock for several seasons and the people from up and down the coast used to go out to it and scavenge the wood and metal off of it to make Finally it was jarred loose from what ever it hit, and sank to the bottom....between the coast and Sledge."
 For more information about this photo you can go to page 169 of this link

SUTWIK (1939)     The 15 ton 42 foot gas screw towing vessel Sutwik was destroyed by fire at 10:00 a.m. September 6, 1939 off Sledge Island. 
More information on the shipwreck go to this link:

I  also found this article that said back in 1950 there were 3 native dwellings in the cove on the northwest side of the island written by Tom Cade

I came upon this story on some old ancient artifacts that were found on Sledge Island in 1912. Expedition Magazine Volume 26, issue 2, January 1984 by Susan A. Kaplan and Richard H. Jordan and Glenn W. Sheehan

Here's the PDF version of the story with pictures.

Hmm, well I think that means I'll have to go back.


  1. :o) Thanks for sharing your adventures. I've always wanted go out to Sledge Island...someday I will. My grandmother was the last one born there.

    1. Oh wow Peggy!!! I read about a lady who was born out there but has no memory of living there since her family moved to Nome when she was a baby. It was part of research so no names were given. I bet this was your grandmother.

  2. Thanks for the pictures and story. I always wanted to go out to Sledge Island. It's a really neat spot.

  3. Very cool ! Watching Bering sea gold tonight here in Alabama . The show talked about sledge island. I looked it up curious as to why it was mentioned on the show as to why the coast guard says sledge island is off limits?? Anyway enjoyed your story!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Same here in Florida...Bless her heart for jumping in the ice cold water and swimming to shore to share her adventure with us. I too was very curious after watching "Bering Sea Gold" last night. Thanks again Kim for our virtual adventure with you.

    3. I'm in FL too & after hearing about Sledge Island did some research & found your 2 blog entries about your trips there.
      Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Loved the photos & your kids are adorable.
      Don't know if you'll ever read this but again, thanks.
      This the closest this old man will ever get to Alaska!

    4. Thanks all you Bering Sea Gold fans. Glad you liked my post. I don't get automatic notifications but once in a while check my posts.

  4. Great story. Thank you from Trussville, AL

  5. You have made my Valentine Day a total pleasure! So much enjoyed reading your two blogs. Also heard the island mentioned on Bering Sea Gold and curious enough to Google it. Have been to AK, spending some time with my brother, Bill Kornmuller, who lives in Willow. For the last few years he has been building some structures in Teller, helping a friend who is named Joe. Have been curious enough about Teller and Nome to want to pay you all a visit! Perhaps this year!

    1. Hi Linda, glad you enjoyed reading my blog posts. Sounds like your brother is doing good work in Teller. Come on up to Nome and Teller, July has good fishing and August is great from bering picking.

  6. Funny.. I'm watching Bering Sea Gold, also hear about Sledge Island so I look it up and come across this Blog post. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Your welcome Brian, glad you enjoyed the blog post.

  7. Love your story and spirit! Thanks for sharing!!

  8. that is really great adventure you had there..thanks for sharing

  9. Thanks for this wonderful post! I have also posted a comment/question on your Youtube page. Would highly appreciate your reply