A large Soviet delegation braved blizzard conditions to fly four helicopters just inside U.S. territory to sign a protocol calling for a U.S.-Soviet Bering Strait border opening, but the awful weather kept the Americans away.
"Maybe the Russians are a little braver than the United States," said Thomas Menadelook Sr., Little Diomede's Eskimo mayor, who greeted the 80 Soviets Sunday when they arrived. The 50-person Alaska delegation did not arrive.Alaska National Guard helicopters sat in Nome, on Alaska's Bering Sea coast, waiting for below-minimum flying conditions to lift so Gov. Steve Cowper could fly to the frozen border. After waiting most of Sunday in Nome, the Guard gave up and flew Cowper, officials and reporters back to Anchorage.
The Russians, operating somewhat larger and apparently more stable Aeroflot helicopters, and perhaps with different flight standards, managed to fly across the Bering Strait, land on the ice in fiercely blowing snow and have a party without their hosts.
But the Soviets were not alone. Little Diomede's 185 Eskimo residents feted them at a potlatch (native potluck) in the school gym and made up their own speeches.