Nome, Alaska

—  City  —
Aerial view of the harbor in Nome
Location of Nome, Alaska
Coordinates: 64°30′14″N 165°23′58″W / 64.50389°N 165.39944°W / 64.50389; -165.39944Coordinates: 64°30′14″N 165°23′58″W / 64.50389°N 165.39944°W / 64.50389; -165.39944
Country  United States
State Flag of Alaska.svg Alaska
Census Area Nome
 - Type Council-Manager
 - Mayor Denise Michels
 - Total 21.6 sq mi (55.9 km2)
 - Land 12.5 sq mi (32.5 km2)
 - Water 9.1 sq mi (23.5 km2)
Elevation 20 ft (6 m)
Population (2008)
 - Total 3,598
 - Density 166.7/sq mi (64.4/km2)
 - Demonym Nomeite
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 - Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP Code 99762
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-54920
GNIS feature ID 1407125

Nome (Siqnazuaq in Iñupiaq) is a city in the Nome Census Area in the Unorganized Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska, located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea. According to the 2010 Census, the city population was 3,598. Nome was incorporated on April 9, 1901, and was once the most populous city in Alaska. Nome lies within the region of the Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC).

The city of Nome claims to be home to the world's largest gold pan, although this claim has been disputed by the Canadian city of Quesnel, British Columbia.

In the winter of 1925, a diphtheria epidemic raged among Inuit in the Nome area. Fierce territory-wide blizzard conditions prevented delivery of a life-saving serum by airplane from Anchorage. A relay of dog sled teams was organized to deliver the serum. The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race commemorates this historic event.



Gold Pan, Anvil City Square

The origin of the city's name "Nome" is still under debate. The name may have been given by Nome's founder, Jafet Lindeberg: within trekking distance of his childhood home in Kvænangen, Norway, there is a Nome valley (Norwegian: Nomedalen).

An alternate theory is that Nome received its name through an error: allegedly when a British cartographer copied an ambiguous annotation made by a British officer on a nautical chart, while on a voyage up the Bering Strait. The officer had written "? Name" next to the unnamed cape. The mapmaker misread the annotation as "C. Nome", or Cape Nome, and used that name on his own chart;[1] the city in turn took its name from the cape.

In February 1899, some local miners and merchants voted to change the name from Nome to Anvil City, because of the confusion with Cape Nome, 12 miles (19 km) south, and the Nome River, the mouth of which is four miles (6 km) south of Nome. The United States Post Office in Nome refused to accept the change. Fearing a move of the post office to Nome City, a mining camp on the Nome River, the merchants unhappily agreed to change the name of Anvil City back to Nome.

Geography and climate

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: NOAA [2]

Nome is located at 64°30′14″N 165°23′58″W / 64.50389°N 165.39944°W / 64.50389; -165.39944 (64.503877, −163.399409).[3] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.6 square miles (56 km2), of which 12.5 square miles (32 km2) is land and 9.1 square miles (23.6 km2) of it (41.99%) is water.

Nome has a subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc), with long, very cold winters, and short, cool summers. However, conditions in both winter and summer are moderated by the city's coastal location: temperatures are at their lowest in late January/early February, with February being the coolest month, averaging 5.7 °F (−14.6 °C). Highs do not break freezing until late April. Temperatures peak in mid/late July, with a July average of 52.6 °F (11.4 °C). Daytime temperatures average below freezing starting in mid October. Snow averages 57 inches (145 cm) per season. Precipitation is greatest in the summer months, and averages 16.6 inches (422 mm) per year. The annual average temperature is 27.0 °F (−2.8 °C).


Eskimo music and dance near Nome, 1900

As of the census of 2000, there were 3,505 people, 1,184 households, and 749 families residing in the city.[6] The population density was 279.7 people per square mile (108.0/km²). There were 1,356 housing units at an average density of 108.2 per square mile (41.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 51.04% Native American, 37.89% White, 1.54% Asian, 0.86% Black or African American, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.43% from other races, and 8.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.05% of the population.

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1900 12,488
1910 2,600 −79.2%
1920 852 −67.2%
1930 1,213 42.4%
1940 1,559 28.5%
1950 1,870 19.9%
1960 2,316 23.9%
1970 2,357 1.8%
1980 2,301 −2.4%
1990 3,500 52.1%
2000 3,505 0.1%
2010 3,598 2.7%

There were 1,184 households out of which 38.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.7% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.7% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.45.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 31.9% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 32.1% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 6.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 115.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $59,402, and the median income for a family was $68,804. Males had a median income of $50,521 versus $35,804 for females. The per capita income for the city is $23,402. About 5.4% of families and 6.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% under the age of 18 and 6.9% ages 65 or older.

The population of Nome is a mixture of Inupiat Eskimos and non-Natives. Although some employment opportunities are available, subsistence activities are prevalent in the community. A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community—the Nome Eskimo Community. Former villagers from King Island also live in Nome. The ANCSA village corporation in Nome is Sitnasuak Native Corporation.


Nome, 1900
7 years later (1907) houses have replaced the tents.

Pre history

Inupiat hunted for game on the west coast of Alaska from prehistoric times and there is recent archeological evidence to suggest that there was an Inupiat settlement at Nome, known in Inupiat as Sitnasuak, before the discovery of gold.

Gold Rush

In the summer of 1898, the "Three Lucky Swedes": Norwegian-American Jafet Lindeberg, and two naturalized American citizens of Swedish birth, Erik Lindblom and John Brynteson, discovered gold on Anvil Creek. News of the discovery reached the outside world that winter. By 1899, Nome had a population of 10,000 and the area was organized as the Nome mining district. In that year, gold was found in the beach sands for dozens of miles along the coast at Nome, which spurred the stampede to new heights. Thousands more people poured into Nome during the spring of 1900 aboard steamships from the ports of Seattle and San Francisco. By 1900, a tent city on the beaches and on the treeless coast reached 48 km (30 mi), from Cape Rodney to Cape Nome.

Many late-comers were jealous of the original discoverers, and tried to "jump" the original claims by filing mining claims covering the same ground. The federal judge for the area ruled the original claims valid, but some of the claim jumpers agreed to share their invalid claims with influential Washington politicians. Alexander McKenzie,took an interest in the gold rush and secured the appointment of Arthur Noyes as the federal district judge for the Nome region for the purpose of taking control of gold placer mines in Nome. McKenzie seized mining claims with an unlawfully-procured receivership granted by Judge Noyes. Mckenzie's claim-jumping scheme was eventually stopped by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[7] However, the episode provided the plot for Rex Beach's best-selling novel The Spoilers[8] (1906), which was made into a stage play, then five times into movies, including two versions starring John Wayne: The Spoilers (1942 film) (co-starring Marlene Dietrich) and North to Alaska (1960, the theme of which mentions Nome.[9]) Wyatt Earp, of Tombstone, Arizona fame, stayed in Nome for a short period, but little is known of his activities there.

During the period from 1900 – 1909, estimates of Nome's population reached as high as 20,000. The highest recorded population of Nome, in the 1900 United States census, was 12,488. At this time, Nome was the largest city in the Alaska Territory. Early in this period, the U.S. Army policed the area, and expelled any inhabitant each autumn who did not have shelter (or the resources to pay for shelter) for the harsh winter.

By 1910 Nome's population had fallen to 2,600.[10]

Statue of Balto, the lead dog on the last relay team of the 1925 diphtheria serum run.

Fires in 1905 and 1934 and violent storms in 1900, 1913, 1945 and 1974 destroyed much of Nome's gold rush era architecture. The pre-fire "Discovery Saloon" is now a private residence and is being slowly restored as a landmark.

Serum Run

In 1925, Nome was the destination of the famous "Great Race of Mercy", where dog sleds played a large part in transporting diphtheria serum through harsh conditions. In 1973, Nome became the ending point of the 1,049+ mi (1,600+ km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held in honor of the serum run.

The sled driver of the final leg of the relay was Gunnar Kaasen; his lead sled dog was Balto. A statue of Balto by F.G. Roth stands near the zoo in Central Park, New York City. Leonhard Seppala ran the penultimate, and longest, leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome. One of his dogs, Togo, is considered the forgotten hero of the "Great Race of Mercy" [1], another of his dogs, Fritz, is preserved and on display at the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome.

World War II and Later

During World War II, Nome was the last stop on the ferry system for planes flying from the United States to the Soviet Union for the Lend-lease program. The airstrip currently in use was built and troops were stationed there. One "Birchwood" hangar remains and has been transferred to a local group with hopes to restore it. It is not located on the former Marks AFB (now the primary Nome Airport); rather it is a remnant of an auxiliary landing field a mile or so away: "Satellite Field". In the hills north of the city, there were auxiliary facilities associated with the Distant Early Warning system that are visible from the city but are no longer in use. Nome's population decline continued after 1910 although at a fairly slow rate. By 1950 Nome had 1,852 inhabitants.[11]

Total gold production for the Nome district has been at least 3.6 million ounces.[12]

By 1960 the population of Nome had climbed to 2,316. At this point placer gold mining was still the leading economic activity. The local Inuit population was involved in ivory carving and the U.S. military had stationed troops in the city also contributing to the local economy.[13]


There are 5 schools located in the community, attended by 683 students.

Higher education

Northwest Campus sign

The University of Alaska Fairbanks operates a regional satellite facility in Nome called the Northwest Campus (formerly known as Northwest Community College).

Public schools

Nome is served by the Nome City School District and the following public schools:

  • Nome Elementary School, serves grades PK-6
  • Nome-Beltz Junior/Senior High School, serves grades 7-12.
  • Anvil City Science Academy, a 5-8 charter magnet, is also part of the school district.

Private schools

  • Nome Adventist School, a private school encompassing grades 1 through 9.


Nome's airwaves are filled by the radio stations KNOM (780 AM, 96.1 FM) and KICY (850 AM, 100.3 FM), plus a repeater of Anchorage's KSKA, K216BN, on 91.3 FM.

Cable television and broadband in Nome is serviced by GCI, which offer all popular cable channels, plus most of Anchorage's television stations. Nome also has three local low-powered stations, K09OW channel 9 and K13UG channel 13 (both carrying programming from ARCS), plus K11TH channel 11 (a 3ABN owned and operated translator).

Nome also is home to Alaska's oldest newspaper, the Nome Nugget.

At least two major films have been set in Nome, but not filmed there: the 1995 animated/live action family film Balto starring Kevin Bacon, and the 2009 science-fiction/horror film The Fourth Kind starring Milla Jovovich. The latter film was notable for purporting the events depicted involving alien abduction were based upon actual events, and for claiming that Nome experienced a large number of unexplained disappearances, a fact that is not disputed. FBI declines comment but does not deny that there have been 2000+ visits to Nome over the past 60 years. In relation to population density, Nome has the most FBI visits than any other city in the US. Additionally, in one scene of The Simpsons Movie, when the family moves to Alaska, Marge knits a doormat that reads "Nome Sweet Nome", revealing their exact location. In Disney Pixar short films the snow globe the snowman is trying to get out of says Nome Sweet Nome Alaska.



Nome is a regional center of transportation for surrounding villages. There are two state-owned airports.

  • Nome Airport - public-use airport located two nautical miles (3.7 km) west of the central business district of Nome, it has two asphalt paved runways: 3/21 measures 5,576 by 150 feet (1,700 x 46 m) and 10/28 is 6,001 by 150 feet (1,829 x 46 m). An $8.5 million airport improvement project is nearing completion. Nome Airport is serviced by the following Airlines and non-stop destinations via scheduled services and charter flights:
    • Alaska Airlines (Anchorage, Kotzebue)
    • Bering Air (Brevig Mission, Council, Elim, Gambell, Golovin, Kotzebue, Koyuk, Little Diomede, Port Clarence, Saint Michael, Savoonga, Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, Stebbins, Teller, Tin City, Unalakeet, Wales, White Mountain)[14]
    • Frontier Flying Service
    • Hageland Aviation Services (Now ERA Alaska Airlines) (Elim, Gambell, Golovin, Savoonga, Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, Stebbins, White Mountain, Brevig Mission, Teller, Wales, Unalakeet)[15]
    • Evergreen Helicopters offers service to Wales and Little Diomede Island.
  • Nome City Field - a public-use airport located one nautical mile (1.85 km) north of the central business district of Nome, it has one runway designated 3/21 with a gravel surface measuring 1,950. It is serviced by general aviation.

Water ports

Nome has a seaport, used by freight ships and cruise ships,[16] located at 64° 30’ N and 165° 24’ W on the southern side of the Seward Peninsula in Norton Sound. The Corps of Engineers completed the Nome Harbor Improvements Project in the summer of 2006 adding a 3,025 ft (922 m). breakwater east of the existing Causeway and a 270 ft (82 m). spur on the end of the Causeway making it to a total of 2,982 feet (909 m). The City Dock (south) on the Causeway is equipped with marine headers to handle the community's bulk cargo and fuel deliveries. The City Dock is approximately 200 feet (61 m) in length with a depth of 22.5 feet (MLLW). The WestGold Dock (north) is 190 feet (58 m) in length with the same depth of 22.5 feet (ML,LW). The Westgold dock handles nearly all of the exported rock/gravel for this region and is the primary location to load/unload heavy equipment. The opening between the new breakwater and the Causeway (Outer Harbor Entrance) is approximately 500 feet (150 m) in width and serves as access to both Causeway deep water docks and the new Snake River entrance that leads into the Small Boat Harbor. The old entrance along the seawall has been filled in and is no longer navigable. (See photos on website) Buoys outline the navigation channel from the outer harbor entrance into the inner harbor. The Nome Small Boat Harbor has a depth of 10 feet (MLLW) and offers protected mooring for recreational and fishing vessels alongside 2 floating docks. Smaller cargo vessels and landing crafts load village freight and fuel at the east, west and south inner harbor sheet pile docks, east beach landing and west barge ramp for delivery in the region. A new addition to the Nome facility in 2005 was a 60-foot-wide (18 m) concrete barge ramp located inside the inner harbor just west of the Snake River entrance. The ramp provides the bulk cargo carriers with a suitable location closer to the Causeway to trans-load freight to landing crafts and roll equipment on and off barges. This location also has approximately 2 acres (8,100 m2) of uplands to be used for container, vessel and equipment storage.

Surface transportation

The road system leading from Nome is extensive, though sparsely utilized during the winter months and leads mostly through remote terrain

Local roads lead to Teller, Council and the Kougarok River, otherwise there are small roads to communities up to 87 kilometres (54 mi) from Nome.[17] There is no road connection to the major cities of Alaska. There are no railroads going to or from Nome. A 500-mile (800 km) road project (Manley Hot Springs–Nome) is being discussed in Alaska. It has been estimated (in 2010) to cost $2.3 to $2.7 billion, or approximately $5 million per mile.[18]


Local hospitals or health clinics include Norton Sound Regional Hospital and Nome Health Center. The hospital is a qualified Acute Care facility and Medevac Service. Long Term Care is provided by Quyaana Care Center (a unit of the hospital). Specialized Care is available through various facilities such as Norton Sound Community Mental Health Center, Turning Point - Saquigvik (transitional living), and XYZ Senior Center. Nome is classified as an a large town/Regional Center, it is found in EMS Region 5A in the Norton Sound Region. Emergency Services have limited highway, coastal and airport access. Emergency service is provided by 911 Telephone Service and by Nome Volunteer Ambulance Dept.

See also


  1. ^ "Nome Convention and Visitor Bureau". Archived from the original on 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  2. ^ a b "Climatography of the United States No. 20 (1971–2000)" (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2004. Retrieved 2010−05−18. 
  3. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  4. ^ "Climatological Normals of Nome". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved 2010−05−18. 
  5. ^ "Monthly Averages for Nome, AK – Temperature and Precipitation". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2010−05−18. 
  6. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  7. ^ Tornanses v. Melsing, 106 F. 775 (9th Cir. 1901)
  8. ^
  9. ^ Please notice, according to North to Alaska-article the film is based on the play Birthday Gift by Ladislas Fodor.
  10. ^ Farm Journal Complete World Atlas, 1912 Edition, p. 195
  11. ^ Hammond's Complete World Atlas, 1952 Edition, p. 355
  12. ^ A.H Koschman and M.H. Bergendahl (1968) Principal Gold-Producing Districts of the United States, U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 610, p.18.
  13. ^ World Book Encyclopedia, 1967 Edition, Vol. 14, p. 351
  14. ^ Bering Air: Nome Flight Schedule (PDF). Retrieved 1 June 2009.
  15. ^ Hageland Aviation Services: Scheduled Flights (PDF). Retrieved 1 June 2009.
  16. ^ City of Nome, Port
  17. ^
  18. ^ COCKERHAM, SEAN (January 27, 2010). "Nome road could cost $2.7 billion". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 

External links

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