Nome had a visit from the Japanese navy Thursday, sort of.
Locals may have noticed a gray ship measuring over 450 feet and bearing the numbers “3508” on its bow; that is the JDS Kashima, a Japanese naval training vessel docked off-shore.
Nome Harbormaster Lucas Stotts reports that the vessel is on its inaugural training run through the Arctic. The crew of 315 cadets stopped in Nome for resupplying.
“They were hoping to on all of these stops originally, before COVID-19, to come into each of the communities, have all the cadets come in and do a little bit of community service, meet folks, play some basketball, check out town and do some shopping and souvenir stuff.”– Lucas Stotts
But with COVID-19 concerns, the crew stayed onboard the ship and used smaller vessels to tender their supplies from Nome on Thursday and Friday.
As this is the ship’s first time in the Arctic, Stotts says they plan to visit Dutch Harbor and Anchorage.
The Kashima has spent the summer doing training exercises around the world, including an exercise with the USS Gabrielle Giffords in the South China Sea in June.
Nome’s current Port capabilities don’t quite allow for a ship the size of the Kashima to dock closer to town. But Stotts says that could change if the U.S. Army Corps’ design for an Arctic Deep Draft Port in Nome is approved by Congress.
“That and much larger. I want to say these guys are drawing 20 feet of water. With the new facility layout, we would have close to 40 feet of water where we could bring in the biggest ships that are out there.”– Lucas Stotts
The Port of Nome doesn’t have any more visits from foreign military vessels on the schedule for this year. But the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley is expected to come to Nome on September 17th.
Image at top: For a couple days, a large Japanese ship was docked off-shore from Nome. It’s a naval vessel called the ‘JDS Kashima’. (Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM 2020)