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Crossing the Bering Strait

28 Dec 2022 00:03:17 | Update: 28 Dec 2022 00:03:17
Crossing the Bering Strait

It is easy when looking at a globe of the earth, to become captivated by the narrow gap separating North America and Siberia.  At its narrowest point the Bering Strait is only 85 km across beckoning explorers to try crossing its icy waters.

Despite the fact that a ferry could potentially cross from the USA to Siberia in two hours, political hurdles restrict traffic across this body of water.  It is virtually impossible for a westerner to receive permission to arrive on the Russian shores of the Bering Strait.  An adventurer wishing to kayak, swim, walk over the ice, or sail from Alaska to Siberia across the Bering Strait would have to do so illegally.

A common misconception is that the Bering Strait freezes in the winter time and it is easy to walk across the ice.  In reality there is a strong current flowing north through the strait which usually creates large channels of open water.  On occasion these open channels become clogged with moving chunks of pan ice, so it is theoretically possible to jump from chunk to chunk, along with some swimming across the open leads.  Luck is also required in having favourable currents.

There are two reported cases of successful ice crossings.  The first was in 1998 when a Russian father and his son attempted walking to Alaska.  They became marooned on the pack ice and spent many days drifting and cut off from shore.  The ice finally reached the far side of the Strait.  The men, on the brink of death staggered onto American soil.  More recently in 2006 English trekker, Karl Bushby, and his American companion Dimitri Kieffer succeeded in doing the reverse route.  The duo were immediately detained by the Federal Security Service and deported for entering the country illegally. There have been several other attempts that have ended with helicopter rescues on the ice.

How about crossing in a small boat in summer?

The Bering Sea is one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world.  There are three main reasons for this; shallow depth, volatile weather, and extremely cold sea temperatures.  The depths average 35 fathoms (about 200’) which means the waves are shorter and pack more power than deep sea waves.  Additionally, strong currents make for difficult navigation.

It is recommended to cross in a seaworthy vessel capable of handling intense storms.  It is possible to cross the narrowest part of the Bering Strait in a smaller boat such as a kayak during a calm period of weather, however a support boat would be recommended.  The problem, however, is the possibility of having the boats confiscated upon reaching shore.

Angus Adventures