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Satellite photo of the Bering Strait
A US-based webcam providing a view across the Bering Strait
Nautical chart of the Bering Strait


The Bering Strait ( , Beringov proliv), known to natives as Imakpik, is a sea strait between Cape Dezhnevmarker, Chukotka Autonomous Okrugmarker, Russia, the easternmost point (169°43' W) of the Asian continent and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaskamarker, USA the westernmost point (168°05' W) of the North American continent, with latitude of about 65° 40' north, slightly south of the polar circle. It is one of the biggest of its kind .

The Bering Strait has been the subject of scientific speculation that humans migrated from Asia to North America across a land bridge at a time when lower ocean levels, perhaps a result of glaciers locking up vast amounts of water, exposed a ridge beneath the ocean. This would have allowed humans to walk from Siberia to Alaska, thus populating North and South America.

Geography and science

The Bering Strait is approximately long , with an average depth of . It connects the Chukchi Seamarker (part of the Arctic Oceanmarker) to the north with the Bering Seamarker (part of the Pacific Oceanmarker) to the south. Although the Cossack Semyon Dezhnev passed by the strait in 1648, it is named after Vitus Bering, a Danishmarker-born Russian explorer who crossed the strait in 1728. Although considered as incorrect spelling today the area is often found spelled as "Behring Strait" in some older texts.

Population

The area is sparsely populated. The Diomede Islandsmarker lie directly in the middle of the Bering Strait, and the village in Little Diomedemarker has a school which is part of Alaska's Bering Strait School District. Because the International Date Linemarker runs equidistant between the islands at a distance of 1 mi (1.6 km), the Russian and American sides are usually on different calendar days, with Cape Dezhnev 21 hours ahead of the American side.

The area in the immediate neighborhood on the Alaskan side belongs to the Nome Census Area which has a population of 9,000 people. There is no road from the Bering Strait to the main cities of Alaska. Air and water are the main mode of travel. There are a few roads around Nomemarker. However there is no regular air connection across the strait, just a few summer charter flights. This is because of a Russian policy only to allow tourists in organized tours, and with special permit to everyone.

The Russian coast belongs to Chukotka Autonomous Okrugmarker. Provideniyamarker (4,500 people) and Chukotsky (5,200 people) are the two areas located at the Bering Strait. These areas are also roadless.

Expeditions

Semyon Dezhnyov (1648) was the first European to pass through the Bering Strait. Vitus Bering entered it in 1728. Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld in 1878/79 sailed along the complete northern coast of Siberia, thereby proving that there was no northern land bridge from Asia to North America.

In July 1989 a British expedition, Kayaks Across The Bering Strait, completed the first sea kayak crossing of the Bering Strait from Wales, in Alaska, to Cape Dezhneva, Siberia. The four expedition members, Robert Egelstaff, Trevor Potts, Greg Barton and Peter Clark, kayaked from Nome up the Alaskan coast, and around Cape Prince of Wales, before crossing the Strait via the Diomede Islands. Having completed the crossing they continued north to Uelen, where they were welcomed by the Soviet Sports Committee and eventually returned to the UK via Moscow. This journey has been described as "The Everest of the Canoeing World" and was recorded in the film "Kayaking Into Tomorrow" (1989). There was a film called "Curtain of Ice" that recorded part of the crossing.

In 1998, Russian adventurer Dmitry Shparo and his son Matvey made the first known modern crossing of the frozen Bering Strait on skis.

In March 2006 Briton Karl Bushby and French American adventurer Dimitri Kieffer crossed the strait on foot, walking across a frozen 90 km (56 mile) section in 15 days. (BBC) They were soon arrested for not entering Russia through a border control.

Actor Ewan McGregor said in an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that part of the inspiration for his Long Way Round motorcycle journey from London to New York was that, when seen on a map, the gap between Russia and the USA across the Bering Strait looked very small. McGregor and his team crossed the strait with their motorcycles loaded onto a Magadan Airlines plane, flying from Magadanmarker, Russia to Anchoragemarker, Alaska, USA.

In 1987 swimmer Lynne Cox swam the two miles (3 km) between the Diomede Islands from Alaska to the Soviet Union in 40 °F (4 °C) water during the last years of the Cold War.

August 2008 marked the first ever crossing of the Bering Strait using an amphibious road going vehicle. The specially modified Land Rover Defender 110 was driven by Steve Burgess and Dan Evans across the straits on its second attempt following the interruption of the first one due to bad weather. The full story can be found here: http://www.capetocape.org.uk/

Bridge or tunnel

In 1864 the Russian-American telegraph company began preparations for a telegraph line to link Europe and America overland via the Bering Strait, but this was abandoned when the Atlantic Cable proved successful.

Suggestions have been made for the construction of a bridge, the Bering Strait bridgemarker, between Alaskamarker and Siberiamarker. An alternative connection would be a tunnel underneath the strait, the TKM-World Linkmarker being the most recent such proposal. The construction of such a bridge or tunnel would face unprecedented engineering, political, and financial challenges, and to date, no government has authorized the start of any planning or construction.

Dam or threshold

In September 2008 a plan was published discussing a complete or partial closure of the Bering Strait, by either a dam or a threshold , both possibly influencing sea ice conditions in the Arctic. The proposed Diomede Threshold would make use of the salinity gradient of water currents through the Bering Strait, allowing only relatively sweet waters from the Alaskan river Yukonmarker to flow through the strait.

The "Ice Curtain" border

During the Cold War, the Bering Strait marked the border between the Soviet Unionmarker and the United Statesmarker The island of Big Diomedemarker in the USSR is only 2.4 mi (4 km) from the island of Little Diomedemarker in the USA. Traditionally, the indigenous peoples in the area had frequently crossed the border back and forth for "routine visits, seasonal festivals and subsistence trade", but were prevented from doing so during the Cold War. The border became known as the "Ice Curtain". In 1987, American swimmer Lynne Cox symbolically helped ease tensions between the two countries by swimming across the border and was congratulated jointly by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

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