The Bering Strait is a sea strait between Cape Dezhnev, Russia, the easternmost point (169°43' W) of the Asian continent and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, 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 the North American continent across a land bridge formed by lower ocean levels in the distant past exposing a ridge
beneath the ocean. At periods when the oceans were lower, such as when glaciers locked up vast amounts of water, the exposed ridge would have allowed humans to simply walk from Siberia to Alaska, thus populating North and South America thousands of years ago.
The Bering Strait is approximately 53 miles (85 km) wide, with an average depth of 30–50 meters (98–160 ft). It connects the Chukchi Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean) in the north with the Bering Sea (part of the Pacific Ocean) in the south. Although the Cossack Semyon Dezhnev passed by the strait in 1648, it is named after Vitus Bering, a Danish-born Russian explorer who crossed the strait in 1728.
The area is sparsely populated. The Diomede Islands lie directly in the middle of the Bering Strait, and the village in Little Diomede has a school which is part of Alaska's Bering Strait School District. Because the International Date Line runs equidistant between the islands at a distance of 1.5km (1mi), the Russian and American sides are counted as falling 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 Nome. 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 Okrug. Provideniya (4,500 people) and Chukotsky (5,200 people) are the two areas located at the Bering Strait. These areas are also roadless.
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, round 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. (although 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 viewed on a map, the gap between Russia and the USA across the Bering Strait was in fact very small. McGregor and his team ultimately crossed the strait with their motorcycles loaded onto a Magadan Airlines plane, flying from Magadan, Russia to Anchorage, Alaska.
The "Ice Curtain" Border Edit
During the Cold War, the Bering Strait marked the border between the United States and the Soviet Union. The island of Big Diomede in the USSR was (and is) only 4 km (2.4 mi) from the island of Little Diomede 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.