Satellite photo of the Bering Strait
Nautical chart of the Bering Strait
|Basin countries||United States, Russia|
|Min. width||82 km (51 mi)|
|Average depth||−50 m (−160 ft)|
The Bering Strait is a strait of the Pacific, which separates Russia and the United States slightly south of the Arctic Circle at about 65° 40' N latitude. The present Russia-US east-west boundary is at 168° 58' 37" W. The Strait is named after Vitus Bering, an explorer in the service of the Russian Empire.
A strait is a naturally formed, narrow, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. Most commonly it is a channel of water that lies between two land masses. Some straits are not navigable, for example because they are too shallow, or because of an unnavigable reef or archipelago.
Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), it is, by a considerable margin, the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or simply America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.
The Strait has been the subject of the scientific hypothesis that humans migrated from Asia to North America across a land bridge known as Beringia when lower ocean levels – perhaps a result of glaciers locking up vast amounts of water – exposed a wide stretch of the sea floor, both at the present strait and in the shallow sea north and south of it. This view of how Paleo-Indians entered America has been the dominant one for several decades and continues to be the most accepted one. Numerous successful crossings without the use of a boat have also been recorded since at least the early 20th century.
Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada; on the north by 72 degrees north latitude in the Chukchi Sea; and on the south by the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. It includes the Chukchi Sea, the Bering Sea, the Bering Strait, the Chukchi and Kamchatka Peninsulas in Russia as well as Alaska in the United States.
Paleo-Indians, Paleoindians or Paleoamericans were the first peoples who entered, and subsequently inhabited, the Americas during the final glacial episodes of the late Pleistocene period. The prefix "paleo-" comes from the Greek adjective palaios (παλαιός), meaning "old" or "ancient". The term "Paleo-Indians" applies specifically to the lithic period in the Western Hemisphere and is distinct from the term "Paleolithic".
Since 2012, the Russian coast of the Bering Strait has been a closed military zone. Through organized trips and the use of special permits, it is possible for foreigners to visit. All arrivals must be through an airport or a cruise port, near the Bering Strait only at Anadyr or Provideniya. Unauthorized travelers who arrive on shore after crossing the strait, even those with visas, may be arrested, imprisoned briefly, fined, deported and banned from future visas.
A Border Security Zone in Russia is the designation of a strip of land where economic activity and access are restricted in line with the Frontier Regime Regulations set by the Federal Security Service. For foreign tourists to visit the zone a permit issued by the local FSB department is required.
Anadyr is a port town and the administrative center of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, located at the mouth of the Anadyr River at the tip of a peninsula that protrudes into Anadyrsky Liman. Anadyr is the easternmost town in Russia; more easterly settlements, such as Provideniya and Uelen, do not have town status. It was previously known as Novo–Mariinsk.
Provideniya is an urban locality and the administrative center of Providensky District of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, located on Komsomolskaya Bay in the northeastern part of the autonomous okrug, across the Bering Strait from Alaska, and very close to the International Date Line. The population has declined in recent decades: 1,970 (2010 Census); 2,723 (2002 Census); 5,432 (1989 Census).
The Bering Strait is about 82 kilometres (51 mi) wide at its narrowest point, between Cape Dezhnev, Chungu Peninsula, Russia, the easternmost point (169° 39' W) of the Asian continent and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, United States, the westernmost point (168° 05' W) of the North American continent. Its depth varies between 30 metres (98 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft). It borders the Chukchi Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean) to the north and the Bering Sea to the south.
Cape Dezhnyov or Cape Dezhnev is a cape that forms the eastmost mainland point of Asia. It is located on the Chukchi Peninsula in the very sparsely populated Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of Russia. This cape is located between the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Strait, 82 kilometres (51 mi) across from Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska; the Bering Strait is delimited by the two capes. The Diomede Islands and Fairway Rock are located in the midst of the strait.
Asia is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.
Cape Prince of Wales is the westernmost mainland point of the Americas. It was named in 1778 by Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy, presumably for the Prince of Wales at the time, George Augustus Frederick.
The International Date Line runs equidistant between the Strait's Diomede Islands at a distance of 1.5 km (1 mi), leaving the Russian and American sides usually on different calendar days, with Cape Dezhnev 21 hours ahead of the American side (20 hours during daylight saving time).
The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line of demarcation on the surface of Earth that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole and demarcates the change of one calendar day to the next. It passes through the middle of the Pacific Ocean, roughly following the 180° line of longitude but deviating to pass around some territories and island groups.
The Diomede Islands, also known in Russia as Gvozdev Islands, consist of two rocky, mesa-like islands:
Daylight saving time (DST), also daylight savings time or daylight time and summer time, is the practice of advancing clocks during summer months so that darkness falls later each day according to the clock. A common implementation of DST is to advance clocks by one hour in the spring and retard clocks by one hour in autumn to return to standard time. In other words, there is one 23-hour day in the spring and one 25-hour day in the fall.
The area is sparsely populated.
The eastern coast belongs to the U.S. state of Alaska. Notable towns on the American coast of the Strait include Nome (3,788 people) and the small settlement of Teller (228 people).
In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.
Alaska is a U.S. state in the northwest extremity of the United States West Coast, just across the Bering Strait from Asia. The Canadian province of British Columbia and territory of Yukon border the state to the east and southeast. Its most extreme western part is Attu Island, and it has a maritime border with Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. To the north are the Chukchi and Beaufort seas—southern parts of the Arctic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean lies to the south and southwest. It is the largest U.S. state by area and the seventh largest subnational division in the world. In addition, it is the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated of the 50 United States; nevertheless, it is by far the most populous territory located mostly north of the 60th parallel in North America: its population—estimated at 738,432 by the United States Census Bureau in 2015—is more than quadruple the combined populations of Northern Canada and Greenland. Approximately half of Alaska's residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska's economy is dominated by the fishing, natural gas, and oil industries, resources which it has in abundance. United States armed forces bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy.
Nome is a city in the Nome Census Area in the Unorganized Borough of Alaska, United States. The city is located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea. In 2016 the population was estimated at 3,797, a rise from the 3,598 recorded in the 2010 Census, up from 3,505 in 2000. 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, which is headquartered in Nome.
The western coast belongs to the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, a federal subject of Russia. Major towns that lie along the Strait include Lorino (1,267 people) and Lavrentiya (1,459 people).
The Diomede Islands lie midway in the Strait. The village in Little Diomede has a school which belongs to Alaska's Bering Strait School District.
From at least 1562, European geographers thought that there was a Strait of Anián between Asia and North America. In 1648, Semyon Dezhnyov probably passed through the strait, but his report did not reach Europe. Danish-born Russian navigator Vitus Bering entered it in 1728. In 1732, Mikhail Gvozdev crossed it for the first time, from Asia to America. Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld in 1878–79 sailed along the northern coast of Siberia, thereby proving that there was no northern land bridge from Asia to North America.
American vessels were hunting for bowhead whales in the strait by 1847.
In March 1913, Captain Max Gottschalk (German) crossed from the east cape of Siberia to Shishmaref, Alaska, on dogsled via Little and Big Diomede islands. He was the first documented modern voyager to cross from Russia to North America without the use of a boat.
In 1987, swimmer Lynne Cox swam a 4.3-kilometre (2.7 mi) course between the Diomede Islands from Alaska to the Soviet Union in 3.3 °C (37.9 °F) water during the last years of the Cold War.
In June and July 1989, three teams of sea kayakers combined to attempt the first modern sea kayak crossing of the Bering Strait. The groups were seven Alaskans referring to their effort as 'Paddling Into Tomorrow' (crossing the international dateline), a four-man British expedition, Kayaks Across the Bering Strait and an unnamed group of three Californians.
In 1998, Russian adventurer Dmitry Shparo and his son Matvey crossed 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-kilometre (56 mi) section in 15 days. They were soon arrested for not entering Russia through a border control.
August 2008 marked the first 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 by bad weather.
In February 2012, a Korean team led by Hong Sung-Taek crossed the straits on foot in six days. They started from Chukotka Peninsula, the east coast of Russia on February 23 and arrived in Wales, the western coastal town in Alaska on February 29.
In July 2012, six adventurers associated with "Dangerous Waters", a reality adventure show under production, made the crossing on Sea-Doos but were arrested and permitted to return to Alaska on their Sea-Doos after being briefly detained in Lavrentiya, administrative center of the Chukotsky District. They were treated well and given a tour of the village's museum, but not permitted to continue south along the Pacific coast. The men had visas but the western coast of the Bering Strait is a closed military zone.
Between August 4 and 10 (US time), 2013, a team of 65 swimmers from 17 countries performed a relay swim across the Bering Strait, the first such swim in history. They swam from Cape Dezhnev, Russia, to Cape Prince of Wales, United States (roughly 110 kilometres (68 mi), due to the current). They had direct support from the Russian Navy, using one of its ships, and assistance with permission.
A physical link between Asia and North America via the Bering Strait nearly became a reality in 1864 when a Russian-American telegraph company began preparations for an overland telegraph line connecting Europe and America via the east. It was abandoned when the undersea Atlantic Cable proved successful.
A further proposal for a bridge-and-tunnel link from Siberia to Alaska was made by French engineer Baron Loicq de Lobel in 1906. Czar Nicholas II of Russia issued an order authorising a Franco-American syndicate represented by de Lobel to begin work on the Trans-Siberian Alaska railroad project, but no physical work ever commenced.
Suggestions have been made to construct a Bering Strait bridge between Alaska and Siberia. Despite the unprecedented engineering, political, and financial challenges, Russia green-lighted a US $65-billion TKM-World Link tunnel project in August 2011. If completed, the 103-kilometre (64 mi) tunnel will be the world's longest. China considered construction of a "China-Russia-Canada-America" railroad line that would include construction of a 200-kilometre-long (120 mi) underwater tunnel that would cross the Bering Strait.
In 1956, the Soviet Union proposed to the US a joint bi-national project to warm the Arctic Ocean and melt some of the ice cap. As designed by Petr Borisov, the Soviet project called for a 90-kilometer-wide (56 mi) dam across the Bering Strait. It would block the cold Pacific current from entering the Arctic. By pumping low-salinity cold surface water across the dam to the Pacific, warmer and higher salinity sea water from the Atlantic Ocean would be introduced into the Arctic Ocean. However, citing national security concerns, the CIA and FBI experts opposed the Soviet plan by arguing that while the plan was feasible, it would compromise NORAD and thus the dam could be built at only an immense cost. Soviet scientist D. A. Drogaytsev, also opposed the idea, stating that the sea north of the dam and north-flowing rivers in Siberia would become unnavigable year round, and extend the Gobi and other deserts to the northern Siberia coastline.
American Charles P. Steinmetz earlier proposed to widen the Bering Strait by removing St. Lawrence Island and parts of Seward and Chukotski Peninsulas. A strait 320 kilometers (200 mi) wide would let the Japan Current melt the Arctic Ocean.
In the 21st century a 300-kilometer (190 mi) dam has also been proposed, however the aim of the proposal is to preserve the Arctic ice cap against global warming.
During the Cold War, the Bering Strait marked the border between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Diomede Islands—Big Diomede (Russia) and Little Diomede (US)—are only 3.8 km (2.4 mi) apart. 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". It was completely closed, and there was no regular passenger air or boat traffic. In 1987, American swimmer Lynne Cox symbolically helped ease tensions between the two countries by swimming across the border, and was congratulated jointly by American President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Bering Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It forms, along with the Bering Strait, the divide between the two largest landmasses on Earth: Eurasia and The Americas. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves.
The Northeast Passage is, from the European and northern Atlantic point of view, the shipping route to the Pacific Ocean, along the Arctic coasts of Norway and Russia. The western route through the islands of Canada is accordingly called the Northwest Passage (NWP).
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug or Chukotka (Чуко́тка) is a federal subject of Russia. It is geographically located in the Far East region of the country, and is administratively part of the Far Eastern Federal District. Chukotka is the 2nd-least-populated federal subject at 50,526 (2010) and the least densely populated.
Semyon Ivanovich Dezhnev was a Russian explorer of Siberia and the first European to sail through the Bering Strait, 80 years before Vitus Bering did. In 1648 he sailed from the Kolyma River on the Arctic Ocean to the Anadyr River on the Pacific. His exploit was forgotten for almost a hundred years and Bering is usually given credit for discovering the strait that bears his name.
Big Diomede Island or "Tomorrow Island" is the western island of the two Diomede Islands in the middle of the Bering Strait. The island is a part of the Chukotsky District of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of Russia. The border separating Russia and the United States runs north-south between the Diomede Islands.
The Laptev Sea is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean. It is located between the northern coast of Siberia, the Taimyr Peninsula, Severnaya Zemlya and the New Siberian Islands. Its northern boundary passes from the Arctic Cape to a point with co-ordinates of 79°N and 139°E, and ends at the Anisiy Cape. The Kara Sea lies to the west, the East Siberian Sea to the east.
St. Lawrence Island is located west of mainland Alaska in the Bering Sea, just south of the Bering Strait. The village of Gambell, located on the northwest cape of the island, is 36 miles from the Chukchi Peninsula in the Russian Far East. The island is part of Alaska, but closer to Russia than to the Alaskan mainland. St. Lawrence Island is thought to be one of the last exposed portions of the land bridge that once joined Asia with North America during the Pleistocene period. It is the sixth largest island in the United States and the 113th largest island in the world. It is considered part of the Bering Sea Volcanic Province.
Little Diomede Island is an island of Alaska, United States. It is the smaller of the two Diomede Islands located in the middle of the Bering Strait between the Alaskan mainland and Siberia.
Chukchi Sea, sometimes referred to as the Chukotsk Sea or the Sea of Chukotsk, is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the Long Strait, off Wrangel Island, and in the east by Point Barrow, Alaska, beyond which lies the Beaufort Sea. The Bering Strait forms its southernmost limit and connects it to the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The principal port on the Chukchi Sea is Uelen in Russia. The International Date Line crosses the Chukchi Sea from northwest to southeast. It is displaced eastwards to avoid Wrangel Island as well as the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug on the Russian mainland.
The Seward Peninsula is a large peninsula on the western coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. It projects about 320 kilometers (200 mi) into the Bering Sea between Norton Sound, the Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea, and Kotzebue Sound, just below the Arctic Circle. The entire peninsula is about 330 kilometers (210 mi) long and 145 km (90 mi)-225 km (140 mi) wide. Like Seward, Alaska, it was named after William H. Seward, the United States Secretary of State who fought for the U.S. purchase of Alaska.
Lynne Cox is an American long-distance open-water swimmer, writer and speaker. She is best known for being the first person to swim between the United States and the Soviet Union, in the Bering Strait, a feat which has been recognized for easing the Cold War tensions between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
A Bering Strait crossing is a hypothetical bridge and/or tunnel spanning the relatively narrow and shallow Bering Strait between the Chukotka Peninsula in Russia and the Seward Peninsula in the U.S. state of Alaska. The bridge/tunnel would provide a connection linking North America and Eurasia.
Dmitry Shparo is a Russian Arctic explorer and endurance skier. He is internationally known for twice reaching the North Pole on snow skis.
A fixed link or fixed crossing is a persistent, unbroken road or rail connection across water that uses some combination of bridges, tunnels, and causeways and does not involve intermittent connections such as drawbridges or ferries. A bridge–tunnel combination is commonly used for major fixed links.
Mikhail Spiridonovich Gvozdev was a Russian military geodesist and a commander of the expedition to northern Alaska in 1732, when the Alaskan shore was for the first time sighted by Russians.
Arctic exploration is the physical exploration of the Arctic region of the Earth. It refers to the historical period during which mankind has explored the region north of the Arctic Circle. Historical records suggest that humankind have explored the northern extremes since 325 BC, when the ancient Greek sailor Pytheas reached a frozen sea while attempting to find a source of the metal tin. Dangerous oceans and poor weather conditions often fetter explorers attempting to reach polar regions and journeying through these perils by sight, boat, and foot has proven difficult.
The Naukan, also known as the Naukanski, are a Siberian Yupik people and an indigenous people of Siberia. They live in the Chukotka Autonomous Region of eastern Russia.
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