SKI BRIDGE EXPEDITION
the first ever ski crossing of the Bering Strait
This Strait unites the Oceans and is the
border between continents and countries. Citizens of both
sides of the Strait sail over it by boats. In 1979 Arno de
Rossney, a Frenchman, crossed the Bering Strait using a hang
glider. In 1987 Lynn Cox, a famous American sportswoman, swam
from Kruzenshtern island to Ratmanov island.
were flying from Chukotka to Alaska and back by airplanes,
helicopters and hang gliders. But till the present moment
not a single person have managed to cross the Strait on ice
by ski or on foot neither from Russia nor from the USA. Though
numerous attempts have been undertaken. Only during the last
five years the expeditions from Japan, Canada, French, Korea,
Lithuania and Russia tried to cross the Strait but all of
The reason of all these failures can be explained only by
the fact that such expeditions are very dangerous and difficult
to carry out from the technical point of view.
During winter time the Strait, the minimum width of which
is 80 km, is blocked by broken, cracked ice. Jumble of ice-floes
of various thickness bears a strong resemblance to a swamp;
large areas of open water suddenly appear. Thirty degrees
of frost make these areas ice-bound, turning open water into
dangerous thin young ice, which makes both sailing and travelling
absolutely impossible. And all this mass, consisting of young
ice, broken old ice-floes and water is moving in unpredictable
directions, submitting to currents and winds. Under south
winds the rate of ice movement reaches 7-8 km per hour. Only
polar bears feel quite confident and comfortable here and
are invariably strolling along ice-floes in February-March.
Dmitry and Matvey Shparo started on March 1, 1998 at 11.45
(local time) not far off Uelen settlement.
They divided their cargo at the starting point as follows:
Matvey was hauling the sledges with 90 km weight. Dmitry was
carrying 45 kg rucksack. Their food supplies were apportioned
for 12 days. Besides, each of the base groups (at Chukotka
and Alaska) had additional food provision for 10 days, which
could be dropped to the group on the route by aircraft or
first 5 days the skiers were fighting with a north-west drift
and were carried them 50 km due north from their launch point.
They managed to travel only 8 km due east (their planned direction).
At the seventh day they crossed the Russian-American border.
At the same day the explorers made a decision about a strict
economy of their food supplies. Starting from this moment
they used daily only half of the planned ration.
The weather conditions during the expedition: temperatures
from -26°C up to +2°C, the wind up to 20 m/sec, the last days
it was raining, three days were sunny. The ice in the strait
was utterly broken and due to this the average speed of the
skiers very seldom exceeded 1 km/hour. The participants tried
to use every minute of the daylight, and during the first
days of their expedition they travelled during 9 hours daily
and during the last days – 11 hours every day.
For four times the explorers had overcome the areas of thin
broken ice in the places of currents parting, which stretched
for many kilometers. Sometimes they had to maneuver on separate
moving ice-floes for many hours. On the third day of their
travelling Dmitry Shparo fell into water, in the middle of
their route one of the skis was drowned, and on the fifteenth
day the two explorers found themselves in the water and Dmitry
was with his rucksack on his back.
During the first week of the route the participants of the
expedition met polar bears every day. One of such meetings
(the night of March 5-6) could turn out to be a disaster.
A very large polar bear came to the camp when the explorers
were sleeping in their bags and shredded a portion of their
tent. Only firing a shot from their gun forced it to go away.
On March 21 at 15.45 after passing more than 300 km Dmitry
and Matvey Shparo completed their route at the desolate Chariot
settlement at Alaska.