In this week’s Maphead, Ken Jennings explores the tiny outpost of Alaska that really can see Russia from its backyard.
There is no ferry line operating between Alaska and Russia that takes passengers on board. The only way for you to get across with a vehicle is to ship or fly it across the ocean.
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IT IS EASY to forget—if you ever knew—that Russia and the United States are less than three miles apart, across the icy waters of the Bering Strait (see map). From America’s Little Diomede Island, which is indeed very little, you can cheerily wave or glower, depending on your attitude, at Russia’s Big Diomede Island.
The Bering Strait tunnel was estimated to cost between $10 billion and $12 billion, while the entire project was estimated to cost $65 billion. Shortly after, the Russian government approved the construction of the $65 billion Siberia- Alaska rail and tunnel across the Bering Strait.
Little Diomede Island is located about 25 miles (40 km) west from the mainland, in the middle of the Bering Strait. It is only 0.6 miles (0.97 km) from the International Date Line and about 2.4 miles (3.9 km) from the Russian island of Big Diomede .
In March 2006, Bushby and French adventurer Dimitri Kieffer crossed the Bering Strait on foot, having to take a roundabout 14-day route across a frozen 150-mile (240 km) section to cross the 58-mile (93 km) wide strait from Alaska to Siberia.
Russia offered to sell Alaska to the United States in 1859, believing the United States would off-set the designs of Russia’s greatest rival in the Pacific, Great Britain. This purchase ended Russia’s presence in North America and ensured U.S. access to the Pacific northern rim.
Cox is perhaps best known for swimming 2 hour 5 minutes in the Bering Strait on 7 August 1987, from the island of Little Diomede in Alaska to Big Diomede, then part of the Soviet Union, where the water temperature averaged around 43 to 44 °F (6 to 7 °C).
The Bering sea , near the chain of the Aleutian Islands, is one of the most intense patches of ocean on Earth. Strong winds, freezing temperatures, and icy water are normal conditions. The combination makes for some of the most ferocious waves on the planet, where the water can rise and fall 30 feet on a normal day.
The shortest distance between mainland Russia and mainland Alaska is approximately 88 kilometers (55 miles), according to the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers. The main route of the Trans-Siberian railway runs from Moscow to Vladivostok and covers 9,258 kilometers.
Today, Alaska is, of course, worth much more than that. The state encompasses 586,412 square miles or more than 375 million acres. 2 Even at a cost of just $100 per acre, that would equate to more than $37 billion .
In 1786, Shelikhov returned to Russia and in 1790 dispatched Aleksandr Baranov to manage his affairs in Alaska . Baranov established the Russian American Company and in 1799 was granted a monopoly over Alaska . Seward signed a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million.
The United States shares international land borders with two nations: The Canada– United States border to the north of the Contiguous United States and to the east of Alaska. The Russia – United States maritime boundary was defined by a disputed agreement covering the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Arctic Ocean.