Saturday, July 15, 2017

EARTH HOAX; The Bering Strait

I was going to look at the native peoples that inhabit both sides of the Pacific divide in this article. However, I think it would be better to first take a more in depth look at the current map of the North Pacific. I'll take a look at populations in a future article.

The stretch of water separating Russia from the USA, the Bering Strait, is approximately 51 miles wide at its narrowest point.

(Satellite Image)

Such a short distance. I did have a look at how difficult it is for normal citizens to make this journey and discovered that there are quite a few restrictions. Especially when it comes to accessing Chukotka - the north-eastern most province of Russia.


(Chukotka Autonomous Okrug)

I'll share some passages below from an article I came across on the topic. The article discusses some of the difficulties in crossing the strait, and the even bigger difficulties in getting permission to enter and travel through this area of Russia.

https://angusadventures.com/adventurer-handbook/beringstrait/

Despite the fact that a ferry could potentially cross from the USA to Siberia in two hours, political hurdles restrict traffic across this body of water.  It is virtually impossible for a westerner to receive permission to arrive on the Russian shores of the Bering Strait.  An adventurer wishing to kayak, swim, walk over the ice, or sail from Alaska to Siberia across the Bering Strait would have to do so illegally.

The article has a question and answer section on the various permissions required.

How do you cross the Bering Strait legally?
This is very difficult.  Not only is it necessary to arrive in Russia in an official port of call, but it is also necessary to depart from an official port of call.  We have not heard of any adventurers who have received permission to arrive or depart from the remote shoreline of Russia.
What is required to arrive and travel through Eastern Siberia?
Chukotka, Russia’s most NE state, is the last closed part of the country.  This means that many of the barriers that were in place during Soviet times still apply and free travel is not allowed.  This does not mean that foreigners are banned, but strict protocol must be followed.

It then lists some of the requirements;

If one were to arrive in Providenia in a small vessel such as a rowboat or sailing vessel several things are required:
Russian Visa:  This is fairly easy to acquire and the procedure is outlined on the Website of most Russian consulates.  You can get a Russian visa for up to a year.
Rasporyazheniye: The only thing harder than pronouncing the name of this permit is actually receiving it.  Visitors to the closed state of Chukotka need an additional permit that is not required in the rest of Russia.  In order to receive a rasporyazheniye you need a Chukotkan resident to sponsor you and vouch to look after you for the duration of your stay.  This sponsor also needs to be registered with a special division of the government, which most people aren’t.  Those who have this special registration are mainly the owners of the few “tourist” agencies so it is necessary to go through them.

Continuing;

Additionally, because free travel is not allowed, a detailed itinerary and outline of your route must be submitted.  Each administrator or mayor of the various communities en route must give advance permission for you to enter their community.  The itinerary also must be okayed by the military.   It is very difficult to change your route once in the country, so plan carefully. After these requirements have been met a rasporyazheniye will be granted.  It is virtually impossible for an outsider to take care of these requirements so a Chukotkan “tourist” agency must be recruited and compensated to look after these details.

Finally, it even mentions restrictions on communications devices.

Special Permits:  Any communications devices (including cell phones) and electronics that communicate with satellites (such as a GPS) need special permits from Moscow.  If the official documents from Moscow are not procured upon arrival, these items will be confiscated.

Sorry, I know that was a lot of reading, but it does illustrate just how restricted access to this part of the world is. You can travel east to Moscow and other places with relative ease, but this area of icy wilderness to the west of the U.S. seems very much off limits.

[Incidentally, as a side note, Roman Abramovich, billionaire businessman and owner of Chelsea Football Club, was once governor of this region, from 2000 to 2008.]


The Alaska Purchase

A further interesting thing worth remembering when considering all this is that Alaska used to belong to Russia until it was sold to the U.S. in 1867 - the famous Alaska Purchase.

In fact, Russia used to lay claim to quite a lot of land in North America right up until the 19th century. The following map from Wikipedia shows the extent of these claims.


A Wikipedia page on the Russian colonisation of the Americas states that Russia established an outpost in Northern California named Fort Ross in 1812. It also contains the following description of a Russian church bell unearthed in California in the early 20th century;

In 1920 a one-hundred pound bronze church bell was unearthed in an orange grove near Mission San Fernando Rey de EspaƱa in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. It has an inscription in the Russian language (translated here): "In the Year 1796, in the month of January, this bell was cast on the Island of Kodiak by the blessing of Juvenaly of Alaska, during the sojourn of Alexander Andreyevich Baranov." How this Russian Orthodox Kodiak church artifact from Kodiak Island in Alaska arrived at a Roman Catholic Mission Church in Southern California remains unknown.

In the next article I'll look at some of the islands in the North Pacific and the various disputes over them.

Next Up: EARTH HOAX; Islands of the Arctic and North Pacific

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