How Close Is Russia To Alaska?
Ever wondered how close is Russia to Alaska? It’s probably not something that’s ever crossed your mind, but Russia and Alaska, two of the largest land masses in the northern hemisphere, are actually quite close. Russia, officially the world’s largest country covering an area of 6,601,665 square miles (11% of the world’s total landmass), is a European nation with a sordid history. Alaska on the other hand is the largest American state, covering 665,384 square miles of land and the only state not bordering another American state.
Despite one being in Europe and the other in North America, the two land masses are only separated by the Bering Strait, a narrow and shallow stretch of water. So how close is Russia to Alaska? Let’s dive into this question and look at the fascinating history between the former Soviet nation and mainland Alaska.
The History of Russia and Alaska Are Tied Together
Not many people know that Russia once occupied Alaska. The indigenous people had lived on the land for thousands of years until the Russian Empire arrived sometime in the early 18th century. They were the first nation to colonize Alaska, establishing Russian America, a country that took up almost the entire state.
Thousands of people made the move to this new region of the Russian Empire, but things didn’t exactly turn out how they planned. The Russian army was stretched and found it difficult to defend the new territory. The country was also suffering money problems and decided to put the land up for sale. Not wanting it to fall into the hands of the British, Russia offered the region to America.
So in 1867, Russia agreed to sell Russia America to the United States for $7.2 million, which is around $140 million these days. At first, many thought the deal was a waste of money, but when gold reserves were found, the American government became very happy. Alaska became an official territory on May 11, 1912, and then the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959.
Today, Alaska’s economy is driven by commercial fishing, the mining of natural gases, tourism, and the U.S. Army, which has a large base there. Alaska also has the largest indigenous population in America.
What Is the Closest Geographical Point Between Russia and Alaska?
The two countries are split by the Bering Strait, which at its narrowest point is just 55 miles across. To the north lies the Chukchi Sea and to the south the Bering Sea. In the middle of the Bering Strait are two small islands; Big Diomede and Little Diomede. They are named after the Greek saint Diomede. Big Diomede Island is owned by Russia and Little Diomede Island by the United States. The two islands are about two and a half miles apart and both are sparsely populated.
They are split by the International Date Line (IDL), which also acts as a border between Russia and America. Due to this, the islands are also referred to as Tomorrow Island (Big Diomedes) and Yesterday Isle (Little Diomedes). Tomorrow Island gets its name because there is a 21-hour time difference between it and Yesterday Isle.
The water surrounding the two islands remains frozen for the majority of the year, and it is only able to be navigated safely between July and October. There are several other smaller islands dotted along the Bering Strait, but most are inhabitable.
How Close Is Russia To Alaska?
As mentioned, at its most narrow, the distance separating mainland Russia and Alaska is 55 miles. That makes Alaska closer to Russia than America. To reach mainland America, it is 2,834 miles in a straight line. If you actually travel via car, it is even longer, taking around 3651.6 miles.
Now you might think 55 miles between Russia and Alsaka is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not as easy as jumping in a car and passing over the Bering Strait or catching a ferry. Although you can see Alsaka from Russia and vice versa on a clear day, traveling between the two is far from easy. Below is a look at the possible options and if they are actually viable.
Can You Swim From Russia to Alaska?
The short answer is yes, but you have to be a bit mad to take a dive in the freezing cold Bering Strait. There have been several notable crossings over the years. The most famous and first person to complete the swim was American long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox. She hoped by completing the swim she could ease the tensions between Russia and America. Accompanied by local Indigenous people in traditional boats, it took Cox two hours and five minutes to make the crossing from Alaska to Russia.
Frenchman Philippe Croizon was involved in a tragic work accident that resulted in both his arms and legs being amputated. Not deterred by his physical disability, Croizon became inspired to swim and in 2010, crossed the English Channel in 14 hours. He then carried out several other major swims, including swimming between Big Diomede Island and Little Diomede Island. He completed the swim in just over an hour.
Can You Walk From Russia To Alaska?
As the winter gets so cold and Bering Strait freezes, it is actually possible to walk between the two land masses. But this crossing can only be done between Big Diomede and Little Diomede. The two-and-a-half miles separating the islands can be traveled across, but permits are required as you are walking between two countries. Before colonization, the indigenous people used to trek between the island all the time.
It’s not realistically possible to actually walk from Russia to Alaska, as it’s only in the center around the island where the water is frozen solid.
Can You Drive From Russia To Alaska?
Not yet. For over 100 years both Russia and America have discussed building a bridge between the two continents. The first governor of the Colorado Territory, William Gilpin, suggested a series of railways linking all the world’s continents in 1890, including Russia and America via Alsaka. Obviously, that idea never got off the ground, but many more leaders and planners looked into the cost involved and what it would take.
The outbreak of World War I and World War II also put the project on hold, while engineer Tung-Yen Lin’s attempt at getting the bridge made remained in the planning stages for 40-odd years before finally being turfed. There was talk of a tunnel in 2015 while the Russian’s looked into building a bridge in 2018, but the cost was too much.
Considering the state of the world and how President Vladimir Putin is viewed by the western world, the chance of a bridge being built across the Bering Strait anytime soon is almost zero.
Can You Take a Boat From Russia To Alaska?
Technically you can, but legally you can’t. While a ferry could make the crossing in a couple of hours, the amount of red tape involved has stopped something like this from happening. There’s also the weather factor. Although the distance across the Bering Strait is only 55 miles at its narrowest, the channel of water is quite shallow and there are many dangers, such as boats running a ground or hitting debris hidden by the water. There are also heavy winds during the winter that can play havoc with boats trying to navigate the stretch of water.
The crossing might be dangerous, but two Russian men recently made it from Siberia’s Chukotka Peninsula to St Lawrence Island, which is at the northern end of the Bering Strait. The men sailed the boat 46 miles before ending up on St Lawrence Island seeking asylum. They said they wanted to avoid conscription into the Russian Army so made the trip across the Bering Strait. It’s unsure if the men have been given asylum or sent back to Russia.
Can You Fly From Russia To Alaska?
Traveling by air is pretty much the only legal option you have if you want to get from Russia to Alaska. Flying from the major airports you can get from Alaska to Moscow in around five and a half hours. But if you just want to fly over the Bering Strait there are charter flights available. You take a one-hour flight from Nome in Alaska to the Chukotka region in Russia. Due to the time difference, you are actually traveling 21 hours into the future, which is wild.
If you do choose to take this flight, be warned, there isn’t much going on in Chukotaka. There are no roads between the local communities, so you are pretty much stuck in the middle of nowhere. It’s like going back in time 100 years, although you will experience traditional Russian culture if you make the trip.
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