A 60-day, 1,200-mile ski and dog sled trek from Siberia to Alaska will be more celebration than exploration for a dozen U.S. and Soviet adventurers setting out this weekend.
Aside from cold-weather research, the primary object of the Bering Bridge Expedition across seldom-visited sections of the Soviet Far East and arctic Alaska is good will, said Paul Schurke, 33, of Ely, Minn., who describes the trip as adventure diplomacy."My pocket is full of cross-flagged (U.S.-Soviet) pins," Schurke said. "We'll be leaving a full-size American flag in each Soviet village; a Soviet flag in each Alaska village."
The expedition is an attempt to call attention to the common cultural heritage of the indigenous population of the Bering region, Schurke said.
Some of the team members have relatives on opposite sides of the border, and it is hoped the trek will result in a relaxation of rules barring visits by natives - some of whom live within 21/2 miles of one another on islands in the Bering Strait, separated only by sea ice and Cold War politics.
The six-member U.S. team arrived in this Siberian city of 16,000 Wednesday, after two weather delays.
They joined their six Soviet counterparts for a news conference, a VIP dinner and the beginning of several days of medical experiments. It was the first visit in decades by Americans to this treeless city built of locally produced concrete blocks set atop permafrost.
Three Soviets and three Americans on the journey are natives and speak several local dialects including Yupik, a language common to Eskimos in both countries.
The trek across ancient trade and migration routes up the Siberian side of the Bering Strait and down the Alaskan side is to stop in 16 villages in the Chukotka district of Siberia and 14 in Alaska, organizers said. It will end about April 1 in Kotzebue, Alaska, just above the Arctic Circle and about 550 miles northwest of Anchorage.