Six Americans and six Soviets braved frostbite and arctic dangers to complete a 1,000-mile trek by skis and dogsleds across the Bering Strait region of both countries in a unique exercise of "adventure diplomacy."
"I think it's not difficult to go 1,500 kilometers on skis and dogsleds, and not difficult to cross the Bering Strait on umiak (walrus skin boat)," said Dmitry Shparo, 47, the polar explorer from Moscow and Soviet leader of the Bering Bridge Expedition."But," he added, "it was very difficult to prepare this expedition and receive permission from the Soviet government and the American government.
"Today is our finish and our victory," Shparo said Thursday night in an Anchorage hotel, fresh off the trail and ready to hit the public speaking circuit Friday in Seattle, then other American cities and the Soviet Union.
Shparo declared the completed trek "a victory over Soviet bureaucratism and American bureaucracy."
Actually, the United States and the Soviet Union - from local officials to presidents Bush and Gorbachev - backed the expedition and cut red tape to let the adventurers carve new trails through the arctic's political wilderness.