A Russian father and son team braved close encounters with polar bears and a plunge through the sea ice to complete the first known crossing of the Bering Strait on skis.

Dmitry Shparo, 56, and Matvey Shparo, 24, left Uelen on the eastern coast of Siberia on March 1 and arrived Saturday, nearly three weeks later, at Cape Thompson, 150 miles to the east.This attempt to cross the frozen Chukchi Sea went smoother than efforts in the previous two years, which ended with helicopter rescues.

The two said from Anchorage Tuesday that they saw polar bears each day, including one that stuck its huge nose in their tent the night of March 5.

The Shparos believe the polar bear was hunting them and they were saved by headlamps switched on when they heard footsteps. The bear ran off after the younger Shparo fired a warning shot with a rifle.

They stuck to their schedule of traveling from daylight to dusk every day, checking their coordinates with a handheld Global Positioning System receiver and tracking due east - even as the ice moved them constantly north and made them walk a total of 300 miles.