Bering Strait

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bering Strait
Bering Strait satellite image (NASA)
Bering Strait satellite image (NASA)
Connects waters Chukchi Sea ( Arctic Ocean )
with water Bering Sea
Separates land mass Alaska
of land mass Eastern Siberia ( Chukotka )
Geographical location 65 ° 57 ′  N , 168 ° 49 ′  W Coordinates: 65 ° 57 ′  N , 168 ° 49 ′  W
Bering Strait (Alaska)
Bering Strait
Smallest width 85 km
Islands Diomedes Islands , Fairway Rock
Nautical chart of the Bering Strait
Nautical chart of the Bering Strait

The Bering Strait ( English Bering Strait , Russian Бе́рингов проли́в / Beringow proliw ) is a strait between the continents of Asia and America . The strait connects the Arctic Ocean with the Pacific . Like the Bering Sea south of it, it was named after the Dane Vitus Bering , who crossed the strait in 1728 as a naval officer in Russian service.


The approximately 82 km wide and on average only 30 to 50 m deep strait connects the Chukchi Sea (a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean ) in the north with the Bering Sea (the northernmost marginal sea of ​​the Pacific ) in the south. On its western bank lies Cape Deschnjow (the easternmost point of Asia on the Siberian Chukchi Peninsula ) and on the eastern side the Cape Prince of Wales (the westernmost point of the American mainland on the Seward Peninsula in the US state of Alaska ).

The global dateline runs through the Bering Strait, which is home to the Diomedes Islands and Fairway Rock . The road freezes over every year in winter, with the ice reaching different dimensions. In May the ice thaws and in July the road is free of ice with the exception of drift ice. The extent and thickness of the ice is monitored as part of global warming research .


Early history

As recently as 10,000 years ago, when the last glacial period ended, the Bering Strait was a land bridge - called Beringia - between the two continents. This connected the two continents so that people - according to today's theories - could get from Asia to North America.


At the end of the reign of Peter I , all of Siberia was in Russian possession. The question of whether there is a land connection between Siberia and America was still unresolved. The Tsar commissioned the Danish navigator Vitus Jonassen Bering to clarify the matter. Bering crossed Siberia by land in 1725 and reached the Kamchatka Peninsula . In 1728 he sailed north from here and reached the Arctic Ocean without having hit land. On August 15, 1728, however, Bering gave up the expedition due to bad weather and turned around at latitude 67 ° 18 'north. Although he had already crossed the strait, which was later named after him, he failed to provide the final proof that there is no land connection between Asia and North America. This was one reason why Bering set out five years later on the Second Kamchatka Expedition , also known as the Great Nordic Expedition (1733–1743).

During this expedition, the German historian Gerhard Friedrich Müller , a member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences , discovered that Bering was by no means the first seafarer to cross the Bering Strait in 1728. In the archives of the Yakutsk Chancellery, he found evidence that 80 years earlier the fur hunter and trader Semyon Deschnjow had crossed the strait between the two continents with his men. In 1648 he drove from the north Siberian river Kolyma around the Eastern Cape, the Cape Deschnjow named after him today , through the Bering Strait to the Anadyr in order to exploit the still untouched hunting grounds.

After these first explorations, Russian fur hunters followed, but also research expeditions, such as those under Stephan Gawrilowitsch Glotov , who from 1758 explored not only the Bering Strait but also the coast of Alaska , thus creating the conditions for Russian America .

Cold War

Between the two Diomedes Islands , which belonged to the US and Soviet (today Russian) territory and are only a few kilometers apart, any mutual exchange was prohibited and stopped during the Cold War. Based on the Iron Curtain , this border area was subsequently called the Ice Curtain .


Bridge project

Some architects submitted designs for bridges over the Bering Strait. An approx. 85 km long bridge is to be built, which is so safe that it can withstand temperatures below –70 ° C and strong storms. A two-lane road is to be built on the bridge. Inside there will be pipelines and a railway line for high-speed trains . The project is very uncertain, as the Bering Strait is considered to be quite unsafe with regard to the weather and the coasts are not connected to the road network of Asia and North America.

Tunnel project

In 1905, a French engineer first proposed a 100 km long tunnel . Tsar Nicholas II agreed, but the First World War and the October Revolution caused the project to fail.

In April 2007 an economic project to tunnel under the Bering Strait was announced. The entire project should be completed in 10 to 15 years and is estimated at 65 billion US dollars. The tunnel would have a length of 104 km.

The Russian Minister of Transport Nikolai Aksjonenko had already estimated the chances of this project to be realized on January 22, 2001 with the words "More to Mars than to Alaska" as very slim. The problem is not only the tunnel construction under the Bering Strait, but also that more than 1000 km of rail connections on permafrost soil have to be built on both sides (see also the Arctic Circle Railway ).

Significance for the world climate

The Bering Strait separates the poorly saline waters of the Pacific from the salty Arctic Ocean, which connects to the Atlantic on the other side of the pole. If it is open (as it is now), Pacific water flows in the upper layers through the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean into the Atlantic, while water with more salty water flows into the Pacific below. This exchange has serious consequences for the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic - less salt in the Atlantic slows the Gulf Stream considerably, as the sinking of the water off Greenland is only caused by the fact that the water cools down and moves into the depths; the heavier (salty) the water, the more surface water sinks. This is the only way that warmer water from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean flows into the north as the Gulf Stream, bringing Europe to temperatures and precipitation values ​​that are well above those of the North American and Asian regions at the same latitude. Another decrease in salinity in the North Atlantic - e.g. B. by melting the inland ice on Greenland - could even prevent this process completely and bring the Gulf Stream to a standstill, whereby the climate in Europe would probably cooler and drier.

Conversely, closing the relatively flat Bering Strait, as has happened in the geological past due to continental movements and / or lower sea levels, means that the North Atlantic becomes more saline and the Gulf Stream is accelerated. This will initially result in higher temperatures off Greenland. However, since this creates fog, which leads to more snowfall, radiating white surfaces are formed. This in turn results in cooling, especially in the north, and further formation of inland ice, which could trigger a new ice age.

It was assumed and also confirmed by simulations that the cycle of cold and warm periods, which the earth has lived through for about 2.5 million years, was caused or at least intensified by this effect. However, so far only “either-or” simulations (open or closed) have been calculated. It has not yet been possible to calculate what a partial closure or maximum open flow means.

Web links

Commons : Bering Strait  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Arctic ice extent low overall, high in the Bering Sea ( English ) National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC). February 8, 2012. Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  2. Aleksandr Petrovich Lisitsin, Arkady Vladimirovich Alekseev, Konstantin Trifonovich Bogdanov: Bering Sea and Strait ( English ) In: Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  3. Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis ( English ) National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  4. Russia: A hole - even longer than the Brenner Base Tunnel,
  5. Connection to the USA: Russia is building the longest tunnel in the world - Economy - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten
  6. Conversation with the Russian Railway Minister Nikolai Aksjonenko about tunneling to Alaska