Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Uelen, a Russian eskimo settlement :
Start of the Bering Crossing ?

Uelen is a small native coastal village in Chukotka, on the Siberian side of the Bering Strait, south of Cape Dezhnev. Also known as Ulyk or Olyk ( in Yupik Eskimo , “the land’s end”), Uelen has a population around 700 inhabitants. It lies on the northeast corner of the Uelen Lagoon, a roughly 15 by 3 km lagoon separated from the ocean by a sandspit.

Located where the Bering Sea meets the Chukchi sea, Uelen is the easternmost settlement in Russia and all Eurasia. Uelen also is also the closest Russian settlement to the U.S.

Coordinates: 66º o9' N, 169º 48' W

The orthodox church of Uelen

The Chukchi and Inuit people who live in the area have a long tradition of walrus ivory and bone carving that goes back several centuries. Their detailed engraving on walrus ivory often depicts their legends as well as scenes of traditional activities like hunting and reindeer herding.

Eskimo ball is the symbol of the Sun and fertility:

Tunnel or bridge ?

The Bering Strait is about 80 kilometers wide, with depth averaging 40-50 meters and a few spots as deep as 60 meters. Today the Strait connects two oceans – the Arctic and the Pacific, two seas – the Chukchi and the Bering, and two continents – North America and Eurasia, while separating “yesterday” from “tomorrow” with the International Dateline.

The Bering Strait could be spanned by a series of three bridges via the Diomede Islands for a total distance of about 80 km . The construction of such a bridge, or of a tunnel, would face unprecedented engineering, political, and financial challenges.

The depth of the water themselves offer little challenge. The tides and currents in the area are not severe. However, the route would lie just south of the Arctic Circle, subject to long, dark winters and extreme weather (average winter lows −20 °C with possible lows approaching −50 °C), and so building activity is restricted to five months out of the year.

On the Russian side , the tunnel or bridge would start in the Chukotka region, near Uelen. On the american side, it would start near Nome, Alaska.

Russian Railways recently announced strategy to reach out for Uelen on the Bering Strait with a rail corridor extending over 2 100 miles from Yakutsk. On the american side, a great effort to build roads and railroads to the extreme NE Alaska, connecting Fairbanks to Nome, would be needed.

The Bering Strait is already a world’s geographical crossroads in maritime traffic; a land connection would be a factor of large growth for those long-time isolated regions.