YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Travelers in Cold, Then Hot Water

Pair walk and swim to cross Bering Strait, only to be detained in Russia for border violations.

April 05, 2006|David Holley | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — A pair of British and American adventurers who say they crossed the frozen Bering Strait on foot from Alaska, with brief periods of swimming in protective suits, have been detained in Russia's far eastern Chukotka region for violating border regulations, authorities said Tuesday.

Karl Bushby, a Briton who is on a well-publicized attempt to walk from the tip of South America to Britain, was picked up with Dimitri Kieffer, a U.S. and French citizen, after they entered the small settlement of Uelen, said Keith Bushby, Karl's father, who spoke by telephone from Britain.

"We can confirm that a British national is undergoing checks in Chukotka," said Anton Atrashkin, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Moscow. "Our understanding is that the national, Karl Bushby, lacks border checks from the American and Russian authorities.

"We worked together with the American authorities in contacting the Russian authorities in both Chukotka and Moscow," Atrashkin said. "We hope the problem will be resolved."

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said the American Consulate in Vladivostok was working on the case, but declined to comment further.

The elder Bushby said he spoke with his 37-year-old son by satellite telephone after the two adventurers had reached the northeastern tip of Russia on Friday. They set off from the Alaskan town of Wales on March 17, he said, and they planned to head from Uelen to Provideniya, a settlement with an airport, where they could present themselves for immigration procedures.

Keith Bushby said that the men were being held at a hotel, apparently in the settlement of Lavrentiya, while the issue of their documents was being resolved, and that he hoped his son would be allowed to continue what would be a record-breaking walk. He said he had not been able to talk to his son since his detention.

The two men's adventures as they crossed the strait have been heavily covered by the British media, particularly the Hull Daily Mail, Karl Bushby's hometown newspaper.

Bushby, a former paratrooper, set off from the tip of South America in 1998 and hoped to reach Britain in 2009 after walking 36,000 miles, according to a website run by his father and other supporters. The site,, includes reports on how the men crossed the strait and Bushby's earlier adventures.

Keith Bushby said his son and Kieffer, an endurance racer who joined the expedition for the Bering Strait crossing, had carried a global positioning system and had covered 150 miles while crossing the strait, which would have been 58 miles if they had walked in a straight line. At the start of their 15-day trek, they hiked and floated north, then floated south again and hiked westward.

"The ice is moving down from the Arctic Ocean," the elder Bushby explained. "As it goes through that narrow 58-mile gap, it's crushed and compacted and broken. That's what makes it difficult. You can't ski across it. You have to climb across it. One day, it took them four hours to do one mile. That's carrying the sled."

Because huge blocks of ice are constantly breaking and shifting, the Bering Strait is not a solid ice sheet even in the middle of winter, and the men were prepared to swim short distances, Keith Bushby said.

"They went in the water a couple of times, I believe, but most of the time they were lucky," he said. "It was good weather, although cold."

A website posting by the elder Bushby describes the men's last day on the ice.

"They had come across some open water, with a 9-foot wall of ice on the opposite side," he wrote.

"They managed to find a way around this, then discovered they were on ice that was attached to the shore."

Light was fading, so they spent the night there and called him the next morning to say that they had reached land.

"His first words were, 'Terra firma!' " the elder Bushby wrote of his son.

The adventurers called the elder Bushby each day by satellite telephone as they hiked across the ice. Keith Bushby said that in those phone calls he also helped the travelers plan their daily trek by passing on information from satellite photos that showed weather patterns and the location of ice sheets.

Andrew Cooper, another backer, said in a telephone interview from Britain that the main point to Bushby's effort was "really just trying to inspire people around the world. If you have a dream, go and live it."

Los Angeles Times Articles