Sunday, February 1, 2009

I Can See Clearly Now............

by Janet Crain

When Tina Fey cracked her famous joke during her impression of Sarah Palin that she could see Alaska from her house, I laughed. Because it was perfect satire. So ridiculous that no sane person would take it as the truth. But a lot of people got it confused with the real Sarah Palin interview when she said; "You can see Russia from Alaska". Since then there have been many jokes made about her stating that Russia can be seen from Alaska. Note she never said from her house. Reportedly, reporters were even sent to Little Diomede Island to check this out and said they could not see Alaska. This just sounded fishy to me. Why would so many prominent Alaskans assert this if it were not true? A web search quickly turned up this article. I'm sure there are many more. I am inclined to believe the residents of Alaska, not some greenhorn reporters. Like so many other Sarah myths, this one bites the dust. Or the permafrost.

Fascinating Facts: Alaska & the Russian Far East

"Divided Twins" – Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko describing Alaska and Siberia.

"At the dawn of the 21st century, Alaska and the Russian Far east can join hands across the Bering Sea to build on our long history together, cooperate in ventures that can benefit the economies, environment and peoples of both regions." – Alaska Governor Tony Knowles

Alaska and Russia are a mere snowball’s throw away. On a clear day, you can see from here to there, from today to tomorrow – and you can even walk!

At their closest Alaska and Russia are 2.5 miles apart – the distance between Little Diomede Island, Alaska, and Big Diomede Island, Russia. The two islands straddle the U.S.-Russian maritime border in the middle of the Bering Strait. In mid-winter, when the Bering Strait freezes, it is possible to walk between the two islands – from American to Russia, from today to tomorrow, or from Russia to the United States, from today to yesterday. It is even possible to stand on the frozen Bering Strait, with one foot in America and one foot in Russia, straddling the frontiers of distant boundaries and time travel. But don’t try it. You can be taken into custody by border guards. And the frozen Bering Strait can have huge ice ridges as well as open holes of water (polynyas). 55 miles separate the Alaska and Russian mainland at the point where Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula reach out toward each other. Alaskan and Russian Eskimos travel by walrus skin boat between the Alaska villages on St. Lawrence Island and the Chukotka villages near Provideniya. The prevailing theory is that America was first peopled by a land migration across the Bering Strait more than 10,000 years ago, when sea levels dropped in the last ice age leaving a wide swath of land – Beringia or the Bering Land Bridge – connecting the Asia and American continents. The Bering Strait has long served as a lure for those seeking to pursue geographic, travel, cultural and even political adventures that span one of the world’s most out-of-the-way boundaries. People have tried to cross the Bering Strait – and some have succeeded – by walking, swimming, wind-surfing, hot air balloon, skiing, dog sled, kayak and even, unbelievably, by driving (and failing). Gennady Gerasimov, Gorbachev’s spokesman, in one of his many visits to Alaska, once stood on Little Diomede Island in the middle of the Bering Strait, and with great emotion, remarked on being able to stand on American soil and see the Motherland. The 150 residents of Little Diomede Island, Alaskan Eskimos and American citizens, live on a slope that faces west, which means that from their homes, they cannot see Alaska and the United States, but on a clear day, they can see Big Diomede Island and the Russian mainland.

© Janet Crain

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