Last week we received a harsh reminder that exploration is still a difficult, dangerous endeavor, even in the 21st century. On Friday, two British explorers had to be rescued from the Bering Strait when they ran into trouble while attempting to cross that remote stretch of water.
Neil Laughton and James Bingham say they were attempting to reach Little Diomede island in the Bering Sea after departing from Wales, Alaska. They had planned to walk over the frozen water, and use kayaks to paddle over sections that were open. It was on one of those open leads that they ran into trouble.
Apparently, the duo ran into trouble on their first day out, finding the ice conditions to be even more difficult and unpredictable than they had expected. While using their kayaks to paddle across an unfrozen section when the started to run into trouble. Laughton and Bingham were paddling for 8 or 9 hours when they started to see ice build up around their boats. That thin ice made it difficult to keep making progress and they were forced to use their paddles to chip away at the rapidly freezing water.
Eventually they found that they couldn’t push forward any longer, but the ice was too thin to camp on. They ended up spending the night in their kayaks in freezing conditions. Eventually, currents started pushing them further north, where they found the ice to be a bit thicker. This allowed them to exit the kayaks and try to trek forward, but the ice simply wasn’t thick enough to support them. With no way to move forward or back, they were forced to call for assistance.
The two men were rescued on Friday having been spotted from the air just 25 miles (40 km) north of Wales where they first started the expedition. They were flown back to Nome, where they are reported to be in good condition.
Laughton and Bingham were using this expedition as a practice round for a larger journey they hoped to undergo next year. The two men wanted to reach Little Diomede as a training exercise for an attempt to cross the entire Bering Strait in 2017. Whether or not they still plan to make that crossing remains to be seen, but they got a rude awakening to the challenges on this attempt. The unpredictable ice conditions may make this even more difficult in the years ahead.
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