Dogsled diplomat

Polar explorer's DL presentation to highlight historic Bering Bridge Expedition

Members of the March-May 1989 Bering Bridge Expedition, a joint effort by U.S. and Soviet adventurers, traveled about 2,000 kilometers from Siberia to Alaska. (Submitted photo)

Members of the March-May 1989 Bering Bridge Expedition, a joint effort by U.S. and Soviet adventurers, traveled about 2,000 kilometers from Siberia to Alaska. (Submitted photo)

Ely's Paul Schurke routinely takes guests at his Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge on dogsled trips to some of the world's coldest regions. (Submitted photo)

Ely's Paul Schurke routinely takes guests at his Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge on dogsled trips to some of the world's coldest regions. (Submitted photo)

This April will mark the 30th anniversary of the Bering Bridge Expedition, an historic 1,200 mile trek from Siberia to Alaska that was undertaken by a group of 12 Russian and American adventurers, on a mission to reconnect culturally-linked, indigenous communities that had long been separated by the two countries' Cold War.

"Through this bizarre twist of political fate, an ancient, cultural connection between the Inuit peoples along both sides of the Bering Strait had been severed," says Paul Schurke, a native Minnesotan who served as co-leader of the Bering Bridge Expedition.

Arctic explorer Paul Schurke has great affection for dogs of all ages. His Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, Minn., routinely uses teams of dogs pulling sleds as the primary mode of transportation on their winter excursions. (Submitted photo)

Arctic explorer Paul Schurke has great affection for dogs of all ages. His Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, Minn., routinely uses teams of dogs pulling sleds as the primary mode of transportation on their winter excursions. (Submitted photo)

But thanks to a new era of "glasnost" and "perestroika" — Russian words meaning "openness" and "change" — introduced by Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev, Schurke and some of his adventurer colleagues from the U.S. and Russia were able to organize this expedition, which would hopefully help re-establish some of those long-severed cultural connections between the remote northern communities.

"It worked," Schurke said. "In the months following the expedition, the border was reopened, and the native peoples could once again travel back and forth (between the two sides of the Bering Strait)," Schurke said.

It also led to a National Geographic documentary, and a book written by Schurke about the expedition — both of which will be referenced in his upcoming visit to Detroit Lakes for the community's 2019 Polar Fest celebration. 

For full article, go to: DLOnline

Source, image(s), credits & more: DLOnline | Vicki Gerdes