Feb 2016
Jan 2016
Starting Out

  • December 30th
    James forwarded an email from a member of the Council on Little Diomede saying that it was now likely that we would be granted permission to land on the island. They also added that we will be charged $100 per person to land on their island.
  • December 23rd
    Mike sent his prototype dry suit back to Typhoon for modifications. A comfort zip and two venting zips to prevent overheating.
  • December 22nd
    Mike had a very useful conversation with Jack Bright who was part of a Russian led swim team that crossed the Bering Strait. He has kindly offered to provide further contacts which may just turn out to be of use.
  • December 19th
    Mike flew to St Petersburg for meetings with Evgeny. We were to have met the company that say they can facilitate the special permits but they cancelled at short notice which was extremely annoying.
  • December 10th
    Following the rather high insurance cost quoted to us a few days ago, James has done some further research and come up with alternatives. One problem being their definitions and exclusions. It's always the small print. Mike is looking into this further and will discuss with their underwriters.

    Perhaps of greater concern than this though is the fact that the Tribal Committee on Little Diomede has initially refused us permission to visit their island. They have expressed various concerns (generally around the Ebola outbreak in Africa) and James will be having phone conversations to provide any assurance they need that we are not a risk to them.
  • December 9th
    Mike received a phone call from a company who might consider being a sponsor. Marvellous news!
  • December 8th
    Mike received the initial insurance quotations for the partial crossing in March next year - £1,500 per person. It's a big cost but if we elect not to accept this cover we need to consider the alternatives. James believes that the US Coastguard would assist us for no charge if we needed to call them in. This wouldn't help us though if we drifted into Russian waters and needed extraction.
  • December 7th
    James and Mike met in Newton Longville and went out for a night time paddle for about three hours. Mike capsized his raft at one point and submerged his supposedly waterproof rucksack. Not at all impressed! It filled with water. Thankfully both phone and camera had been put into zip-lock bags so they survived. Phew!!
  • December 2nd
    Neil and Mike attended the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce event in Piccadilly, London. We made some useful contacts and Mike was fortunate enough to have a conversation with HRH Prince Michael of Kent.
  • December 1st
    Mike located the hole in his raft by licking a large area of the raft itself. Having cleaned and dried the surrounding area, he applied the glue and then applied the patch. During a conversation with Nancy at Alpacaraft she simply said that I should post the raft back to them and that they would replace it for me. What a kind gesture. It's a weight off my mind!

    James and Mike have agreed that we will 'live' in the dry suits and not be taking some of the more conventional Arctic kit such as windsuits. This is not a conventional Arctic expedition so we need to adapt kit accordingly. We have also now agreed that skis will be the way forward rather than snow shoes.

    Now into December - less than three months to go!
  • November 25th
    Mike set off from home this morning at 5.30a.m. and walked to the Grand Union Canal. He joined it just north of Willow Marina. It was -3C but thankfully not raining. Having sorted his head torch, flashing lights, iPhone and hat on the rather convenient bench he stepped into his dry-suit and inflated the raft. Then he attached the lights, put on his hat and head torch, clicked the paddle together and attached his rucksack to the front of the raft.

    There was a heavy mist hovering above the canal. It was eerily quiet. None of the moored long boats had any lights on. He passed a family of seven swans slowly swimming along in a line. One of the parents warned him to keep his distance by hissing.

    As daylight approached, the longboats all seemed to come to life. Short stacks belched heavy smoke, lights went on and joggers and dog walkers started to appear on the tow paths. Mike stopped a total of four times to add air into the raft when it started to sag. He could hear the escaping air but could not locate the hole!

    He pulled in at Milton Keynes Marina and took the boat out of the water, pulled off the dry-suit, packed up all the kit and called a cab to get to work.
  • November 18th
    James and Mike met after work at Euston and walked to the Regentís Canal. With the rafts inflated, they put on dry suits over their clothes, clipped the five-section paddles together, attached the waterproof rucksacks to the front of each raft and gingerly got in.

    Mikeís raft developed a small leak on only its second outing. It did allow James to practice inflating it though whilst he was in it and this did give enough additional buoyancy to ensure we made it back in one piece. The drysuits coped incredibly well and even though wearing jeans and rugby tops underneath the guys were barely sweating. All in all it was a successful venture.
  • November 7th
    Neil kindly agreed to host a group meeting at his home. The whole group was there and some of them were meeting for the first time. Friday night was very social and we slept in a big tent that Neil had put up in his garden. Next morning after a fine breakfast we headed off for a 12kms walk across the South Downs to Devil's Dyke. In the afternoon we had a three hour meeting to refine logistics and kit planning. Most issues were resolved other than some matters regarding pulk choice and whether we use skis or snow shoes.

    On Sunday we went out for a 7km jog up to the South Downs with a few sets of press ups and sit ups thrown in for good measure. (Mike and Andy walked part of it.) In the afternoon we tested the Packrafts and the new drysuits in a river at Bramber. Both the rafts and dry suits performed really well. A great two days - excellent hosting thanks to Neil and his wife Caroline!
  • November 3rd
    The first prototype dry suit from Typhoon was delivered.

    October 25th

    Mike met Typhoon at the Dive Show at the NEC Birmingham to discuss their suits, the materials, our expedition, temperatures, challenges, sea conditions and so on. Their rep, Nigel, was superb and they have kindly agreed to send us two prototype suits to use and test.

    October 22nd

    Mike and James bought the first expedition specific kit. We spent almost £800 each for a raft and paddle. The rafts are inflatable and the paddles break down into five pieces. We also spent over £200 each on a special rucksack which is incredibly light weight and claims to be nearly (!) waterproof.

    We have also booked flights for the 27th February 2015. Itís suddenly starting to become very real.

    The rafts did not take long to arrive and as soon as they arrived James and Mike were planning their first outings on the Regents Canal in London.

    October 8th

    Mike met Andrew Cameron in Milton Keynes to discuss the expedition. Later in the month Mike visited Andy Sacker in Plymouth. Both are now confirmed for the expedition and the team seems complete!


    James submitted the initial papers and information related to the special Russian permit application. We have decided to engage a specialist firm in St Petersburg as our intermediary. We were required to submit biographies, a risk assessment and other documents too. The overall outcome was a 'warm response'. Happy days!


    Mike met Evgeny, face to face, for the first time in Manchester. He is going to be with us on the expedition. James Bingham, an experienced climber, has also now joined the team.

    Following a discussion initiated by James and Neil the group decided that it would be prudent to carry out a recce in Spring 2015 and to defer the full crossing until 2016. In addition to this we have now decided to start from Russia rather than from USA. This means that some aspects of the expedition have to be re-planned. Mike and James will undertake the 2015 recce.


    Evgeny Mashkovsky got in contact. How does one explain Evgeny? Not yet 30, charming, accomplished, connected, a doctor........and bloody funny!


    We held the second meeting of the expedition group at The Royal Society of Medicine.

    Over the following weeks and months Mike held lots of meetings with various interested people. Some were military, some ex-military, some were doctors, nurses, ice-climbers and polar explorers. It seemed that we would finally get the full team in place.

    The Bering Strait Challenge 2017
    Expedition Patron: His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent GCVO