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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britons' Bering Trip Halted by Red Tape

APThe customized snow craft, Snowbird 6, crossing part of the Bering Strait off the coast of Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, last week.
Two British explorers were forced to abandon an attempt to drive across the frozen Bering Strait from Alaska to Chukotka when they ran into paperwork problems at the Russian border, the expedition's spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Steve Brooks and co-pilot Graham Stratford set out from Alaska on Friday morning in their amphibious vehicle Snowbird 6 and by Saturday they had reached Little Diomede Island, the halfway point of the 90-kilometer trip. Here they hoped to get final permission to continue to Chukotka, Alexandra Foley said by telephone from London.

But it soon became clear that despite some six months spent obtaining permissions to cross the Russian border, the explorers were missing the necessary documents for their vehicle, a snow cat that does not fall into any traditional category, Foley said.

"Something slipped through the net; they didn't have permission to bring the vehicle, Snowbird, across the border and onto the Russian coastline," she said. "It's not a boat and it's not an automobile. ... It seemed to confuse the bureaucracy on the Chukotka side."

Foley said the Russian authorities proved inflexible to the point that the explorers were threatened with arrest should they attempt to enter Russia.

Even a meeting held by Brooks with officials at Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich's office in November did not seem to help when it really mattered. "Which is quite curious given the fact that Roman Abramovich is important, not only in Chukotka for obvious reasons as governor, but also in Russia in general," Foley said.

Joanna Vestey / AP

British explorers Steve Brooks, right, and Graham Stratford sitting in Snowbird 6.

The explorers' problems were compounded by the fact that events took place at the weekend, when there were no strings around to pull. "So I guess the moral is, 'Do not try to enter Russia on a weekend,'" Foley said. "But the expedition is still a success because they did reach Russia in the sense of Russian territory, albeit not the coast."

Reached by telephone Tuesday, officials at the Federal Border Service were unaware of the weekend's events. "We have not received any documents on this," said an officer on duty.

Brooks and Stratford did not dare tempt the Russian authorities and instead returned from Little Diomede to Alaska by helicopter. They were arranging a return trip from Alaska to London on Tuesday, while Snowbird 6 is to be picked up from Little Diomede in the summer, Foley said.