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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Bering Strait expedition claims victory
Snowbird 6
The Snowbird vehicle has proved a success
Two British explorers are claiming to be the first to drive from America to Russia - despite being refused permission on Sunday to enter Russian territory.

The British Ice Challenge Expedition had to settle for going as far as the international dateline in their Snowbird 6 vehicle and "putting their toe" across into Russian territory.

But explorers Steve Brooks and Graham Stratford say they are satisfied that by reaching the line they have achieved the bulk of their challenge and proved the journey is possible.

Celia Carey, who is producing a documentary on the expedition, said the team was "exhausted but happy".

Funny side

Speaking from base camp in Alaska, she said: "They feel frustrated in some ways because they had really looked forward to it.

"They know they could have continued on and done it and it would have been fantastic - if it hadn't been for the Russian bureaucracy.

"But being British explorers they can see the funny side."

Due to bad weather the pair will now leave Snowbird 6 at the International Dateline and be flown back.

The expedition set off across the frozen Bering Strait from Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska on Friday.

The journey is only possible in winter when the Strait freezes over to become an ice bridge.

Project manager and co-pilot Graham Stratford, from Hereford, had planned to complete the entire route from Nome, Alaska, to Provodanya in about eight days.

Army helicopters

On Saturday, 14 miles into the 56-mile stretch at the international dateline, Russian authorities refused permission for the team to go any further.

They threatened to arrest the pair, and informed them that two Russian M18 army helicopters were on stand-by.

The expedition looked to be in jeopardy until the explorers realised that they could still reach the Russian land mass of Big Diomedes, and prove it is possible to drive from America to Russia.

Their Snowbird 6 vehicle, designed at a cost of 200,000, performed better than expected on the Strait.

The craft, which can float on water, cruise through crushed ice, and climb over icebergs, will be picked up later.

Mr Brooks, 40, from Battersea in London, is a qualified mechanical engineer and aircraft pilot and has 15 years' experience of expeditions in 70 countries.

Mr Stratford, 38, has considerable outward bound experience as a canoeing and sailing instructor, boat coxswain, mountaineer, off-road driver and skier.

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See also:

15 Mar 02 | England
Ice men rise to challenge
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