'Exploration is the first step to
wisdom, it is only by exploring one's
expected limits that one begins to
discover one's true ability.'
Steve Brooks, Expedition Leader
The Ice Challenger expedition will be the first to make an overland journey from the USA to Russia. The Bering Straits are all that separate Siberia and Alaska, a mere 56 miles at the narrowest point. During the winter months, this sea freezes over, forming an ice bridge that links the two continents. Many others have tried and failed to make this journey, teams from Ford amongst them. Conditions of terrain and climate are so treacherous that only a vehicle developed specifically for this journey has any chance of success. Snowbird 6 has been developed with this goal in mind.
Simply reaching Wales, on the Alaskan shore of the Bering Sea, is a feat in itself. The expedition proper begins in Nome, one of the last US 'gold rush' towns. The team will spend three days travelling the 160 miles that separate Nome from Wales, a journey only previously possible by dog sleigh or skidoo. After driving over a 10 mile stretch of the frozen Port Clarence sea, they will use GPS in order to navigate a 4000ft mountain pass, drive up Lost River, a frozen river bed, to No Hope Pass and over Heart Break Ridge. They will then pass through Tin City, a former early warning station in America's Cold War nuclear defence system, before arriving in Wales. An important part of ensuring the safety of the expedition team is helicopter support. This will be provided by Quentin Smith, the world champion freestyle helicopter pilot, who has himself flown twice around the world.
The Bering Sea ice pack is constantly moving, flowing North at the rate of 3mph. If progress across the bridge is too slow the expedition could be swept past the Uelen Peninsula and into the Arctic Ocean. As the floes jostle their way through the narrow straits they crash together throwing up pressure ridges of sheer ice several meters high, which then break apart leaving sudden drop holes that could sink the entire expedition. Add to this the threat of passing polar bears and weather conditions that can freeze human flesh in seconds and it is easy to understand why developing the right vehicle is paramount.
The crossing of the Bering Straits is very much the first step in Steve Brooks' ultimate goal: to be the first person to complete the longest overland journey in history by driving from New York to London. Once this journey has been completed Steve hopes to realise his dream of creating a regular 'Race Across the Planet' - the overland equivalent of the Whitbread round-the-world yacht race.