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Bering Strait Bridge

A connection between North America and Asia
(+4, -4)
  [vote for,

Making a bridge across the Bering Strait would join the two largest masses of land together on Earth. A contemporary bridge design and leading-to road set-up would cost between $80-100 billion. This would be too much money to spend on such an idea. Any normal bridge design would not last. Not only would it be incredibly expensive, but it would also be incredibly unsafe.

The Bering Strait is one of the areas with the harshest weather on the planet. It has a large flow of icebergs, some of tremendous proportions, extremely high winds, and a killing low annual temperature to boot. This is definetely not the ideal place to work on a bridge, although it is the ideal spot to put one.

Such a bridge exposed to the elements would not be very feasable. So how could the two land masses be connected while being environmentally friendly (doesn't contribute to ice-melt), safe, and be economically productive and profitable?

Sometimes it is easier to go through the bushes rather than around them (as long as you have a pair of hedge clippers). In order to escape on-land/over-water weather problems, there is two ways: up and down.

Currently, underwater tunneling systems are in use beneath the sea-floor connecting England with France, and another connecting Japan with Korea. However, these are only feasable on short distances with relatively low water-depths. They are also very expensive to build. Another problem would be the chance of a hole between the tunnel and the water, which could flood the project and drown the workers while building.

So if it is not practical to tower above, or to dig beneath, the only other solution is through thw water.

This is a very viable solution because it escapes the wind, and the dangerous icebergs.

A tube-tunnel made of non water-penetrable material could run below the icebergs and above the sea-floor, floating in water. Cables would connect the floating tube to the sea-floor in order to keep the tube from floating away. It would have separate sections for large shipments, small shipments, passenger trains, roadways, and pipelines.

All sections of the tube would be moving on MagLev tracks, excluding the pipelines and roadways. These sections would be vacuum sealed, enabling speeds up to 5,000 mph! Traveling in a car, the trip would take roughly 1 hour, but on the train, it would take about 1-2 minutes!

This would be very safe, efficient, and productive. I would appreciate any comments, facts, opinions or questions.

"It's kinda fun to do the impossible." Walt Disney

unabubba, $100 B is not this tunnel's pricetag. It is the pricetag of a CONTEMPORARY bridge design.

lintkeeper2, sorry, the landmasses are not connected, but the were in the ice-age.

rayfordsteele, I don't see how catapults would help, but thanks for your opinion, maybe you could elaborate.

O pop. but not soon to be. this would bring large pops. there and would tranfer large pops. too. Not to mention goods.

5 billion, - ~50 M, looks good to me. ~$50 to 100Billion Cars aren't the main deal, the shipping, trains, and oil is. Delete the cars, and it would do fine, also less ~20 billion. Money wasted per trip, = - $3,220. Large number saved. It would eventually equilize and profit.

It is mostly done w/large boats. Boat camp. Roads are part of the mentioned price. The bridge is relatively cheap considering.

DrCurry, you just go ahead and swim. I'll be in luxury on a MagLev Train, going 1000 times faster.

empty89, Nov 03 2003

The Bering Strait Tunnel Project http://www.arctic.net/~snnr/tunnel/
Is this in any way relevant? [Detly, Oct 17 2004]

Another mad-cap scheme http://www.thegloba...CollectedPapers.htm
The site I referred to in my anno. [PeterSilly, Oct 17 2004]

What it looks like from above http://eosweb.larc..../bering_strait.html
[PeterSilly, Oct 17 2004]

The Strunnel http://home.att.net...onics/strunnel.html
Lots of details on this one, including the rail link options and plate tectonics considerations [PeterSilly, Oct 17 2004]

Wikipedia: Bering Strait crossing http://en.wikipedia...ing_Strait_crossing
This idea is so well-discussed that it grew its very own Wikipedia page in 2006. [jutta, Feb 19 2011]


       And an 80 to 100 billion dollar bridge connecting two areas of nearly zero population makes good sense.
bristolz, Nov 04 2003

       2 areas with a lot of oil and mineral reserves up for grabs.
sufc, Nov 04 2003

       No need anyway since the land masses are connected. Try going up and over the top.
lintkeeper2, Nov 04 2003

       Um, lintkeeper, I think your World Atlas is a few years out of date...
DrCurry, Nov 04 2003

       Catapults. Very large catapults.   

       Also, wrong category.
RayfordSteele, Nov 04 2003

       //And an 80 to 100 billion dollar bridge connecting two areas of nearly zero population makes good sense.// Well, they built the Humber Bridge.   

       And I think [lintkeeper2] was referring to the pack ice that sits in the Bering Strait for a number of months each year.
PeterSilly, Nov 04 2003

       In that connection, History Channel special recently noted that while the Trans-Siberian Railway was essential to linking the disparate parts of Tsarist Russia, building it well nigh bankrupted them, leading fairly directly to the revolution.
DrCurry, Nov 04 2003

       Why are people trying to build giant bridges when we have serviceable airplanes, I'd like to know.
k_sra, Nov 04 2003

       Gaul. Wouldn't you know it. Lousy French. Good thing we didn't take 'em with us to Iraq...
RayfordSteele, Nov 04 2003

       Quibble: the Britons never actually tossed the Romans out. By the time the legions withdrew (to engage in the civil wars that actually led to Rome's downfall), the Britons essentially were Roman. Just as the continental Romans initially invited the various Teutonic tribes to occupy the borderlands of the Empire to defend against the wilder tribes and Huns, so did the British initially invite the Saxons over as temporary mercenary protectors. Of course, once they were there, they decided to stay, a story muchly told in the legend of Arthur. I never was very clear on the difference between the Angles and the Saxons, though.
DrCurry, Nov 04 2003

       Poles, yes, precisely what I was getting at. Go over the top. No need for a bridge.
lintkeeper2, Nov 04 2003

       Well, if the ice cap breaks up, people can just swim over.
DrCurry, Nov 04 2003

       [UB] - I thought the Bering Strait was actually fairly narrow. One site refers to 53 miles. You get bigger gaps than that in Oz, as well as in Norway and Scotland. And there are islands in the middle too.
PeterSilly, Nov 05 2003

       [UB] - it was your service stations comment.
PeterSilly, Nov 05 2003

       I think that remark referred to going over the top.
lintkeeper2, Nov 05 2003

       I know. My comment was that 53 miles wasn't that far between service stations, so that you wouldn't need to build them on a periodic ice sheet. The road surface is a completely different problem.   

       However I did find a BBC story about someone who had driven across from Alaska to the Russian island about halfway. It did seem to take a number of days.
PeterSilly, Nov 05 2003

       Although I may have not said (my mistake), only the shipping areas and MagLev train areas are vacuumed. I knew that any ignition needs oxygen to light. All cars could drive through like any other tunnel, but 53-80 miles long. The cars may even need to be taken out of the picture because the main income will not come from cars, and who would want to drive for an hour + while in a tunnel rather than on a train for 2 minutes?   

       Don't think that this bridge is on the ice, becuase ice breaks. The bridge is under the ice, floating under-water and suspended with strong cables. (Nanotube cables)
empty89, Nov 08 2003

       unabubba, $100 B is not this tunnel's pricetag. It is the pricetag of a CONTEMPORARY bridge design.   

       lintkeeper2, sorry, the landmasses are not connected, but the were in the ice-age.   

       rayfordsteele, I don't see how catapults would help, but thanks for your opinion, maybe you could elaborate.   

       O pop. but not soon to be. this would bring large pops. there and would tranfer large pops. too. Not to mention goods.   

       5 billion, - ~50 M, looks good to me. ~$50 to 100Billion Cars aren't the main deal, the shipping, trains, and oil is. Delete the cars, and it would do fine, also less ~20 billion. Money wasted per trip, = - $3,220. Large number saved. It would eventually equilize and profit.   

       It is mostly done w/large boats. Boat camp. Roads are part of the mentioned price. The bridge is relatively cheap considering.   

       DrCurry, you just go ahead and swim. I'll be in luxury on a MagLev Train, going 1000 times faster.
empty89, Nov 08 2003

       I doubt that a vacuum would create a problem. The depth is fairly low, so there would be a low psi. Also, certain containers can hold such a vacuum. I think that particle accelerators are vacuumed(?) and they don't collapse.   

       Please elaborate on; "besides, running the train is bad enough."
empty89, Nov 08 2003

       As a weak voice of support to [empty89], it is the only logical high speed rail connection between the Americas and the Orient.
Connecting Oz as well as Japan and the Philippines, however; is much more difficult according to my estimations due to ocean depths and such. My sketches (from my youth) had the Oz connection going through Kupang, Indonesia to Kalumburu, The Philippines from Kaohsiung, and Pusan to Fukuaka (Korea to Japan).
My sketches may be out of date as the only cities w/ service in Australia would be Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and then Kalumburu.
Zimmy, Nov 08 2003

       This idea hinges on the value of goods floating around in the Pacific at any moment of time. Just in time inventory and the cost of unsold goods are powerful business drivers. If the value of the goods (including oil) unlocked in making the trip faster between NA and Asia is larger than the cost of the bridge, the project makes sense. I agree with others on the roadway...skip it, save the money, this has nothing to do with tourism.
tosail, Dec 22 2004

       I don't think it would really be worth it, all other things being equal.   

       Regardless of feasability, a large supertanker can carry oil and gas much farther for less money than the number of trucks required to transport the equivalent volume, even when you factor in the requirement of large pumping and transfer stations at ports.   

       Shipping really is the cheapest way to do this, even excluding the cost of building above-iceberg-level roadbeds (which would require constant maintenance), 5,000 MPH maglevs (which wouldn't get that fast because you can only accelerate John Q. Public so fast - he's not an astronaut), underwater tunnels (again, constant maintenance - the magnetic field would generate electrical currents in the metals joining the tube sections together, which would cause the metals to corrode that much faster), or below-grade tunnels (you're right, there's no way these would survive).   

       It's all about the boats. Toot, toot.
shapu, Dec 22 2004

       Mind you, it beats a boring, straight bridge.
wagster, Dec 22 2004

       Where's the Bering Strait dam proposal here? The intention is to pump warm Pacific water over the dam to melt the North pole, last hold-out of a man with a long beard. Just don't purchase any real estate less than 32 ft above sea level or your house could be part of a future scuba diving tour.
mensmaximus, Dec 22 2004

       (marked for destiny). At last! An evacuation route from the western hemisphere. I suggest naming rights go to the administration that funds it, for example: "The Republican Tunnel".
reensure, Sep 18 2005

       hmmmm, someone else mentioned this recently.
po, Sep 19 2005

       So we are connecting two barren wastelands? WHY????????
Antegrity, Sep 19 2005

       Maybe to reward N Korea for taking both hands out from behind her back?
reensure, Sep 19 2005

       Hello, folks! I stumbled across this fascinating and oft-humorous thread while researching the Strait. There seem to be numerous misconceptions about the concept and the geological issues. Admittedly, the basic idea is both sound AND "subject to ridicule" as one site puts it.

Speaking of which... Ray, I love the VLC idea -- Very Large Catapults. I assume you'd place intermediate catapults on one of the Diomedes to enable two 26-mile throws instead of a single 52-mile throw. That'd make the catch-nets smaller, too. Hate to be stationed there when one misses, though...

To those who noted "why connect two wastelands?" it should be noted in return that it isn't the scarcely inhabited "wastelands" that we'd be connecting, but rather the 4 to 5 billion humans living on opposite sides of said wastelands (and the resources in those hard-to-reach places within the two adjacent continents).

Yes, Virginia, airplanes DO exist. Why don't you price the shipment of several megatons of ore, a few million barrels of oil, and a couple of medium-sized forests by air as compared to ship, pipeline, or rail? Only the highest value and smallest weight items can be profitably shipped by air.

NOW, let's discuss the REAL challenges of such an unprecedented engineering feat, including some issues that "Extreme Engineering" (or, as I like to call their first season, "really cool megaprojects that could be built but probably shouldn't") glossed over. Let us stick to PROVEN technologies -- this rules out evacuated MagLev. I'd like to rule out contemporary MagLev at this point, too, because extensive rail networks DO exist beyond the "vast, howling wilderness" on either side of the Strait but there are less than 50 miles of MagLev currently in service world-wide (and roughly half of that is test track). The technology for the bridge itself IS proven: see www.confederationbridge.com for a little piece of that action. Heaters to melt the ice? Yikes! You'd need the heat energy of a major hurricane... the potential environmental catastrophe is mind-boggling... and that "answer" is utterly unnecessary -- passive means alone can deter the ice (Confederation Bridge, again). However, I think bridging the Strait is an amazingly dumb idea, because the roadway (top deck of the triple-deck design) would be useless for 2/3 of the year... and there is NO need to expose the corridor to all those "extra" challenges.

Sadly, the "underwater bridge" proposed above is also an exceptionally bad idea, because the Strait's waters CAN freeze all the way to the seafloor. Oops!

A tunnel is the ONLY sensible methodology. A couple of fellow posters seem to think that's a problem. Why would it be? The water depth is less than the length of a football field. We've built deeper tunnels than that all over the USA. Rock or water, mass is all the same to the tunnel. Leakage? Why would a Bering tunnel be more (or less) susceptible to that than any other tunnel? Cars? For Pete's sake, WHY allow cars or trucks to drive through it at all? That's what trains are for. Geology? The subduction zone doesn't cut across the tunnel's obvious route (I'm relying on a so-far unverified cite for that one, but the map I have seems -- repeat, SEEMS -- to confirm this). Earthquakes? A cylinder is the second-strongest structure in the natural world (a sphere being the first).

As to the trains, we don't need to invent anything new for this. An Acela-type HST would make the 52-mile crossing in about 21 minutes at 150mph (probably a half-hour between portals). Over-engineer the tunnel so it can be upgraded to a different technology in a half-century or so. Stick your car or truck on the train in Vancouver and take it off in Paris (or wherever), a la the Auto-Train or the Eurostar.

Do keep in mind that this project has nothing to do with tourism or visiting Aunty Babushka in Kiev -- it's all about the commercial use, and any private travel is just a small bonus. Microscopically small -- check out the toll for crossing the Confederation Bridge, and just IMAGINE how much it'd cost an individual to cross the Strait! There goes my retirement...

Also, this sort of link is not for the purpose of getting more Chinese-made teddy bears to Wal-Mart. This is for the Big Stuff. This can get some of the raw materials (and products) that we need to accomplish our own goals. The little stuff is "bonus."

Now, we've been sticking to discussion of the crossing itself. Believe it or not, that's the smallest challenge we'd face. "EE" estimated a $78B (USD) price tag for the thing. That's $78,000,000,000 for you Brits... and that's a lot of zeroes no matter who you are or where you're from. I'm a conservative accountant, so whenever I hear a megaproject price tag I automatically double it. Assume it's gonna cost $156 billion. Unlike some of the promoters of this thing, I cannot say, without flinching, that "the economics are compelling" or "it'll pay for itself!" or some such balderdash. I can say that, in the very, very, very, very long term, it will probably be a blessing. I can say with absolute confidence that it will cost more to do it later than to do it sooner.

Why a "blessing"? Because every other method (except pipelines, ironically) we have of transferring goods (and people) between the Americas and the rest of the world depends completely on a dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Trains run on electricity (even diesel locos are actually just mobile power plants -- they are technically known as "diesel-electric"), which is mainly produced by burning valuable chemicals but CAN be produced by other, sustainable methods. Which brings us to an obvious "Wait a second!" question. How to power the rail line? Ah, my friends, that is an easy one. Nuclear plants are possible, but not necessarily desirable. Solar won't work well in a land of 6 months' worth of near-twilight. Wind power could work -- there's plenty of wind, up there -- but the environment presents some "challenges" to the consistent operation of wind turbs. Well, how about the red-headed stepchild of the sustainable energy milieu? Geothermal. Alaska has that in spades! It's clean, the "fuel" is free, the condensate can be pumped back into the thermal zone, cooling towers may not even be necessary... and the plants could even be built underground or on stilts (like the pipeline -- to avoid thawing the permafrost and destabilizing the ground... and the environment). I realize that I have done such a marvelous job arguing the case that each and every one of you is now a True Believer and will be out stumping for this project first thing tomorrow morning. "What's the downside?" you ask. "Let's DO this, now!" you cry with enthusiasm not seen since the government gave away free cheese.

Yes, Virginia, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. If there were, the drinks would cost less. The cost and challenge of building the tunnel itself is a flatulent expulsion in a Cat 5 hurricane. The REAL issue is that which connects to it on either side. Currently, that is: nothing. Not even a continuous dirt road connects the inhabited parts of the two continents to either coast. On our side (USA/Canada) we'd need from 1600 to 1800 miles (depending on alignment) of new-terrain rail to even GET to the coast near Wales, AK. I understand it's about the same on the Russian side (not my problem, LOL). The geography and geology of Alaska can be far more challenging than building a "mere" 52 miles of tunnel under the sea. Heck, most of the line would need protection (snow sheds, etc) from the environment... and the environment would need protection from what we build. We're only JUST beginning to understand just how important the icebox-of-the-world "wastelands" are to the health of the world and its most clever inhabitants (us). It's ALL connected, folks, and a mistake up there could turn the Amazon into a desert, for all we know (of course, we're already doing that on a local level as I type this). The real question is, of course, what does the least harm (or even reverses harm we've already done to ourselves). Do we keep burning irreplacable fuels that contain incredibly valuable chemicals that can be used in agriculture, medicine, textiles, construction, etc, etc, etc (and etc) as if the party will never end? Or do we opt for something that can LAST? Do we like breathing, drinking, bathing, and eating? I don't know about you, but I get cranky when I don't eat.

The cost for the whole project will be amazing (a trillion plus, I'm sure). But... what is the cost of NOT doing this?

The real issue here is not whether such a link between the continents CAN be done -- it can. The question is, SHOULD it be done? If not, what are the alternatives?

       Thanks for playing along, folks. I'll be here all week -- be sure to tip your waitress. FS
FriendlySkeptic, Nov 07 2005

       Virginia is not even close to the Bering Strait.
bristolz, Nov 07 2005

       The tunnel: spendy, and must be maintained when no-one is using it. Why not just make a ferry system? A geothermal plant on one side could power it. Train comes up, goes on ferry, ferry is pulled across by cables mounted to undersea piling. When no ferry needed, undersea tow system is out of the way of storms and icebergs. Catastrophic failure of ferry tow causes only drifting ferry.
bungston, Nov 07 2005

       A submarine ferry, maybe. And I think you'd want it to be one of those ferries that pulls itself along the cable, rather than the other way around.
DrCurry, Nov 07 2005

       What kind of cards would make up a poker hand called a Bering Straight?
normzone, Nov 07 2005

       A prototype missile-based transportation system was trailled by the Russians during the 70s. They successfully transported rabbits across the volga in a scale model test run. When they constructed bus-sized missles for the same purpose, the Americans got very wary and responded with a truck sized variant, for cargo. These missile banks were placed on either side of the straits for many years before being mothballed...
Jinbish, Nov 07 2005

       Tunnels? Bridges?   

       Naw. The answer is obvious: Zeppelin- style airships, only use He this time and build them REALLY big.
RovinRobin, Nov 08 2005

       Color me pleased to have stimulated additional discussion on this long-quiet thread! Ferries -- surface or subsurface -- won't work in the Strait for more than a few months per year. The ferry/cable technique mentioned by bungston & DrCurry is known as "kedging." Again, not relevant in that climate (too shallow -- the sea can freeze all the way to the bottom). Any structure requires maintenance. Even a flat paved road in a temperate climate requires maintenance. This is a neutral point. Besides -- the tunnel wouldn't be built to not be used. lol. The helium-airship idea isn't a bad one -- fill it with Li-Ion batteries and plaster the top with solar panels -- but is more suited to a thread involving "what's going to replace the jet when the Airline Era comes crashing down to earth" There are those who believe this has already begun, like Peak Oil. Later, dudes. -FS
FriendlySkeptic, Nov 08 2005

       I believe that a Bering Strait beats a Royal Flush, but only when held by Cool Hand Luke.
FriendlySkeptic, Nov 08 2005

       "the sea can freeze all the way to the bottom" - aha! Back to the tunnel, then, only this time carved out of the ice.
DrCurry, Nov 08 2005

       I seriously doubt this idea that the sea, even in the Arctic, can freeze all the way to the bottom -- at least outside the iciest ice age ever.   

       Bear in mind that ice is less dense than water, which is why icebergs float. Hence water freezes from the top down and so insulates lower water from the cold.   

       If the Bering Strait really did freeze all the way down, at least the global warming panic would be finally killed dead. But we would be wishing for it, badly.
RovinRobin, Nov 08 2005

       A better name would be "The Boring Straight Bridge"
xenzag, Nov 08 2005

       Not a bad idea, but the vacuum tunnel train is getting a little too ambitious. Keep it simple.
MikeOxbig, Nov 10 2005

       if we are to build this bridge, it would be possible to drive, literally, from one end of the world to the other. and that would be very cool.
iambersson, Mar 24 2006

       How about tech along the lines of a launch loop supporting an end to end bridge above the ice. (look it up on wikipedia, halfbakery won't let my put in a properly annotated link)
silicon wizard, Jun 04 2008

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jutta, Feb 19 2011


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