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Full Circle

Day 1: Little Diomede Island, Bering Strait

Little Diomede, Bering Strait 
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Little Diomede in the Bering Strait.
Michael Palin - Full CircleOnly five days ago I was filming in a cupboard in Buckinghamshire with John Cleese and a tarantula spider and now here I am, just short of the Arctic Circle on a Monday morning, looking across at a Russian rock where it is Tuesday morning - the explanation for this twenty-four hour time difference being the invisible presence of the International Date Line which slices through the Bering Strait not much more than a stone's throw away. The Russian soldiers staring out at me from across the water have already had the day I'm having.

Now the wind is strengthening, carrying the sickly, pungent smell of seal blubber up the hill towards us. It also carries the smell of changing weather and I'm aware that we cannot stay up here for much longer. I must focus my mind and try to make sense of all this.

The rock I am sitting on is called Little Diomede Island and it is the most extreme north-westerly possession of the United States of America. It lies just south of the Arctic Circle at a latitude of 65.40° and is separated from the Russian territory of Big Diomede Island by a narrow, racing, two-and-a-quarter-mile channel. A few thousand years ago, before the end of the Ice Age, Diomede was part of a huge land bridge, across which, many scientists now believe, came the first human inhabitants of the Americas. The Russian mainland is only 30 miles away and the American mainland even less. Asia and America come as close to each other here as London is to Oxford, and in winter, when the sea freezes, it's possible to walk from one continent to the other.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 1
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Little Diomede - Alaska
  • Book page no: 13

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