This piece was originally published in the Fall 1987 issue of the Whole Earth Review, the successor to the Co-Evolution Quarterly, itself a spin-off from Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog operation. (Illustration: Don Ryan)
I want to build a bridge across the
I'm not the first to have the idea. The honour for that belongs to Joseph Strauss, the man who went on to design one of the world's great bridges — the
A look at the map will show you the attractions of such an idea. The
In the middle of the
Contained in the narrow strip of sea between these two specks of land is not only the imaginary border between the two countries but also the international date line. In other words, this small stretch of water separates
For the historical record, the Strait was discovered by and named after Vitus Bering, a Dutchman who was sent by Peter the Great to explore the eastern margins of
American popular opinion of the time held that it was an expensive deal at that price and dubbed the useless wilderness Seward's Folly after then Secretary of the Interior William Seward, whose determination led to the acquisition of these 375 million acres.
The fossil record indicates that a land bridge more than 1,000 miles wide, known as
During the periods that the land was linked there were intensive migrations of plants and animals from continent to continent. The latest evidence also suggests that the original native nations of the American continents (north and south) came over the land bridge from
The first wave came from northern
The second wave came slightly later from northeastern
[Two recent articles examine these ideas in more detail: "The
Such evidence suggests a spectacular opening ceremony which might be staged when the bridge is unveiled: present-day Amerindians handing over buffalo skins, quetzal feathers and parchments in return for mammoth tusks and magic fungi from the Siberian steppes — an ancient kinship rekindled. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The superpowers have conveniently ignored their common ancestry. In 1984, for instance, a maritime boundary meeting was opened to try to update the demarcation lines as a preliminary to mineral and oil exploration in tbe region.
By the end of the year, talks had broken down. The stumbling block was an area of ocean south of the Strait called the
No doubt plans for the bridge would come up against this sort of international bureaucracy. I am sure one can explain the value of such a link both aesthetically, commercially, and as a means of establishing more stable relations in the world. After all, connecting the
Of course, there may be construction difficulties and for this I will have to take specialised advice. One colleague has suggested using "icecrete" — ordinary freshwater mixed with wood fibres for strength, poured into a skin made either of concrete or laminated plastic and then frozen and compressed tightly for extra durability and shape.
It occurs to me that perhaps the bridge couk! be simply conceptual — a giant hologram with lasers on both sides of the channel. Naturally, the funding could come out of the SDI budget.