Is the Bering Strait geologically active?

As the title says.

And two followups assuming it isn’t geologically active:

  1. What about damming it? How much power could that generate?

  2. Would it be feasible to run a railway line under it? What would be the effect on trade?

No. Areas to the south of it, as along the Aleutians, are, and could produce tsunamis.

Given that the strait is 85 km (50 mi) wide and 30-50 m (100-165 ft) deep, it’s hard to see that as being practical no matter how much power it might generate, even ignoring the enormous potential climatic and ecological problems that could be caused by restricting water flow, animal migration, etc.

While the engineering might be feasible, the economics hardly could be. Besides the current itself, it wolud require building very extensive rail lines in northern North America and Siberia, some of them across permafrost, in order to connect to the tunnel. On top of that, no matter how many trains you ran daily, assuming you had no more than 2 tracks, you couldn’t compete with the shipping capacity and efficiency of a fleet of ships that could be constructed at far less cost.

Should be tunnel, not current.

Yes, the permafrost is probably a bigger issue than the tunnel. But I doubt it’s insurmountable.

I wonder. It should do wonders for the trade between China and North America. And it would probably be quicker than shipping too - remember that the ‘straight line’ route is also an arc because we live on a globe.

Like the tunnel, probably not insurmountable, but pointless.

Why, exactly? Do you have any idea of what the relative cost advantages are between shipping by train compared to ship?

I’m having some trouble finding specific figures for ocean shipping, but this graph gives relative figures for barge vs train transport on inland waters. Shipping by water is far more efficient.

Last week I went to a presentation by the Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority on expansion of the canal. He pointed out that it would take 660 trains per day to transport the cargo across the isthmus that currently is shipped on the 40 ships that make the passage.

Perhaps quicker, but probably not enough so to offset the capacity advantage of ships. I fail to see the point of the second part of your statement. Cost rather than time is the primary determinant for the shipping method of choice for most bulk goods.

This is going to be an immense - likely insurmountable - obstacle if the route is done as a private venture. It would have to compete with an immense pre-existing, pre-paid, infrastructure. Just look at the Channel Tunnel (of which I’m a shareholder). Who’d even back it? But done as a multinational venture - say it was paid for by the USA, Canada, China, and Russia - and transport were charged at a rate sufficient to cover maintenance and improvement, then it might (maintenance is going to still be a significant cost) well be a very different story.

But with inland barges, you don’t have the problems of violent storms and other seriously nasty weather. My Google-fu is lacking, but IIRC ships are lost at sea every year.

Is that a valid comparison? It’s rather vague - how big are the trains, for a start? With ships you have the issues of loading and unloading and significant issues of transportation from the ports - transfer to rail or road. With rail, the containers can be taken directly to regional railheads for onward road transportation.

Ah, bulk goods. Ores, grains, and the like. Yes, definitely agree - the overhead of the means of transportation is much less than with rail. But what about something like a consignment of cars? Or consumer electronics? They could go straight from the railhead in China or wherever to the railhead in New York or Florida or wherever.

Let’s think about this for a minute. China trades with Europe, right? There are absolutely no insurmountable obstacles to a Europe-China rail line, or Europe-China highway.

So why aren’t goods shipped by rail between China and Europe? Why don’t people drive from China to Europe? Because it’s much much cheaper to fly than it would be to drive, even if a transcontinental highway were built, and it’s much much much much faster. And it’s much cheaper to load things on a ship and send them to Europe through the Suez canal than it is by rail.

Same thing with shipments and travel between North America and South America, or Europe and Africa. Just because a land link exists, doesn’t mean it’s cheaper or easier to travel by land, much less faster.

A Bering Sea bridge connects nowhere to nowhere. It’s a solution in search of a problem. A rail link between densely populated Britain and densely populated France over a tiny channel barely makes economic sense. But from Alaska to Siberia? It would make more sense to build a bridge from Florida to Cuba.

A very good question, especially as there used to be a major land trade route, the Silk Road. The road infrastructure isn’t there, for one - not Western level, anyway - and I’m not sure the rail infrastructure is either. Add in political tensions (e.g. between the USSR and Red China). But there’s no reason to not have highways streching vast distances - just look at Australia.


Building roads and rail is a massive investment. But I’m not sure that there is a rail link. Is there a suitable one? Stuff gets transported all over Europe by road and rail; one of the main ports and thus distribution points in Europe is Rotterdam. From there, goods get transported onwards by road and rail.

I quite agree.

The Channel Tunnel barely makes economic sense because it’s a private venture. It started with huge debts to repay. As a government venture, might it work? As for nowhere to nowhere, Asia and America are two very prosperous areas.

My point about the China-Europe rail link was that a China to Europe rail link is much easier technologically and makes more sense than a China-Siberia-Bering Strait-Alaska-Canada-CONUS rail link.

I’m not sure you quite understand how long the rail line just from Manchuria to the Bering Strait really would be. And just how long the rail line from Nome to Fairbanks to Whitehorse to Prince George to Seattle really would be.

There’s no rail link from CONUS through Canada to Alaska. There’s a rail link from Anchorage to Fairbanks, but there’s no rail or road link from Fairbanks to Nome.

Thing is, the bridge itself would be only a small fraction of the investment needed. Building a rail link literally crossing two continents through pretty much uninhabited taiga and tundra would be an immense undertaking. A rail line from China through Russia to Europe would be simpler and cheaper, and Europe as a whole is a much bigger market than North America. Why do does this perrenial Bering Strait bridge proposal always seem to come up when no one ever proposes a trans-Eurasian rail or highway link?

We haven’t built a road through the Darién Gap, where there is ~100 km between road in Central America and road in South America. Completing this would be trivial compared to building a bridge or tunnel across the Bering Strait and connecting the bridge or tunnel to Asian and North American highway systems. There is a Texas-sized gap between Nome and Fairbanks (about the shortest route to get from the Bering Strait to anything that’s connected to the rest of North America by road).

Even had it been publicly funded, it would be appropriate to take account of the capital costs when deciding whether it made economic sense or not. Indeed, it would be wrong not to.

The Channel Tunnel connects two highly developed countries with a lot of trade, a lot of infrastructure, and a relatively benign climate. Once through the tunnel, you connect with very extensive pre-existing road and rail networks. The Bering Strait is in an extremely remote area with very little infrastructure and a subarctic climate. Construction costs in this kind of environment and costs for transportation of materials are going to be astronomically higher.

And, as I and others have already pointed, besides the tunnel itself you would have to construct many thousands of miles of railroad or road over very difficult terrain. It is approximately 1800 miles straight-line distance between the road systems, and 3600 miles between the railroad systems, of Siberia and North America via the Bering Strait route. Essentially you would have to build a new transcontinental railroad in extremely difficult conditions.

If the Channel Tunnel was barely feasible economically, there is absolutely no way that a Bering Strait Tunnel would be. There is really no reason for any countries to want to invest in such a boondoggle.

You miss my point entirely. I only used the barge example because it was accessible on Google. Shipping by water is far cheaper than rail or road, whether by barge or by ocean-going container ship. In fact, because of larger capacity, the latter is going to be even more efficient. Bad weather at sea has virtually nothing to do with the relative costs of marine and land transport. Besides that, certainly howling Siberian blizzards are going to have considerable impact on train travel in the region.

Yes, its a valid comparison. You don’t seem to have the foggiest conception of the relative capacity of large container ships vs trains, nor of any of the economic issues involved.

Shipping by rail can sometimes be competitive with marine transport depending on the relative distances involved, or for particular commodities. But over the kind of distances involved - many thousands of miles, mostly through almost uninhabited terrain - there is no way it would be competive with ships.

  1. There are tidal currents which may generate some power (especially when the ice cap melts in summer) but the ecological ramifications of such a project would be massive.

  2. Well, there is a proposed design for a Bering Srait Bridge, but at the moment, it’s little more than Engineer Porn. :cool:

I believe I have touched on that.

The Channel Tunnel is very popular. It just shouldn’t have been a private enterprise venture, any more than most bridges and roads.

Actually, I used to work in a container port.

If you did, you didn’t make any kind of case that a Bering Strait land link would be economically justifiable - whether as a private or public venture.

Completely irrelevant to a Bering Strait Tunnel. The situations could hardly be more different, as has already been pointed out.

Whatever the justification might be for the Channel Tunnel being funded publicly, I don’t see why national governments would have any interest in funding a project as economically infeasible as a Bering Strait Tunnel.

Which makes your lack of appreciation of the capacity difference between container ships and trains, and of the other economic issues involved, rather puzzling.

I think you’re trying to deduce too much from very little data.