THE IRON CURTAIN IS GONE, but Russian officials apparently still get nervous when they see a growling, tanklike vehicle heading their way from the direction of North America. On April 7, the Ice Challenger Expeditiona bold, strange, $1 million attempt to drive an amphibious, seven-ton converted ski-run groomer dubbed Snowbird 6 across the Bering Straitcame to grief when Russian border guards reneged on an earlier promise to allow the mechanized beast free access onto Russian ice. (See "All-Weather Drive," March 2002.) The plan of Britain-based expedition leaders Steve Brooks and Graham Stratford was to drive more than 56 miles from Wales, Alaska, to the Russian mainland. But for reasons still unknown, officials on the island of Big Diomedethe journey's halfway pointsaid no. The frustrated ice challengers decided to can the mission, but first they charged Snowbird 6 across the international date line into Russia, unzipped their bright-orange survival suits, and mooned the Ruskies on Big Diomede. Why the provocative fleshing? "Well," says Mark Cullum, the expedition's safety expert, "we wanted to show the Russians the white dove of peace."
Snowbird 6, briefly penetrating Russian icespace