Karl Bushby, founder of the Goliath Expedition is attempting the longest unbroken journey by foot. He is walking from the lower tip of South America to his home in England, a distance of 58,000 km through four continents.
What makes this journey especially unique is Karl is not using boats or planes to get across the aquatic portions. Instead he walked over the sea ice of the Bering Strait to reach Asia from North America and he will also negotiate the gap across the English Channel by foot. Karl is not related to Jesus; he will walk across to England by utilizing a maintenance tunnel of the “Chunnel” which connects England with France. When he reaches his hometown of Hull, there will be an unbroken trail of footprints all the way back to Chile.
Karl’s gargantuan challenge might seem impossible to some, but Karl believes otherwise. The expedition began nine years ago, and Karl has so far made it two-thirds of the way home. He is currently in Northeastern Siberia and some of the most dangerous legs of the journey are behind him.
It took Karl seven years to walk from Chile to the tip of Alaska. This arduous journey included a crossing of the Darien gap, the notorious roadless stretch of guerrilla-riddled jungle separating Panama from Columbia. A small trailer pulled by Karl contained all the gear and equipment required to keep moving forward. The roads disappeared again when Karl reached Fairbanks, Alaska, and here he followed dog sled trails for almost three thousand kilometers before reaching the Bering Strait.
Karl was joined by Seattleite Dimitri Kieffer in Alaska and together they planned the formidable challenge of crossing the Bering Strait. Nobody in history had ever walked across the Bering Strait from Alaska to Siberia (despite several attempts), and there is only one case of a journey in the reverse direction. A Russian father and his son made it across to Alaska on the sea ice, a journey that almost took their lives.
The Bering Strait never freezes over as a solid sheet of ice. Instead strong currents rip and break the ice apart, creating a surface like a giant pulsating slushy with many open leads. A walking journey across the Bering Strait involves much swimming between chunks of ice, and luck is required for the currents to push the ice flows in the right direction.
Camping on the shifting ice is especially perilous as Karl vividly detailed in his journal:
It’s 04:00 and I’m awake. It’s not sounding good outside at all. We are not on a particularly large pan and there’s grinding all around us. Suddenly shock waves shake the tent, a deep booming sound coming from below. I sit up, eyes wide, heart pounding. If you’re not only hearing the ice but feeling every move it makes, it’s a pretty good indicator things are definitely not right.
Against all odds, Karl and Dimitri reached the shores of Siberia, becoming the first ever to do so by foot. Shortly after arriving in Russian territory, the adventuring duo was arrested by the military. The Russian authorities were not interested in historic firsts, and instead were disgruntled that a couple of foreigners had strolled in from America. Karl and Dimitri were deported.
Finally, after a year of struggling with Russian bureaucracy, Karl and Dimitri have received permission to return to Russia’s far-eastern state of Chukotka. Very soon they will continue together their trek westwards.
Expedition Objective (courtesy of Karl Bushby):
Goliath is the first expedition ever to attempt to forge a path of unbroken footsteps from the southern tip of South America back to England without using any form of transport. Karl Bushby, whose idea and dream became this expedition, will take no fewer than 12 years and 36,000 miles to traverse some of the most remote and challenging places on earth.
Alone and unsupported, Karl began his journey on November 1st, 1998 in the Chilean town of Punta Arenas. Karl walked northwards through South America, Central and North American, before crossing from Alaska into Siberia, using the semi-frozen Arctic waters of the Bering Strait. The journey will continue westwards through Siberia, down to Russia’s southern border, across Asia and Europe. The finish will be (pending authorization) through the Channel Tunnel and into the United Kingdom.
Like no other in history, The Goliath Expedition is unique not only in its approach but also in the way it is supported. The home base team provides administration and support from the United Kingdom in their spare time (they have full time jobs). They have plenty to do to keeping Karl upright and moving forward. Most expeditions would not even think of setting off without sponsorship / support and funding. The Goliath expedition set off with just £500 ($800 US)!
Communications are an essential part of the expedition. This is achieved by conventional telephone line, cell phone and email, plus satellite communications while traversing Alaska, the Bering Strait and Siberia and other remote parts of the world.
For planning reasons the route is broken down into eight stages, then phases and lastly legs. Food and other basic supplies will be acquired en route. Karl’s ability to use waypoints (town and villages) for re-supply will shape the route. Stores and equipment are pulled, rather than carried, in a wheeled carriage, nicknamed ‘The Beast’.
The Gaps : The Goliath Expedition has encountered every environment and condition the planet has to offer, but there are three main “gaps” in the route that require special attention and planning.
Gap 1, The Darien Gap
A large undeveloped swampland and pristine jungle environment, the Darien Gap forms the border between Columbia and Panama. Known for the challenge it presents to all who try to pass through, as well as its significance in the civil /drug wars of Columbia, the Darien Gap presented the Expedition with a very real challenge.
Gap 2, The Bering Strait
Understandably, the Bering Strait could be considered the crux of the Expedition. At roughly the halfway point for Karl, the Bering Strait presented a very significant and life threatening challenge. In order to accomplish the ultimate goal of the Expedition, Karl would have to achieve something no other modern explorer had ever done before: the Goliath Expedition was going to have to cross a semi-frozen sea of churning ice and water, facing some of the most extreme conditions possible, and walk, stumble and swim across the Bering Strait from the US to Russia.
Gap 3, The English Channel
Twenty-one miles separate Great Britain from the rest of Europe. The final Gap for the Goliath Expedition is the English Channel. Three interlinked tunnels run under the Channel, two for traffic and a third service tunnel. Though not legally available as a public thoroughfare, it is hoped that, with Karl Bushby then only 21 miles from home, that the authorities will allow him to walk through. Until that point, however, the Channel stands as the third and final Gap. These three gaps tie the dream and the continents together creating the potential for one of the most incredible stories told.