It was in the October, 1959 issue of the magazine, ‘Literaturnaya Gazeta’, that a graduate of the Soviet Academy of Mining, Petr Mikhailovich Borisov proposed the construction of a dam spanning the 55 mile Bering Strait that would be big enough to redirect the currents of the world’s oceans and force warming water to melt the Arctic Ocean.
Borisov, who had previously been awarded the Stalin Prize for his work on the Moscow-Saratov gas pipeline, imagined that the dam could be built with pre-fabricated concrete pontoons that would sink about 200 feet deep, which would feature large propellers built below the water line. Powered by huge power plants to be built on the frozen coast of Siberia, the dam’s propellers would physically turn the world’s oceans around. If the cold influx of waters from the Pacific was reversed, the cold layer of low-salinity Arctic surface water could be replaced by the Gulf Stream’s warm, salty waters that would be harder to freeze. It would also be self-sustaining, for Borisov argued that as the reflective ice melted, Arctic waters would absorb more heat and never freeze again.
In today’s dollars the project would have cost an estimated, $138 billion, well beyond the ability of any one nation to undertake. So Borisov proposed a joint venture of the US, Canada, Japan, the USSR and Northern European countries. Boriosv commented,
“When this warming up occurs, and the ice of the cold war melts, broad vistas for teamwork in warming up the eternal ice of the Arctic Ocean will open too. How close together the common struggle for such a great humanitarian cause as discovering for mankind new powerful sources of warmth and life will bring our peoples.”
Senator John F. Kennedy said the idea was “certainly worth exploring”, but the American magazine ‘Popular Mechanics’ dismissed the entire notion as a “propaganda stunt”.
The dam was never built, and 63% of Russia remains buried under permafrost, an ongoing impediment to the development of the largest country in the world.