1. Education
Matt Rosenberg

Can You See Russia From Alaska?

By October 24, 2008

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People are asking me if it's possible to see Russia from Alaska. Well, the Bering Strait is over 50 miles (80 km) wide. The horizon is about 2.89 miles for a average person standing on the surface of the earth. However if one were stationed on a 100-foot tower, the horizon or farthest distance one could see before the curvature of the earth limits vision at the horizon is mere 12.25 miles. Thus, it is not possible to see Russia proper from Alaska across the Bering Strait. Wikipedia has more about the horizon.


October 24, 2008 at 5:48 pm
(1) John Concilus says:


Actually, you can see Russia from the mainland of Alaska. I’ve done so ;-)

Although you can’t see the cliffs of Chukotka from the BEACH, if get get a 100 feet or more up the hill right behind the school, you CAN see the Russian Mainland on clear days. Honest.

Wales School has a steerable webcam at:




October 26, 2008 at 5:52 pm
(2) Peter N. says:

I have seen Russia from Alaska as well. It’s easy. The mountains (which are quite high) in far eastern Russia are easily visible from Gambel, on St. Lawrence Is., AK. You may not be able to see the ground in Russia from mainland AK, but high mountain peaks are easily seen, especially from SLI.

October 27, 2008 at 12:37 am
(3) Dinesh Desai says:

The two Diomede islands in the Bering Strait are only two miles apart. The big Diomede belongs to Russia while the little Diomede is part of Alaska. So, without worrying about the horizon, one can easily see Russia from Alaska.

October 27, 2008 at 8:24 am
(4) Alan says:

Precisely! I came here to also mention the Diomedes. Amazed that wasn’t covered in the prelim.

October 27, 2008 at 11:48 am
(5) Bruce Wilbat says:

I think the main point of all this has bveen missed and that is Does being able to “see” Russia from Alaska give Ms. Palin any insight whatsoever as would be needed in times of an international question, and that answer is clearly “NO”.

August 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm
(6) william says:

how would you have a clue as to what mrs palin would feel. if you want to see the face of a bigot go home and look in the mirror. being aware of the closeness of russia might very well have an effect on a persons priorities about that particular aspec of international relations, military issues, trade relations, etc. your comment assumes a lot.


August 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm
(7) gavin says:

Right on William. Bruce needs to make better judgement on timing with his political jabs. It’s easy to misquote someone when they are so far above you that you know they will never respond to your attack. Fool.

August 23, 2011 at 11:34 am
(8) Bill says:

We may share the same name, but only one of us is an idiot. Your support of that ignorant “creature” known as Sarah (not really “Ms.”) Palin is all the proof anyone needs as to which one of us it is. With your comments, a lot can be assumed. Go, BRUCE!

October 27, 2008 at 12:23 pm
(9) Barbara says:

Big Diomede Island in Russia and Little Diomede Island in Alaska are less than 3 miles apart, so if you are standing on one you can see the other. They are, or at any rate were, uninhabited, so ‘seeing Russia form Alaska only happens for occasional fossil-hunters, but very few politicians.

Ironically, if I remember correctly, the Diomedes are where fossils of dwarf mammoths have been found that survived until the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago, or about 4,000 years before the universe even existed according to Sarah Palin and the young-earth crowd who say they can date the origin of the universe from the assumptions they make about the meaning of Genesis!

October 27, 2008 at 5:53 pm
(10) LV says:

Does it matter, unless Putin is on the cliffs, drinking vodka or whatever?

October 30, 2008 at 2:58 pm
(11) tom moriarty says:

what a nonsense response to a question about her foreign relations experience. the republicans are continuing to present us with goofy candidates. it would be funny, but somehow i find it hard to laugh.

November 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm
(12) Sandy Moore says:

You’re an egotistical idiot. I suppose you like what obama’s doing to our country.

November 3, 2008 at 4:19 pm
(13) Marcia Holstrom says:

Great Geography information and follow up comments until a couple of jerks decided to make it about politics. Let’s stick to GEOGRAPHY and keep your politics to yourself.

June 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm
(14) Shotgun Rain says:

Considering you don’t even know what the criterion for geographic realms are, you shouldn’t be saying anything here..jerk!

November 7, 2008 at 10:02 pm
(15) tomseattle says:

The Diomedes are inhabited, and in winter citizens of both countries visit each other easily by snowmobile.

I heard an interesting story from my mother, who was the state’s social worker for the Aleutians, SLI, Pribilofs, and Little Diomede. Apparently an Assembly of God Church was built on Little Diomede, and the deacon (?) there had no church members for over eight years. Everyone who went to church was Russian Orthodox.

November 11, 2008 at 12:06 pm
(16) JF Nesbit says:

Being Governor of Alaska, for land-border reasons, as well as for aviation-route reasons exposes one to international affairs. No other state has two international territorial borders (Canada; Russia, with the respective territorial waters of the Diomede Islands). Whether this prepares one for the Presidency as much as, say, being Mayor of New York City is another matter. With regard to Russia, we should remember that Alaska has a significant Russian minority.
But, along with Gov. Palin, we could all study more Geography if we’re planning on running for President.

December 3, 2008 at 10:33 pm
(17) Keith says:

It is theoretically possible to see Russia from the Alaska mainland. Although Russia is much further than the geometric horizon, as the original poster indicated, under temperature gradients, light rays bend. Due to the hillinger effect, (also known as the arctic mirage), if warm air sits on top of cool air, light rays will bend following the curvature of the earth, allowing objects well beyond the geometric horizon to be seen. This particular effect is more common towards the earth’s poles where cool air near the ground is more common (like Alaska), so the statement that you can see Russia from Alaska is not as absurd as it originally sounds.

December 30, 2008 at 4:21 pm
(18) Catherine Stewart says:

Does anyone who left a comment on this subject realize that Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house? Tina Fey said it when she was impersonating Palin. It was a joke. How is it that we “remember” Palin saying it in all seriousness?

I’m an Obama Democrat so I have no wish to defend Governor Palin for her political views but let’s at least stick to the dumb things she actually said.

April 23, 2009 at 9:48 am
(19) Jess says:


She said it on ABC News with Charlie Gibson.

May 22, 2009 at 8:59 pm
(20) Suzanne says:

Jess- No she did not say that. She said one could see Russia from some places in Alaska, NOT HER HOUSE. And as it has been corroborated here, it is true!

July 8, 2009 at 7:48 am
(21) CybrSage says:

And THIS is why you should not trust any info you find oun about.com. Without doing any real research, the writer proclaimed he knew the facts.

He also never bothered to come back and fix his well documented errors.

Please make sure you never use about.com as a source for truthful information!

August 31, 2009 at 2:02 pm
(22) what CybrSage Said says:

“what CybrSage Said”

September 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm
(23) sifi says:

Hey Matt looks like you flunk geography!

February 15, 2010 at 3:01 am
(24) AJB says:

Matt has stated “it is not possible to see Russia proper from Alaska across the Bering Strait” this is accurate and has not been refuted by any of the previous comments.

maybe if you people actually read what he said instead of assuming it’s an attempt to attack Palin…not like that would be hard or anything though

February 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm
(25) Sean says:


Please correct your statement to include all Russian land masses that can be seen from Alaska.
We have enough dumb kids flunking geography class who google your comments.
Don’t be political. Be honest.

May 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm
(26) Sean says:

Well said Sean! Matt can go on Youtube and it shows several videos of Alaskan’s on Little Diomede showing the shores of nearby Big Diomede in Russia. In winter the water that lies between the 2 freezes. If you look on some satellite maps they will appear as one land mass. Sarah Palin never said you can see Russia from Wasilla AK. That was a joke on Saturday Night Live.

September 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm
(27) John D says:

“Let’s stick to the dumb things she said.” OK, and the dumb things Barry said too? 57 states?

September 13, 2010 at 11:30 pm
(28) Stan says:

http://www.heywhatsthat.com/alaska.html shows that you CAN see mainland Russia from some mountains on the Alaskan mainland.

October 22, 2010 at 12:58 am
(29) Whip it good says:

Sarah Palin is a crazy woman. From the perspective of HER HOME in Wasilla she is trying to say she can see Russia from her back yard. Bada-bing wha-hooey! Give her the grand prize of ding BAT!

March 5, 2011 at 9:27 pm
(30) Donald Bernhardt says:

Get it right Tina Fey from SNL said you can see Russia from my house Sarah said you can see Russia from Alaska. Either you are as lame as the lame stream media or stupid because you dont want to
look things up that are so verifiable.What grand prize would you like?

December 23, 2010 at 11:26 am
(31) wpw says:

Whip it good:

Never let the truth get in the way of the point you want to make. “Truthiness” is what counts.

January 5, 2011 at 9:38 pm
(32) gip says:

Lets give whip it good the prize of Ding Bat for posting false statements. I hate to break it to you, SNL is not the evening news.

January 13, 2011 at 5:50 am
(33) bymidnight says:

Whip it good, Your the ding bat! What she said was “you can actually see Russia from Alaska”. This is a true statement! See the article in Slate Mag a Washington Post publication.


February 26, 2011 at 12:31 pm
(34) Donald F Bernhardt says:

Obviously you have never been to Tin City. You can see Russias mainland from Alaskas mainland. You should visit Alaska b4 making false accusations of what you know nothing about. Put your brain in gear b4 you open your mouth. Why do you lie about something so easily proven

March 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm
(35) Donald F Bernhardt says:

Sorry Bruce Wilbat you are wrong. If you want to go that way, then you are forgetting about radar. Russians fly into Alaska airspace and Alaskans fly into Russia airspace. You can see Russia from Alaska, once again. Sarah was correct the LSM was wrong.

May 4, 2011 at 7:39 pm
(36) CL says:

If your eyeball is on the ground and the landscape is completely flat Matt might have been right! But it’s not because there are mountains in Russia and we stand higher than the ground.

June 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm
(37) Windfall says:

So the Usefull Idiot claims that you can only see 12.5 miles out to sea.

Everyone living in the Los Angeles area has, as some point in time looked out on a clear day to see Catalina Island – which is over 20 miles away.

Not only that, but from South Orange County, you can, again on a clear day, see San Clemente Island – which is over 50 miles away.

And you can see both of these islands standing right on the beach at sea level. No tower required.

August 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm
(38) lena says:

this was not helpful for my daughter

November 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm
(39) James Van Sindleson says:

This article should be removed. It is patently false.

One can see Russia from Alaska.


February 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm
(40) YeoMan says:

Matt Rosenberg,
We have plenty of dumb butts walking around already, don’t add to their their stupidity by making inaccurate statements. You should apologize to everyone for being so incorrect and fix for errors, instead of letting morons read your proof without reading the comments posted by others proving you wrong. Governor Palin is more intelligent than you will ever be. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?

February 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm
(41) Jim B says:

Why are liberals so ignorant of geography and any other fact for that matter. They just keep repeating lies until it becomes the truth to most clueless sheep listening to the state run media. Of course you can see Russia from Alaska.

February 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm
(42) joe says:

You can see Russia from Alaska from many places, I have done so. This article & the degrading of Sara Palin by the media and those who would write articles like this are what is a real threat to America. Sorry to say this author is a liar.

March 10, 2012 at 8:25 am
(43) EcoGraph says:

@Windfall. Do you understand what the curvature of the earth does to line of sight? Obviously not.

The question has been answered, though. You can see Russia from Alaska, but Palin never did.


March 20, 2012 at 1:22 am
(44) Chicken Sock Puppet says:

Liberals, can they be any more ignorant?

March 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm
(45) Jersey kid says:

How about dumb things Obama said:
1. Insulting special Olympic kids 2. Saying the USA has 57 states & he had only one more to visit 3. Defending Obamacare by comparing the Success of the federal postal service to Fedex & UPS’s success
4. Referring to corpse (Sounds like core) man as corpsman

April 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm
(46) YeoMan says:

The Democrats and the media who support them, pounced on Palin like a pack of starving heinas. Tear her to shreds, plant untruths just so that numb skull could put us into deeper debt, reduce our credit rating, take away ours jobs..etc, and people who can’t understand this demolition of our country are themselves idiots.

April 23, 2012 at 6:52 pm
(47) joe says:

you that lie about Sara Palin, as we know it can be seen – if your in the majority in November, your kids deserve what they will get from our “govermant” haven you had enough?

July 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm
(48) Sir No Bull says:

And all the Obamadroids still will not discuss the “genius” Fuhrer’s claim of visiting ALL fifty seven states of USA…. No takers on this one? They also seem to be very quite on the fact that “the One” autobiography on relationships with some women was just a fiction… Home and Change…. yeah, Hope for free staff and change to… communism, as the unemployment is still at the 3rd world level, he still keeps talking about Buuuuuuush.

August 26, 2012 at 3:11 am
(49) My two cents says:

I have to laugh at all of you that make fun of Gov Palin, when you stuck us with dumb and dumber Obama and Biden. Hysterical, yeah google all the stupid things Obama has said and of course well Biden’s gaffs go without sayin. Lol!
I was interested in the geography side of this question but some of you decided to spoil it with your venomous comments.

September 26, 2012 at 11:05 pm
(50) fred says:

your 12 mile thing is a load of crap. You should be slapped for disinformation.

September 26, 2012 at 11:26 pm
(51) fred says:

OK, you can slap me now for being a jerk.

November 8, 2012 at 11:19 am
(52) cha says:

C’mon, she is still quite dumb and should not be near politics. Let’s all agree to that. Yes, she’s a good looking woman, and charming, which is why so many support her.

December 10, 2012 at 11:33 pm
(53) Chris says:

She was right. It’s that simple!

March 14, 2013 at 10:46 am
(54) steve says:

You can also see Russia from other points in Alaska. According to a New York Times article written in the waning years of the Cold War (when the Alaska-Siberia border was known as the “Ice Curtain”), if you stand on high ground on the tip of St. Lawrence Island—a larger Alaskan island in the Bering Sea, southwest of the Diomedes—you can see the Russian mainland, about 37 miles away. The same article claims that you can see Russia from the Tin City Air Force facility at Cape Prince of Wales, which is the westernmost point of the mainland Americas.The station chief at Tin City confirms that, for roughly half the year, you can see Siberian mountain ranges from the highest part of the facility.

April 22, 2013 at 10:33 pm
(55) JonL says:

I hate it when idiots are right but it does happen occasionally. SP was technically correct and in this case, having listened to what she said, I think she did actually know that you can see Big Diomedes from Little Diomedes islands or Russia from Alaska. It is also true that mainland eastern Siberia is visible from various places on the Seward Peninsula and with the proper temperature inversions that create the Hillinger Effect. So much as I hate to admit it SP was right. I don’t think it proves much in the political ‘big picture’ but there it is.

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