Reality TV crew is safely home after Russian ordeal
Stars of “Dangerous Waters”, a reality TV show focusing on six individuals riding jet skis around the world, were detained by Russian authorities after crossing the Bering Strait.
“Our goal is to go around the world,” Charles Davis of Petersburg Bottled Gas and Dangerous Waters mechanic said. “We tried to go from Seattle to Russia last year and fell short.”
This year the crew planned to travel from Nome to Russia and down through Japan but were held in Russia and not allowed to continue.
“We had, what we thought to be the proper paperwork and visa with an invitation,” Davis said. “We even hired a professional to make sure all of our documentation was in order.”
The papers were expedited and the crew left Nome July 3 and travelled to Wales.
“From Wales we headed to Russia,” Davis stated. “We successfully crossed the Bering Strait, and we are the first to cross on Sea-Dos.”
Davis explained that the day was a rough one on the water with waves in some spots between Wales and the Diomede Islands peaking at about 10 feet.
“Once we got to the Diomede Islands the waves calmed but then we were going through thick fog,” Davis said. “It was an all day ordeal to get across.”
Big Diomede Island has a lookout tower for monitoring that part of the border.
“The fact that we got past the island was one of the problems for the Russian authorities,” Davis stated. “The fog had settled in and we just went by undetected.”
Group leader, Stephen Moll, mapped out the route well before the trip began and the first scheduled stop was to be LaVetrina.
“When Steve Googled the border, part of the area was blurred,” Davis said. “But we knew something was there and we needed to get fuel.”
The team rode fast onto the beach and were met with a tank.
“We were so happy we made it across, it took us all a little while to see the tank coming toward us,” Davis stated. “Stepping onto that beach was like stepping into the Cold War.”
He explained that there was a lookout tower that appeared to be about to fall over and rusted spot lights that measured six to eight feet in diameter.
“There were hundreds of barrels along the beach half buried and rusted,” Davis said. “It looked like the place had been bombed.”
The six to eight armed guards on the tank proceeded to yell at them in Russian.
“We really thought we were in trouble,” Davis said. “They were pretty upset that we were there, but the only thing we wanted to convey to them was that we had visas and weren't there illegally.”
He explained that the group had come out of the fog onto a KGB military base.
“All of their equipment was very old, all the way down to their flashlights,” Davis said. “I remember thinking that it looked like something that belonged in a museum.”
One of the Russian guards spoke a little bit of English and the lines of communication were finally open.
“They let us tie up our Sea-Dos and left an armed guard with them,” He said. “Then they loaded us onto the tank and hauled us back to the base.”
Each of the crew members were questioned. When Moll tried to explain everything, he showed them, on the computer, who they were and what they were doing. Davis said. “They took him then for some intense questioning.”
Later, they asked the group to move their water crafts to a safer part of the beach. “They wouldn't let Steve go with us and a guard was sent with us as well,” Davis stated. “The guard that came with us rode with me to the new place.”
The crew was then taken, with their gear, to a place that reminded them of an old prison.
“They put us up in the gym,” Davis said. “But they said we should stay inside for our own safety and armed guards were posted outside our door.”
He remembered waking up in the middle of the night and witnessing one of the guards counting them to make sure they were all still there.
“They searched our belongings, but they didn't find everything. We still had our satellite phones on us and we were able to let people know what was happening,” Davis stated. “With today's social media, word travelled fast.”
Over the next two days this story made the front page of the Moscow Times, New York Times and LA Times.
“They really just wanted us out of there by the time they realized we weren't spies,” Davis said. “By the third day they had figured our fines and after they were paid they allowed us to buy fuel.”
The crew tried to get the Russian authorities to allow them to continue their trip but Davis explained it would have taken 45 days to acquire the proper documents.
“After six days, we were released and returned to Nome to re-group,” Davis said. “We decided to go up the Northwest Passage around Alaska and into Canada.”
Davis explained that someday they will go back to Russia and Japan, but from this point they plan to pick up where they stopped in Canada and go up through Greenland, Iceland and hopefully into Europe.
The 10 episodes of Dangerous Waters, Season Two are in production now, but no release date is known at this time.
“This was one of the best adventures of my life,” Davis said. “It's a trip I will never forget.”