North

Russia returns Alaska man who crossed Bering Sea in dinghy

An Anchorage man who attempted to sail from Alaska to China with a bucket of salmon bellies, bread, water and a jug of grape juice as provisions has been deported by officials in Russia — where he washed ashore five months ago.

47-year-old was trying to reunite with his wife and child in China when he set out in 2018

In this July 1, 2011, file photo, John Martin camps out in front of city hall in downtown Anchorage, Alaska to protest the city's practice of clearing homeless camps. Martin has been detained in Russia since August 2018 after his dinghy washed ashore there in his attempt to sail from Alaska to China. He expects to be back in Alaska on Sunday. (Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)

An Anchorage man who attempted to sail from Alaska to China with a bucket of salmon bellies, bread, water and a jug of grape juice as provisions has been deported by officials in Russia, where he washed ashore five months ago.

It was the latest strange saga in the life of John Martin III.

Martin, 47, was returned Monday to Washington and told the Anchorage Daily News that he plans to be back in Alaska by the weekend.

Martin, an advocate for the homeless who has a criminal record, was trying to reunite with his wife and child in China when he set out from Emmonak, an Alaska Native village about 800 kilometres west of Anchorage.

He left in July in a 2.4-metre dinghy and planned to sail across the Bering Strait and hug the coastline until he was near a sliver of Chinese territory between Russia and North Korea.

He made it to Russia after being blown off course and was detained by Russian authorities after washing up on a beach on Chukotka Peninsula without money or a passport. 

Martin wrote on his blog that he was held in a Siberian hospital for months during legal proceedings. He said he was taken to a prison in Moscow in December and held there six weeks before being deported to the U.S.

In 1995, when he was 23, Martin served eight years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old foster child taken in by him and his wife. He said he lost contact with his three children when his wife divorced him.

Later, he said he met a Chinese woman through a computer messaging program. He traveled to China, where they married in 2007 and had a son.

The U.S. government later revoked his passport because he was behind on child support payments for the three children he had with his first wife.

When he returned to Alaska, he conducted a months-long protest over homelessness by sleeping outside Anchorage City Hall. The mayor refused to meet with him because he was a convicted sex offender. 

In 2014, Martin rolled a vehicle while driving on Seward Highway. His girlfriend died and he was twice tried for manslaughter because prosecutors said his blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit. Neither jury could reach a verdict.

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