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PETROZAVODSK, April 4 (Itar-Tass) – World-famous Russian traveler Fyodor Konyukhov and his mate Viktor Simonov on Thursday leave for Spitsbergen to begin their dogsled expedition from the North Pole to Greenland.
A helicopter will take 50 casks with foodstuffs and equipment the explorers will need during their Arctic journey no one has ever dared before. The two men will be accompanied by 12 sled dogs. The oldest one, nine-year-old Cherke, has already been at the North Pole.
“Our dogs are equal members of the expedition,” says Fyodor Konyukhov. “I hope, God being our helper, we shall be able to cope with whatever severities we might face. Viktor will be driving the dogs and I will be praying.”
He says the expedition is in for many severities. Strange as it might seem but their worst enemy is going to be the relatively warm weather that has set in in the Arctic. Melting ice and snow might put serious obstacles on the way of the expedition, with ice holes, expansions, and ice hummocks. So, it will be quite a task to be moving over such terrain on dog-driven sleds loaded with foods and equipment, which weigh some 500 kilograms.
“It has been my cherished dream to master a route, which turned to be beyond the capacity of the legendary Japanese traveler Naomi Uemura, who had to cut short his expedition because of a polar bear attack. He had to cover part of the distance by plane. Now we hope we will make it,” Konyukhov said.
“For Fyodor Konyukhov, like for any other Arctic explorer, the North Pole is a special place. He has reached it thrice and says he wants to do again,” said Konyukhov’s son, Oskar, who is in charge of the expedition’s headquarters in Moscow.
According to Oskar, the expedition will proceed in several stages during which the explorers must reach the North Pole and then cross the Greenland from North to South. This will be the longest and most hazardous route in the Arctic. At the end of the 1970s, Naomi Uemura tried to accomplish this task for the first time. However, he did not succeed in doing this completely - because of the slow progress at the very start, the polar bear attack and bad weather he had to fly to Greenland from the North Pole by plane.
After a stopover in Spitsbergen, Konyukhov’s expedition will fly to the Russian polar station Barneo located some 30 kilometers waya from the North Pole.
Over four months, the expedition is to cover a distance of more than 4,000 kilometers.
Konyukhov Sr. made his first trip to the North Pole in 1988 as a member of a Soviet-Canadian expedition. Next time he went there together with his friends from the Soviet Arktika expedition in 1989. In 1990, Fyodor made a 72-days-long ski solo trek to the Pole and in 1995/1996 he crossed the spaces of Antarctica towards the South Pole over a period of 64 days.
Konyukhov, an artist by profession who was ordained as a Russian Orthodox priest in December 2010 has many more spectacular exploits to his credit. Their incomplete list includes two ascents to Mount Everest and ascents to the highest peaks of all other continents, a voyage across the Atlantic in a single-row boat in 46 days, the crossing of an 800 km distance in Greenland within about 16 days, several solo circumnavigation tours, and a singlehanded nonstop tour around Antarctica.
His current expedition is co-sponsored by the Russian Geographic Society and the government of Russia’s constituent Republic of Karelia.