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VLADIVOSTOK, April 22 (Itar-Tass) – The dogsled Arctic expedition led by famous Russian explorer Fyodor Konyukhov has been chased by a polar bear. Throughout Sunday, Konyukhov and his mate Viktor Simonov had to shoot in the air from time to time to shake off the pursuer. So far, it looks like the beast has let them alone but the two men are running short of munitions, Konyukhov said during the latest communications session with the Moscow-based headquarters.
“On Sunday, we failed to cover a distance we had planned. Two hours after the start, we came across a huge ice hole stretching southwards. We had no choice but to walk along it,” he said. A couple of times, he said, seals were showing up in the water, so an encounter with a polar bear was quite possible. An hour later, Simonov saw fresh pugmarks and then a bear appeared. “Feeling the scent of the beast, the dogs came dashing at it but we held them back - the bear could have torn them to shreds in a matter of minutes,” he said. “So we had to plunge into a pursuit race. A couple of shots in the air, the bear would step aside and we would go on moving. Over time, the beast would come closer from the leeward side not to be traced by the dogs. Several times it approached the sled as close as 100 meters. It would stand sniffing the air, yawning. The beast was pretty stubborn and, what is most troublesome, it wouldn’t fear us at all.”
As night was closing in, the two men pitched a tent and set the dogs on both sides of it, six on one side, and six - on the other. The explorers will tell how they spent the night during the next communications session late on Monday.
Anyway, the encounter with beast somewhat spoiled the expedition’s plans – it managed to cover a distance of 21 kilometers only. “We might have mastered a bigger distance but had to spend much time to scare away the polar bear,” Konyukhov said.
Konyukhov and Simonov, who set off for a 4,000-kilometer-long dogsled Arctic expedition on April 6, plan to cross the Arctic by mid-June at which point they will change their sled dogs of the Russian breed for two teams of dogs of Greenland’s breed, since local laws prohibit to bring animals to Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.
The expedition will proceed in several stages during which the explorers will 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, legendary Japanese explorer 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, a polar bear attack and bad weather he had to fly to Greenland from the North Pole by plane.
As of today, the expedition is yet to travel more than 600 kilometers before it reaches Greenland.