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Russian Arctic dogsled expedition reaches latitude 85 North on its way to Greenland

May 02, 2013, 2:39 UTC+3

Konyukhov and Simonov plan to cross the Arctic by mid-June

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MOSCOW, May 2 (Itar-Tass) - Famous Russian traveler Fyodor Konyukhov and his mate Viktor Simonov, who are in middle of a dogsledding odyssey from the North Pole to Greenland, have reached the latitude of 85 degrees North, Konyukhov told the expedition’s headquarters over the cellular phone on Wednesday.

“We haven’t covered a big distance over the day but we have overcome an important psychological landmark - we have crossed latitude 86 and reached latitude 85 North,” he said. “Latitude 86 was not an easy walk for us, it exhausted us to the hilt. We had been within it since April 24 and now we have come still closer to Greenland.”

On Wednesday, a Canadian plane reached the expedition and dropped casks with foods and fuels to replenish the supplies. Konyukhov said they had sorted out and re-packed the cargoes. He however noted that not everything went smoothly.

“When we opened all the casks, we saw that three metal four-liter tanks with fuel for the gasoline stove cracked,” he said. “These tanks are of Canadian manufacture, we use plastic fuel tanks. So, we have minus 12 liters of fuel. It is not a pleasing news but nonetheless it is not a tragedy - well, we will have to be more economical. We will use fuel only to cook meals and we will not use it to dry cloths and to warm ourselves. But as a matter of fact, it is growing warmer with every passing day. Thus, it was only minus 12 degree Celsius today. The Canadians have supplied us with a box of 12-caliber cartridges and a sound pistol to keep off bears.”

Konyukhov also said the expedition had to proceed in conditions of poor visibility for the entire day. “It was a luck that the cargoes were dropped yesterday,” he noted. “We keep on walking on thick snow. There are a lot of small cracks, so we had to go round and round to find a pass. A couple of times, we saw our own footprints. The dogs are working hard carrying the loaded sleds. They are not so strong they used to be at the start but they have gained experience. Plus, we have fed them quite substantially.”

According to satellite survey, ahead is a very difficult ice situation, with numerous crack and wide water openings, which are likely to slow down the expedition’s progress. So, it is not ruled out that another air drop of foods and fuels will be needed. Their current reserves are enough to last for three weeks. According to initial plans, the expedition is to reach Greenland by May 20.

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 proceeds in several stages. First the explorers reached the North Pole and then they will cross 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.

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