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Russian dogsled Arctic expedition trapped in ice 90 km off Canadian island

May 17, 2013, 11:47 UTC+3

Since the start on April 6, the expedition has covered a distance of more than 700 kilometers across the Arctic Ocean’s drifting ice

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VLADIVOSTOK, May 17 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Arctic explorers Fyodor Konyukhov and Viktor Simonov, who are in middle of a dogsledding Arctic odyssey, have been trapped in ice some 90 kilometers off Canada’s coast. They cannot cross a giant over-one-kilometer-wide water opening stretching hundreds of kilometers from the west to the east.

Speaking over the phone with the Moscow-based headquarters late on May 16, Fyodor Konyukhov sounded quite optimistic. “Today we have many occasions to uncork a bottle of champagne - in the first half of the day we crossed latitude 84 North, then we passed a milestone point of 100 kilometers off the Canadian coast,” he then said.

“Viktor was going ahead exploring the way, while I was driving the sled. Then he stopped and stood for a long time straining his eyes. Well, I thought, it must be bears again. I reached the luggage and took out a rifle but saw Viktor waving his hands summoning me. I came up to him on top a three-meter high ice block. Viktor stretched out his arm at the horizon, where Canada’s northernmost island of Ellesmere was distinctly seen,” Konyukhov said.

The explorers covered 25 kilometers and stopped for rest some 90 kilometers off the island. But the news from the Canadian Ice Service was distressing: a giant ice hope was five kilometers ahead. “So far, we have no idea how to cross it,” Konyukhov said ending the communications session.

A day before, Konyukhov and Simonov decided to change their route and head for Canada’s island Ward Hunt, instead of their initial plans to reach Greenland’s coastline near Victoria Fjord, because of the difficult ice situation. There is a winter hut of the Danish polar patrol Sirius Patrol on the island, the coordinates of which are familiar to pilots of Iceland’s Norlandair air company. A Norlandair plane was to reach the expedition in Greenland to bring two sleds of dogs of the Greenland breed and to take Russian dogs the expedition used on its way from the North Pole. Instead, it will catch the two men from Ward Hunt to take them to Greenland’s northern coast, from where they will begin stage two of the expedition to cross Greenland from North to South.

Since the start on April 6, the expedition has covered a distance of more than 700 kilometers across the Arctic Ocean’s drifting ice.

The two Russian explorers have ventured 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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