Thursday, February 17, 2011

Explorers set to drive across North Pole from Russia to Canada

The arctic twilight from Resolute Bay, near the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, in Nunavut. File photo

The arctic twilight from Resolute Bay, near the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage, in Nunavut. File photo

Photograph by: Wayne Davidson, Photo Handout

Eight explorers, including two Canadians, are setting out this week from Russia on the first expedition to drive across the North Pole en route to Canada.
The 7,000-kilometre journey across the Arctic Ocean is the third leg in the Moscow-based Polar Ring Expedition, whose goal is to pay tribute to generations of Arctic explorers by forging a new route as a "unique bridge" between northern nations.
Serguei Fenev, the team's photographer and mechanic from Whitby, Ont., and Michael Glan, a Vancouverite who will helm radio communications and first aid, are to be joined by six other explorers — five Russians and a Belarusian — when the trek departs Salekhard, a town in northern Russia believed to be the only in the world situated on the Arctic Circle.
From Salekhard, the crew will drive specially-designed trucks to the northern tip of Komsomolets Island, known as the Arctic Cape, where it will begin to pilot its way due north across a 3,000-kilometre swath of floating ice surrounding the North Pole.
The team plans to reach the North Pole, where it plans to hold a news conference and to place a time capsule under the ice, with a message to future generations. It will then head south through Canada's Arctic islands, aiming to reach Resolute Bay, Nunavut, by early June.
The crew will film and photograph much of the potentially historic journey, but the crew members aim to do more than have their names enshrined alongside Barents, Bering and Hudson. Beyond attracting attention to the shrinking size of polar ice caps, the expedition will perform experiments on Arctic survival strategies, as well as test how well its vehicles, which can float on water, far on the unpredictable terrain of the ice caps.
Despite being comprised of and funded mostly by Russians, the team flies the flag of the United Nations.
"The route will become a unique bridge between the nations populating the Far North of our planet," the expedition's website explains. Beyond Canada and Russia, companies and institutions from the U.S., France, Belarus and Slovakia have all contributed resources to the expedition.
The trek originally had been planned for 2010, but the downturn in the world economy limited the amount of money and sponsorships the group could raise, so it was shelved until this year.
Beginning in 2014, the 25,000-kilometre journey to circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean will continue anew in Resolute Bay for the fourth leg, which will see the crew drive across the northern fringes of Canada and Alaska back to Pevek, Russia, where the expedition first started in 2002.

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