Alexander Voronov and Viktor Simonov
The first stage of the unique expedition Karelia – Northpole – Greenland is over. The Russian expedition including Fedor Konyukhov and Viktor Simonov planned to cover the most extensive route in the Arctic – from the North Pole to the coast of Canada and then through Greenland from north to south travelling by dog sleds. This route is more than 4,000 kilometers long.
Alexander Voronov, Minister of Youth Affairs, Physical Training, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Karelia, and the expedition participant Viktor Simonov have told about results of the first stage of the expedition at the briefing in the Government of the republic on June 10. Long acclimatization has kept the second participant of Arctic transition Fedor Konyukhov from taking part in the meeting with journalists.
– A great many people said that this route is not possible to pass, – Alexander Voronov observed during the conversation. – However, Fedor Konyukhov and Viktor Simonov have knocked the bottom out of this opinion. For the first time in the world they have reached the coast of Canada through the North Pole by dog sled.
Viktor Simonov speaks
The expedition was launched in Karelia, in the settlement of Matrosy, Pryazha region, and then on April 6 at the support of the Arctic camp Barneo the travellers have reached the North Pole. The start of the expedition was timed to the meeting of members of the Arctic Council in the North Pole. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has given the expedition his blessing before the start, and the travellers have established orthodox crosses along their route.
In 46 days Fedor Konyukhov and Viktor Simonov using sled dogs raised and trained in Karelia have coved the distance of more than 900 kilometers over the drifting ice of the Arctic. The most complicated first stage of the expedition along the route which had subjugated to no one before ended well. On May 23 the expedition has successfully departured from the coast of Canada.
Brave travellers did not manage to move further along the planned route, the nature has made corrective amendments to their plans. Significant warming that causes universal melting of ice is observed in recent years in the Arctic. A powerful four-day hurricane which the expedition has encountered at the very beginning and which has given trouble to researchers of the Russian Arctic drifting station North Pole – 40 has disrupted polar ice. Our heroes had to move overcoming open water, cracks of ice, impassable snow and five-meter hummocks from which the dog-drawn sled dropped downwards. Already on the first day of the expedition the sled with Fedor Konyukhov went under, but Karelian dogs have pulled it out back on the ice.
The flag that had subjugated the expansion of the Arctic
– It was a very difficult journey. Only once during the entire expedition we were able to afford some rest, – Viktor Simonov has told. – Summer at the pole has begun a month earlier – weather forecasters did not predict it. Ice conditions at the pole has changed very much, the ice became much thinner, there have appeared many cracks and hummocks. For us it was a holiday when within one day we have managed to cover the distance of 29 kilometers, having run into only one crack.
The polar bear that pursued the expedition has given a lot of trouble.
– We have found the trail of the bear when came to a big ice-hole and started to bypass it. It has crawled up to us on the leeward on so that dogs could not get wind of it, and as our speed was low, the bear yawning and licking lips steered a parallel course approximately twenty meters from us all the day long. We were keeping it off, but it continued to chase us till the evening. We have pitched our camp for the night to stay surrounded by our dogs, and scared the bear as much as we could, and then it has gone away, – Viktor Simonov continued.
At the end of the expedition when the travellers were just one kilometer away from the coast of Greenland and could see the mountains nearshore, a wide crack has blocked their way. As a result they had to change the route and to land in territory of Canada.
– The ice was floating in the main at high speed, and all we could reach was a small island 250 kilometers wide. We went where it was possible to go. If we had continued moving along the planned route, our ice floe would have taken the open sea, – Viktor Simonov concluded the story. – Quite symbolical was that the place where we have landed was Cape Columbia, where Robert Peary who was the first to reach the North Pole by dog sled started his Arctic expedition in 1909.
Fedor Konyukhov and Viktor Simonov plan to continue the expedition next April. It will begin in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago where its first stage has ended, will pass on the Arctic coast and will conclude, as it was planned, in Greenland. Climbing the mountains of Greenland together with our dogs will become one of the most complicated sections of our route.
It is necessary to add, that for the first time in history of such expeditions Russian explorers of the North have not lost any dogs. All the dogs owned by Viktor Simonov are taken back home. During the expedition they have lost approximately 30 percent of their weight, and now just like people they need rehabilitation.
– Our dogs were pulling 500-kilogram sleds which we could not budge, and they had to pull them over the extremely rough surface. Each dog is every inch a hero, – Viktor Simonov has told.
– Success of the expedition positions Karelia as one of the mushing centers, – Alexander Voronov has noted. – In no small measure it will promote inclusion of this kind of sports in the program of the Olympic Games, and our republic has come forward with this initiative. Besides, it is supposed to sign the agreement on the future cooperation between Karelia and the Russian Geographical Society.
In conclusion of the briefing Alexander Voronov and Viktor Simonov have shown the journalists the flag of Karelia which the travellers had along in their journey.