(By Correne Coetzer) Two specially designed amphibious off-road vehicles, two drivers and six men on foot armed with crow bars; ready to take on the pressure ridges and leads of the Arctic Sea. Russian leader Vladimir Chukov and his team aim for a 3000 km (not as the crow flies) North Pole crossing from Sredniy Island of the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago to Canadas Ward Hunt Island and then Resolute Bay.
Driving on the Arctic Ice is most of the time a challenge. The driver will be the only one remaining in the vehicle with two team members at the sides and one in front, equipped with heavy crow bars.
The vehicles and equipment will be loaded on an Antanov-74 plane in Moscow on February 17 and are scheduled to fly to Sredny Island of the Russian Severnaya Zemlya archipelago. There the team will start to assemble all the gear, which will take 5-6 days.
Eight men will set out in two vehicles. According to Chukov all of the vehicles are four-wheel drive amphibious off-roaders.
We have designed, created and tested five experimental models. Each model has its own peculiarities. To adapt our vehicles to drifting ice conditions, we used new ideas. We dont purchase those vehicles or order then anywhere. We have our own designer team, who do everything from scratch, make all necessary calculations, and then we have some parts manufactured at plants and do all assembly work ourselves, Chukov told reporters in Moscow.
Their route will not take them directly to the North Pole. They will drive eastwards in order to cross firm years-old ice floes coming from the Laptev Sea. The team will make a stop-over at the drifting Barneo Ice Station north of Spitsbergen; the base camp for Last Degree skiers and pick-up base for the skiers from land (Canada) to the North Pole.
At Barneo they will spend a few days servicing the vehicles and refueling. From there they will head for the North Pole, a distance of approximately 100 km. From the North Pole they will drive to Canadas Ward Hunt Island and then Resolute Bay. The team expects to reach Canada by the end of May.
The route is part of the Polar Ring project which follows the continental coastline circling the Arctic Ocean as part of science projects and polar adventure. The first stage was completed in 2002. This is the third stage, and the last one is scheduled for 2014.
During this third stage the team will cover 8000 km, including 3000 km on the drifting sea ice. According to their schedule, this stage should be completed by June 2011.
Diving on Arctic Ice
The Russian Geographical Society gives the following description of how the all-terrain vehicles and their crew will operate on the Arctic sea ice. In reality its only possible if the ice is sufficiently strong, with very few cracks.
In perfect conditions an Arctic all-terrain with ultralow-pressure tires goes at 30 kilometers per hour. But perfect conditions dont happen very often. Normally, you travel in the Arctic in a quite different way.
Just the driver remains in the all-terrain; two other crew members walk next to the vehicle on the left and on the right, while the fourth person walks in front of it. Youve got to move fast; each crew member carries a heavy crowbar to lever the vehicle out in case it gets into a crack, and to crush ice hummocks which get in the way. Each all-terrain tows several trailers behind it; such a train can be up to 15 meters long.
According to the RGS the team will collect samples of water, snow and ice for the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and gather information about the polar bear population for the Wrangel Island Nature Reserve.
Also in the program is testing expeditionary hardware and equipment, in particular testing the Russian GLONASS navigation system in the Arctic conditions.
Halfway along the route, the team will meet participants of the World Capsule international initiative. The team members will sink a special capsule to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, containing an electronic data storage medium with information for our descendants, future people of the Earth. The capsule will have a special system which will allow researchers to discover it and bring it back to the surface many years later; according to some reports it will surface only in a hundred years.
In 2000 Torry Larsen and Rune Gjeldnes (both Norway) completed the only unassisted, unsupported (no resupplies, no kites/vehicles/dogs North Pole crossing ski expedition to date. They started February 16 from Cape Arktichesky, passed the North Pole and finished 74 days later at Cape Discovery (Canada). The distance, in a straight line, was 1725 km.
Check here for all the land to land North Pole traverses.
Regarding motorized expeditions, in the 2009 Arctic season VICAAR reported to ExplorersWeb, A team of Russian motorists on two specially designed cars, equipped with low pressure tires, for the first time in history could reach the North Pole [90Â°N] from Cape Arktichesky.
During the past 2010-11 Antarctic polar season several motorized expeditions reached the South Pole; Mr. Park and his team were on green skidoos, the Moon-Regan team with their Bio-Inspired Ice Vehicle and two support cars drove beyond and the Pole and back to Union Glacier, and the Arctic Trucks made three return journeys from Novolazarevskaya to the South Pole and back.
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