Norwegians Become First to Ski to North Pole
OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Two Norwegian skiers have reached the North Pole, becoming the first people to make the icy trek without dogs, motorized vehicles or outside supplies, their colleagues reported Monday.
Erling Kagge, 28, and Boerge Ousland, 27, pulled their provisions on sleds, weighing up to 264 pounds, across 496 miles of Arctic ice after setting out from Canada’s Ward Hunt Island north of Greenland on March 8.
″We received a satellite transmission Sunday saying they made it,″ said Trond Skaare of the team’s communication center. The pair arrived at the North Pole late Friday or early Saturday, Skaare said.
At least 12 previous expeditions failed to reach the earth’s northernmost point without animals, snow vehicles or supplies delivered en route. None got further than 105 miles, the Norwegian news agency NTB said.
Ousland, a deep-sea diver, and Kagge, a law student, trekked for 58 days to beat British, South Korean and Soviet teams also racing for the pole, Skaare said in a telephone interview.
″They must have gone fantastically fast,″ said Ousland’s father, Odd, when he heard the news.
″It was a tremendous relief. There had been no radio contact since April 24,″ Ousland said. ″They could have run into polar bears or other problems, for all we knew.″
Britons Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 45, and Mike Stroud, 35, started from Siberia in early March. They were leading the race to reach the pole unaided when forced to turn back last week. It was Fiennes’ fourth unsuccessful attempt, according to newspaper reports. The South Koreans had 188 miles to go, despite airlifted supplies, reports said.
Kagge and Ousland crossed crevasses, rough ice and skirted patches of open water. They suffered minor frostbite in temperatures that plummeted to minus 67 but were reported in good condition.
Numerous expeditions have reached the North Pole since it was conquered by American Robert Peary in 1909, but all had outside help.
The $107,000 Norwegian expedition was funded mostly by the sale of 50 artworks created and donated by Norwegian painter Jakob Weidemann.
An airplane was to pick up Ousland and Kagge as soon as possible, probably Monday.
Geir Ramby, a third member of the Norwegian team who was injured and flown out 10 days after the trek began, said his teammates probably will celebrate with a hot shower when they reach Resolute Bay as early as Tuesday.
″After using and sweating in the same clothes for two months, they’re probably emitting a pretty powerful stink,″ he told the newspaper Verdens Gang.