Last update: Jan. 19, 1998

Expedition Program "POLAR EXTREMUM"
Transpolar Arctic Autonomous Ski Expedition
Russia - North Pole - Canada


   The main goal for this Program is to cross both the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica, from one coast to another, by skiing in an absolutely autonomous manner without using any transport resources or air support. This would be a "super mission" which, as of now, has never been successfully attempted. The successful completion of such treks by a single team would be a logical conclusion for polar exploration in the 20th century. Only Norvegian Borge Ousland managed to cross the Antarctica by ski unsupported in the season of 1996-1997. During his expedition, explorer used a paraplan which servred as a sail.
   Members of the Expedition Center "ARCTICA" (Russia) and the Expedition Society "EXTREM" (Slovakia) have set exactly such a hard and daring task! They have reached the North Pole two or three times and have vast experience of autonomous ski trips on drifting ice.
   The first stage of the "Polar Extremum" Program is to autonomously cross the North Pole from Russia to Canada.
   Travelers on this stage will be crossing the the Arctic drifting ice on the following route: Arctichesky Cape (Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago) - North Pole - Ward Hunt Island (Canadian Archipelago).
   The second stage of the "Extrumum" Program is to autonomously cross Antarctica from the Weddell Sea -- via the South Pole -- to the Ross Sea.

Historical overview

   Generations of polar explorers have fearlessly strived to reach the North Pole... In 1909, American Admiral Robert Peary, who devoted 25 years of his life trying to reach the Pole, made a sensational report after he finally reached his goal. Though there has been some controversy concerning his "discovery" of the Pole, many others have followed in his footsteps trying to reach the point on the earth where all meridians intersect.
   A wide variety of transportation means have been used by travelers to reach the Pole point. including not only dog-sleds but also ice-breaking ships, airplanes, snowmobiles and even motorcycles. All of these expeditions had a solid support of multiple auxiliary groups that arranged food stocks for the expedition trek or provided air resupplies of all necessary equipment, food, fuel and so on.
   Attempts to avoid such resupplies and reach the Pole point autonomously were first initiated in the late '80s and early '90s by travelers from England, Russia and Norway. However,most of the experienced polar explorers failed.
   Englishmen Ranulph Fiennes and Mike Stroud tried four times to reach the Pole point unsupported, starting their ski tracks from Canadian and Russian coasts, but without success.
   The Russian ski team "ARCTICA", under the leadership of Vladimir Chukov, trekked from the Siberian coast to the North Pole three times, in 1989, 1990 and 1994. However, only in 1994, did the team, consisting from eight explorers, reach the Pole point absolutely autonomously, i.e., without any support or evacuations. This last point is critical because during the first and second Pole expeditions of "ARCTICA" there were aviation evacuations of sick explorers. In 1989 there were two and in 1990 -- one aviation landing. So, these expeditions could not be considered absolutely autonomous.
   The Norway Polar expedition organized by Borge Ousland (1990) and the Canadian-Russian expedition organized by Richard Weber and Mikhail Malakhov (1992) also wanted to make unsupported trips to the Pole. Both teams consisted of three explorers from the start but both teams had to evacuate one explorer in route. So, only two skiers in both cases finally reached the Pole.
   Four years later, in 1994, when the "ARCTICA" team was on route to the North Pole, Borge Ousland autonomously reached the Pole point, thereby becoming the first man to successfully do so solo.
   1994 brought about two significant achievements in polar travels. The world got to know the names of the people who were able to reach North Pole in extremely difficult conditions using only their own physical and psychological resources. They were the Norwegian solo-explorer Borge Ousland and the Russian ski team "ARCTICA" under the leadership of Vladimr Chukov: Ivan Kuzhelivsky, Boris Malishev, Viktor Russky, Vasily Rizhkov, Valery Tayakin, Viktor Sharnin and Ivan Yalin.
   After 1994, the problem of unsupported Polar round-trip became the next goal. In 1995, Richard Weber and Mikhail Malakhov, taking into account their experience of a 1992 expedition, undertook another attempt. They spent more than four months in the Arctic and covered about 2000 km. They successfully completed the first autonomous round-trip to the Pole and back to their starting point -- Ward Hunt Island. That expedition is considered to be another big leap in the history of polar trips.
 The only significant high-latitude route that has not been autonomously covered remains the trek from Siberia to Canada over the North Pole point. That 2500-3000-km trip on the Arctic Ocean of more than 4 months will demand the maximum concentration of all physical and spiritual resources, and exceptional polar experience.
   Once, in 1988, a Soviet-Canadian ski expedition covered that trek, however the group had frequent aviation support.
   The Japanese traveler Mitsuro Ohbo tried to reach the North Pole several times autonomously. Three times, in 1994, 1995 and 1996, he started his route from Arktichesky cape, but fortune did not favor his persistence. All three times he had to stop before reaching the North Pole. This year, Mitsuro Ohbo will attempt to go from the Cape to Canada over the Pole again...
   Attempts of other polar explorers who tried the same Siberia-Pole-Canada route in 1994 and 1995 broke down almost from the beginning.
   Thus, the most experienced polar explorers are presently attmepting to do the Siberia-Pole-Canada route. Who will be the first to accomplish this goal by the XX century?
   In February 1998, "ARCTICA" ski team will begin its transpolar unsupported route again!

Major events in the history of North Pole ski expeditions (no dogs or vehichles)

Purposes of the February Arctica Expedition

1. To realize the first ski expedition from Siberia to Canada over the North Pole point using only human resources and without any support (ie. no dogs, moto-sleds, or aviation resupplies).

2. To carry out a set of medical and psychological investigations for the development of theoretical and practical knowledge related to human survival in extreme environmental conditions. These investigations are being conducted by the Human Survival Problem Institute and the Institute of Aviation and Space Medicine (Russia).

3. To carry out a set of scientific observations according to the scientific program "Ecology of the Planet" developed by Moscow State University and the Institute of Earth Geography (with UNESCO program framework).

4. To test new communication capabilities, such as message relaying and telephone satellite link between the ski route team, base camp (Severnaya Zemlya Arch.) and Moscow.

5. To make a movie and write a book about this historic trip, its organizers and participants, about sponsors and individuals who supported the Expedition and contributed to it.

6. To organize a significant advertisement and information campaign for sponsors, including the stay at the temporary drifting ice camp on the North Pole.

General plan of preparation and carrying out of the Expedition

Designing, making and buying of equipment Oct. 1996 - Feb. 1997; May 1997 - Sept. 1997
Equipment development Apr. 1997 - June 1997
Development and preparation of food rations Oct. 1996 - Feb. 1997; Oct. 1997 - Nov. 1997
Building a radio communication structure Jan. 1997 - Jan. 1998
Arctic training and equipment tests March 1997 - May 1997
Formation of expedition staff and polar ski team June 1997 - Sept. 1997
The end of the preparation period Nov. 1997 - Dec. 1997
Transpolar ski expedition Feb. 1998 - June 1998

Organization of the Expedition

   In February 1998 an "ARCTICA" ski route team of five explorers and a radio support team of two members will fly to Sredny Island in the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago. The Base Camp and radio station will be set up and final training will be carried out.

The day plan for the ski team:

6.00 Wake up.
8.00 Start of trekking.
13.00 - 15.00 Lunch and rest.
20.30 End of trekking.
21.30 Radio contact with Base Camp.
23.00 Turn in.

   On February 15, a ski route team will fly to the most northern point of the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago -- the Arktichesky Cape (81 grad 19 min N, 95 grad 47 min W)-- and the Expedition will start. In the beginning, each explorer will carry about 200 kg in his rucksack and sleds. This is the food, munitions and fuel for a four-month trip.
   The initial stage, the first 200-250 km, will be the most difficult for the skiers. Here they will meet the hardest ice conditions: open water, huge, impassable walls of ice, continuous ice movements that threaten to swallow up a tent and sleds with munitions and food. In the beginning,skiers will undergo maximum physical loads and suffer from the lack of light. White bear attacks are also probable here. In February and March, the temperature can drop down to minus 50 grad C with a high humidity and winds can reach up to 20-25 m/s.
   The group will need about 70-75 days to reach the North Pole and to start the move to the Canadian coast. They expect to spend 40-45 days walking from the Pole to the Canadian Archipelago and to finish on Ward Hunt Island in the middle of June.
   The explorers will use equipment which is designed on the basis of their long-term Arctic experience and made in factories of Russia, Germany and Slovakia.
   Food rations include high-calorie products enriched by lipids. Most products are dehydrated and a one-day food ration for one explorer weighs about 1000 g.
   The satellite Global Position System (GPS) receiver will be used for location determination and travelers will carry a buoy of the International satellite life-search system KOSPAS- SARSAT.


Sleeping cape
PVC rug
Set of warm clothes
Set of traveling clothes
Set of wind-proof clothes
Benzene stoves
Autoclave and cooking set
Steel thermos
"Beskid" wooden ski
Rucksacks (90 l)
Navigation receiver GPS
Radio communication set
Movie, video and photo equipment
Scientific equipment
First-aid kit

Expedition organizers and participants

   The "Polar Extremum" Expedition program is mainly carried out by the Expedition Center "ARCTICA", which belongs to the Russian Geographical Society, with participation of the Expedition Society "EXTREM" (Slovakia). The Expedition is supported and assisted by the Russian Ministry of Extraordinary Situations, the State Committee of Physical Culture and Sports, the Russian Geographical Society and Association of Polar Explorers (Russia).
   The Expedition program comes under the patronage of two people: Arthur Chillingarov, the Deputy Chief of Duma of the Russian Federation, President of the Russian Polar Explorers' Association, and President of the Russia-Canada Friendship Society, and Yuri Senkevich, a well-known Russian traveler and a leader of the popular TV program "Klub Puteshestvennikov" ("Traveler's Club") .
   The Expedition project is also supported by the "Explorers' Club" (USA) and the travellers Thor Heyerdal (Norway) and Sir Edmund Hillary (New Zealand).
   The Head of the Expedition program is Vladimir Chukov: the President of the Expedition Center "ARCTICA", fellow of the Russian Geographical Society, a member of "Traveller's' Club" (USA), and the leader of three successful polar ski expeditions of 1989, 1990 and 1994.


The ski team will consist of five members:

Vladimir Chukov Russia, Moscow leader of the expedition
Ivan Kuzhelivsky Russia, Tomsk cameraman
Peter Valushiyak Slovakia, Bratislava photo operator
Vasily Kokhanov Russia, Krasnoyarsk physician
Sergei Gordienko Ukraine, Dnepropetrovsk technical specialist


Contact information

We would like to hear your comments, suggestions and questions. You can reach us by:

  • Mail:
Expedition Center "ARCTICA" P.O.Box 40, Moscow 117246, Russia
  • Tel:
+7 (095) 1226154
  • Fax:
+7 (095) 1226154
  • E-mail:,
  • WWW:

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