The first purely Slovak walking expedition to the North Pole, led by the polar explorer Peter Valušiak, reached the place where every direction always shows south. With this two-week journey on the thin ice of Antarctica, a group of explorers recalled the legendary and historically first autonomous crossing from Russia to Canada through the North Pole, in 118 days, which Peter made ten years ago as a member of a Russian-Slovak expedition.
By foot to the Pole
The expedition lands in Spitzbergen where it changes over to a Russian Antonov, aiming for the Russian ice base of Barneo, which had been freshly built on a huge floating iceberg. The massive aircraft lands safely in a place that will melt away in two months. Russian logistics are incredible. Since 1997, it has been looked after by Viktor Bojarski, a legendary polar explorer, noted for crossing Antarctica on a dog-sled. He is a good friend of Peter Valušiak and now also the only contact that the Slovak team will have after a helicopter dumps them in the middle of nowhere, where they won't meet anyone else. That was a request of the Slovak quartet. Their plan is to reach the Pole by foot.
Ten years ago, Peter trod this way with his three Russian mates, the legendary polar explorers Vladimír Čukov, Ivan Kuželevský and Valerij Kochanov. With that expedition, they entered sports history. Crossing the Arctic, with its entire huge area, was an impossible dream. After an unsuccessful attempt, Reinhold Messner, a famous mountaineer, called it the greatest polar problem of the millennium. They reached the North Pole after 75 days, walking from Russia. They crossed more than 3,500 kilometres.
Problems only underfoot
Despite the monotonous trekking and plain country, every day was different. They walked eight hours a day. Their minds were purified. Everything far away suddenly became irrelevant. They only paid attention to the problems underfoot. They slept in transparent blue ice sheets, as if in a fish tank. They were only able to find dark behind their closed eyelids. On the twelfth day of the journey, they were as delighted as little kids. Their navigation device, unable to measure 90 degrees, read a latitude of 89 degrees, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. A quartet of Slovaks was only one centimetre from the pole. They stood on the Big Nail as the Eskimos call the imaginary point around which the Earth turns.
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