February 9, 2011

Expedition Plans North Pole Crossing

A Russian-led expedition aims to make the first crossing from Russia's Arctic shore into Canada over the North Pole after a months-long voyage over precarious shifting ice flows.

The expedition will serve for some of the first tests of Russia's GLONASS satellite navigation technology, which is Moscow's attempt to challenge the dominant U.S. global positioning system (GPS).

Russia, the U.S., Norway, Greenland and Canada share territorial claims on the Arctic.  However, recent Russian moves have raised concerns that it is bent on boosting its stake over the pole's petroleum-rich sea bed.

"Russia is further ahead than anyone" in the exploration of the Arctic, expedition leader Vladimir Chukov told journalists in Moscow on Tuesday. "We're traveling a path which has never yet been taken in the Arctic."

He said the 5,000-mile voyage is expected to reach Canada by the end of May and finish by June 22.

Eight explorers will set out in two specially designed vehicles with over-inflated tires that allow for travel over the snowdrifts and dangerous Arctic ice cap, where above-freezing temperatures in the summer months can cause the ice to break up.

The group plans to observe polar bear populations at the pole and test for climate change and signs of global warming, and the results of which Chukov said the team would share later with scientists.

The Arctic test will be one of the first for the $2 billion GLONASS system, which Russia wants to make a central part of domestic consumer technology in cell phones and vehicles.

In 2007, Russia planted its flag in the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, showing its predominance in Arctic exploration.


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