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1995: Pair pulls off polar adventure

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They were on top of the world - literally. Arctic adventurers Richard Weber and Mikhail Malakhov have accomplished a novel feat: skiing to the North Pole and back again unsupported. Without the help of sled dogs, snowmobiles or food drops, the Canadian engineer and Russian doctor travelled 1,500 kilometres across floating pack ice. After braving blizzards, temperatures of -60 C and a melting route back, Weber says his adventuring days are over in this clip from CBC Radio.
• Weber and Malakhov first attempted their adventure in 1992. Within 25 kilometres of finishing, they called it off due to shaky ice conditions.
• Richard Weber, who was 35 when he made his second Pole bid, was a mechanical engineer from Quebec and a former member of the Canadian National Cross-Country Ski Team.
• Mikhail Malakhov, who celebrated his 41st birthday during the journey, was a Russian surgeon and frostbite expert.

• The trip started on Feb. 13, 1995, from Ward Hunt Island, Canada's most northerly land mass. Weber and Malakhov, along with their supplies, were dropped there by plane after spending a month acclimatizing to arctic temperatures in Iqaluit.
• The pair spent their first two weeks ferrying provisions to a distant drop-off point in preparation for the return trip. Each man hauled two sleds with a combined weight of 120 kilograms. They then returned to their starting point.

• The men placed small bamboo flags along the way to mark the route. Without them, the shifting ice would have made it impossible for them to retrace their path on the way back.
• On May 12, 1995, Weber and Malakhov reached the North Pole. Their position was confirmed by activating a beacon that signaled an orbiting satellite. Their co-ordinates - 90 degrees north - were then beamed to Washington, D.C., and on to Ottawa.

• From there, it took just over a month to reach their starting point on June 15. The journey back was a race against time - warming temperatures were making the ice less trustworthy. For the last eight days, they told another CBC radio interviewer, they virtually didn't sleep.
• About 10 kilometres from the end of the journey, the duo ditched everything but their emergency equipment, arriving on Ward Hunt Island with only backpacks.

• In total, the pair began the trip with 230 kilograms each of equipment and supplies.
• Among the food supplies the men brought were: 47 kg of oats, milk powder, and macadamia nuts for porridge; 42 kg pemmican; 26 kg butter; 21 kg each smoked bacon, nuts, and chocolate; 14 kg each freeze-dried noodles and rice, and 6.3 kg freeze-dried cheese.
• They took three stoves, and each man had three sets of skis and poles.

• "The main reason [for the expedition] is that it hasn't been done before. Every expedition has used airplanes, either for a resupply along the way or to get picked up at the Pole. And in my mind, getting picked up at the Pole is like climbing Mount Everest and taking a helicopter off the top... For us, the return journey means we must be in shape for a four-month expedition, not a two-month expedition." - Richard Weber in Maclean's, Jan. 16, 1995

• "It is also very important to us that we are pushing forward the human experience... One day, somebody will use our experience to do jobs in the polar area, because civilization is moving everywhere. It is also important that Canadians and Russians are working together. Much of the world is still fighting, but we are getting results together." - Mikhail Malakhov in Maclean's, Jan. 16, 1995

Also on June 15:
1846: The United States and Great Britain sign the Oregon Boundary Treaty, declaring the 49th parallel to be the Canada-U.S. boundary from the crest of the Rockies to the middle of the channel between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
1987: North America's first pay-equity legislation is passed in Ontario. The new rules affect 1.7 million working women in the province.
1993: Alberta Premier Ralph Klein leads the Progressive Conservatives to their seventh consecutive provincial election victory.
Medium: Radio
Program: The Ten O'Clock News
Broadcast Date: June 15, 1995
Guest(s): Mikhail Malakhov, Richard Weber
Host: Laurie Stahlbrand
Reporter: Giles Penney
Duration: 1:48

Last updated: January 31, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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