Fears grow for vanished North Pole ski woman
HELSINKI, March 11 (AFP) - Two helicopters searched the Arctic in vain on Thursday for Finnish-French adventurer Dominick Arduin, who went missing more than five days ago during her bid to become the first woman to ski alone to the North Pole.
“The helicopters are back, and they have found absolutely nothing. But it’s better news than finding Dominick dead or part of her equipment,” Bernard Buigues, who is coordinating the search operation, told AFP.
“But it doesn’t look good,” he added.
Buigues, whose firm provides logistics services to her expedition, said there was a possibility that Arduin, 43, may be safe and merely experiencing a breakdown of her communication system.
Arduin set out from northern Russia last Friday in her second attempt to become the first woman to reach the North Pole alone on skis.
The last signal was received from her the following day, when her satellite positioning beacon showed she had made it 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of her original starting point.
Arduin is also carrying two handheld satellite phones – one of which is for backup purposes only – from which she was to call in her position and condition every night, Buigues said.
She last contacted people on Friday evening, when she made three calls using both phones, which she should not have done if her primary phone was working properly, Buigues noted.
Torry Larsen, part of a Norwegian expedition that in 2000 was the first to ski from Russia to Canada via the North Pole unsupported and which used the same route as Arduin, said her communication systems were susceptible to breakdowns.
“The satellite beacon is an unsure system, and one of its biggest weaknesses is that the person using it cannot actually see if it’s working or not,” he said.
“So Arduin could be skiing towards the North Pole, happily unaware that people are actually looking for her.”
Even though Arduin has two satellite phones, coverage is at best spotty so far north. In addition, it does not take much to render them useless in temperatures constantly below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit), he noted.
“The satellite phones are even more vulnerable, as they are not built for Arctic expeditions at all. It’s a very weak communications tool.”
Buigues, whose French-based firm Circumpolar Expeditions is heading up search efforts, said it was possible that Arduin could be experiencing a massive breakdown of communications, but said he thought that this was doubtful.
“One can be an optimist and believe that she knows that the telephones do not work, but she is still thinking the beacon is working, and she is going very fast and she is farther north than we expect,” Buigues noted.
“But I am a little bit sceptical about this, because we have had good connections with other expeditions in the area,” he said.
The search team had made a good estimate of where she could be by analysing ice drift and wind, as well as taking into calculation the positions and advancement of nearby expeditions, Buigues noted.
He said he hoped helicopters could continue the search for her on Friday.
Subject: France news