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Final search for missing North Pole woman

HELSINKI, March 18 (AFP) – Helicopters set out from northern Russia on Thursday in what rescuers admitted was a near-hopeless final hunt for Finnish-French adventurer Dominick Arduin, who went missing nearly two weeks ago during an attempt to become the first woman to ski alone to the North Pole.

“They took off early in the morning, but we have not heard back from them yet,” Christian de Marliave, of Paris-based firm Cerpolex that is organizing and paying for the search, told AFP.

After searching for Arduin most of last week in vain, he said that the possibility of finding her still alive were “close to zero”.

Thursday’s flights were the last scheduled search operation for Arduin, he said, and rescuers had taken a heat-detecting infrared camera, to scan the ice.

“It’s not impossible that she is alive however, and that’s why we will use the infrared camera, to make sure that we have done everything we could,” de Marliave.

An infrared camera can pick up the heat of a body over long distances, even if the person is covered by snow.

However, if a body has been dead for some time it would be frozen and have the same temperature as its surroundings, thereby making it difficult for the camera to detect it, he noted.

Arduin, an experienced Arctic adventurer, went missing on March 6, a day after she set out on the ice from Siberia on her second attempt to reach the North Pole alone on skis, a feat never accomplished by a woman.

A search for her was launched on the following Tuesday, but rescuers have found no trace of the 43-year-old except her first campsite and an old ski track.

With her Arduin has a satellite-positioning beacon, which should automatically give her position to her support team, but the last signal was received on the day after she set out, her Finnish support team said.

Arduin was also took two satellite phones, from which she was to call in her position and condition every night, but only did so on the evening of March 5, the day she set out on her 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) journey to the North Pole.

According to Arctic adventurers who have taken the same route as Arduin earlier, the most dangerous part is the two-month trek’s first leg, which would have taken her close to land where strong sea currents and wind break up the ice.

“Here the ice is shifting and drifting all the time, pushing against the coast. As a result there is a lot of bad ice and open water, and a lot of sad stuff can happen,” said Torry Larsen, part of a Norwegian expedition which in 2000 became the first to ski from Russia to Canada via the North Pole unaided.

Last year Arduin had to give up her first bid to become the first woman to reach the North Pole alone after she suffered frostbite from falling into freezing water, leading to the amputation of all of her toes.

For the last 15 years she has been living in northern Finland, where she runs an Arctic adventures firm for tourists.

According to her Finnish support team, Arduin is unmarried and has no children.


                                                              Subject: France news