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Snow storms halt hunt for North Pole solo woman

HELSINKI, March 10 (AFP) – Bad weather on Wednesday prevented rescue helicopters from resuming a search for Finnish-French adventurer Dominick Arduin, who went missing while trying to become the first woman to ski solo to the North Pole, her support team said.

“The helicopters are on standby due to the bad weather. They are not flying because of low visibility due to wind and snowdrift,” Bernard Buigues, who is providing support and logistics services to Arduin’s expedition, told AFP.

His French-based firm, Circumpolar Expedition (Cerpolex), is also coordinating the search for Arduin from its base in Russian Siberia.

“We have a good weather forecast for tomorrow and we hope that we can search for her with two helicopters then,” he added.

Arduin, 43, set out from Northern Russia on Friday in her second attempt to become the first woman to reach the North Pole on skis.

A search for Arduin was started on Tuesday since no signal had been heard from her since Saturday evening, when her satellite beacon – pinpointing her exact position to her support team – gave her last location.

At that point, she had advanced 25 kilometres (15 miles) by skis from her starting point on relatively flat ice, Buigues added.

It was originally believed that Arduin had to use a kayak from her jump-off point before she could reach firm ice and start skiing but Buigues said on Wednesday that a patch of open water had frozen over and that she had been able to find a safe passage across;

Arduin has both a dry suit and a kayak with her for crossing open water passages during the first phase of her expedition and her sledge also doubles as a canoe, he pointed out.

In addition to the beacon, Arduin also has a satellite phone with her, which she is supposed to use every night to call in her position and status.

Buigues said Arduin could very well be safe but experiencing a breakdown of her communications system, noting that several other nearby expeditions had also run into communication problems in recent days.

“We have experienced that people have had problems with communications for 10 or 15 days and when we finally found them everything was very well,” he said.

The support team had to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, he said.

“The pity is that we have to proceed from the worst point of view but it is not necessary to be pessimistic at this time,” Buigues stressed.

According to her original plan, Arduin is scheduled to be re-supplied by aircraft on March 17, the first of two such deliveries during the 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) trek to the North Pole, which is expected to take two months.

Arduin was born in France but has been living for the past 15 years in Finland, where she runs an Arctic adventure company for tourists.

She is an experienced adventurer, known for her endurance as well as her skiing, kayaking and mountain biking abilities, Buigues said.

“She is quite well prepared for this expedition and she has both considerable training and experience for this,” he said.

A year ago Arduin had to abandon her first bid to reach the North Pole after she fell into freezing water and suffered frostbite to her feet, which forced her to have all her toes amputated.


                                                              Subject: France news