Two Norwegians Begin Four Month Ski Trek

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Oslo, Norway Feb. 16 (AP)--Two Norwegian adventurers set off Wednesday on what may be the world's worst ski trip, a four-month trek across the frozen Arctic Ocean from Russia to Canada.

Rune Gjeldnes and Torry Larsen, both 28, hope to be the first to ever make the 1,677 mile trek on foot with no outside assistance or resupply of any kind.

In the past decade, nine expeditions have tried and failed to set one of the last great polar records.

``They are in good moods and very glad to have gotten started,'' their spokesman Gunnar Vetlejord told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

The two men are both members of a Norwegian navy unit similar to the U.S. Navy's special forces, known as the Seals.

They are also veteran polar adventurers and were the first to ski the 1,863-mile length of Greenland without any outside help or supplies.

The men set off from Cape Arctchesky in northern Russia, with Russian soldiers firing their Kalashnikov automatic rifles into the air in a farewell salute, according to an Internet home page set up to follow the expedition.

The men are pulling about 270 pounds of food and other supplies on sleds for the planned trek from northwestern Russia, to the North Pole and on to Ward Island in northern Canada.

``The worst dangers of the expedition are the pack ice, the open ocean, polar bears, the extreme wind and of course the low temperatures,'' Larsen said before leaving Norway.

Temperatures can dip down to minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit. And since they are skiing across the frozen waters of the Arctic Ocean, they must reach the other side before the edges of the ice begin to break up in the spring.

Along the way, they will also conduct a series of medical and psychological experiments to help researchers.

Norwegians have set a string of polar records, starting with Roald Amundsen's conquest of the South Pole in 1911, when he beat Robert Scott of Britain in a race to be first. Scott and his team died on their way out.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press