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Kites to power Belgian Antarctic record attempt

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 18 Oct 2011 15:02 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Belgian duo set out for 6,000 km trip across Antarctica

* Route to cross unchartered territory

* Kites to allow for daily distances of up to 300 km

By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUSSELS, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Two Belgian explorers will attempt to set a world record for the longest ever polar expedition without the outside support or motorised aid, travelling over 6,000 km (3,728 miles) in 100 days across Antarctica.

Veteran adventurer Dixie Dansercoer, who crossed the southern continent in 1997, and 26-year-old Sam Deltour aim to take advantage of the specific wind patterns around the continent to cover large distances using kites to help sail their heavy sleds across the ice and snow.

This will allow them to travel up to 300 km in a day and an average of 60 km, to break the current world record of Norwegian Rune Gjeldnes who trekked 4,800 kilometres in 90 days five years ago.

"It would be impossible if we had to pull the sleds all by ourselves," Dansercoer, who will start his expedition on Nov 4, explained at a news conference on Tuesday.

Their route will take them in a loop from the Russian Novolazarevskaya research station to the South Pole before returning across yet unchartered territory between the Vostok research station and the Shackleton ice shelf.

The pair will each have a sled initially weighing 190 kg (420 pounds), which will contain food supplies, tents, kites and scientific equipment.

During their trip they will measure wind patterns and supply information about the quality of the ice they encounter to scientists studying climate change back in Belgium.

As they will have no new supplies from outside, the largest part of their luggage consists of frozen food rations to provide each of them with the crucial 5,000 calories needed each day to undertake such a physically challenging trip.

For Deltour, being a polar explorer became his dream after he discovered a book about the first polar expeditions in his local library as a 12-year-old. He said he was aware that exploration was no easy task.

"The human species wasn't designed for Antarctica," Deltour said. "You have to trust your instincts."

Dansercoer and Deltour plan to reach the South Pole around Dec 14, 100 years to the day after Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first to set foot there.

Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1911 and was also part of the first expedition to Antarctica in winter in 1897 on a ship called "Belgica". (Reporting By Robert-Jan Bartunek, editing by Paul Casciato)

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