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Home* News and Stories → North pole expedition of French Arktika terminated in Duvefjord

North pole expedition of French Arktika terminated in Duvefjord

A French north pole expedition was terminated by the Sysselmannen in Duvefjord on Nordaustland. The adventurers Gilles and Alexia Elkaim had planned a voyage similar to that of Fridtjof Nansen and his ship Fram in 1893-96 with their sailing boat Arktika. Their plan was to sail into the Northeast Passage and to let the boat freeze in the ice near the New Siberian Islands to then drift with the ice across the Arctic Ocean. A sledge journey to the pole itself was part of the plan of the expedition, which was scheduled to last for several years.

Now the expedition has come to a premature end in Spitsbergen. Bad weather, ice and engine problems had forced the Arktika to return to Nordaustland, after they had left already Kvitøya, heading further east. The ship was brought into Duvefjord on the north coast of Nordaustland to seek shelter from the weather. According to the expedition’s own blog, the situation was difficult at times due to the weather. Due to the late season and the need for further repairs, it was then decided to winter in Duvefjord.

Permission for a wintering had, however, not been obtained and such permissions are not issued on a short warning. Captain Elkaim applied for permission from the Sysselmannen on October 08. The result was a helicopter visit with officials who confiscated crew passports and papers. During the following days the Arktika was towed to Longyearbyen. Authorities state technical and legal reasons for this. The expedition members, however, write on their Facebook site that the situation in Duvefjord had been under control, that there was no necessity for being towed and that the strong winds made this operation actually rather dangerous. On the other hand, they thank the crew on Polarsyssel for their friendly and professional handling of the situation. At the same time, Norwegian authorities are accused, amongst others for cruelty to animals because the 7 expedition dogs have not been allowed on shore in Longyearbyen for 10 days, although the local vet has reported good health and vaccinations as needed. The expedition claims to have applied for permission to take dogs to Svalbard already in July without getting a reply from the authorities.

The legal situation and follow-up may keep lawyers on both sides busy for a while. Meanwhile, the expedition has come to an early and unintended end, be it preliminary or final.

The French boat Arktika does not have anything to do with the boats Arctica I and Arctica II from Longyearbyen.

The French expedition boat Arktika in Adventfjord, after towing by Polarsyssel. Image © Bjørn Franzen.

Arktika in Adventfjord

Sources: Webseite and Facebookseite of the Arktika-Expedition, The Independent Barents Observer.

last modification: 2016-10-26 · copyright: Rolf Stange