ARKTIKA: Transcontinental Polar Odissey
Gilles Elkaim has completed his 4-year expedition across the Russian Arctic.
Having left from Nord Cape in Norway on May 30, 2000, the French explorer Gilles Elkaim arrived to the Bering Strait on April 4, 2004, winning a crazy bet to connect the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans by a long solitary journey across the Eurasian continent, along the coast of the icy Arctic Ocean : 12 000 kilometers in the extreme cold and far away from all civilization, on foot, in kayak, on skis, and on a deer-driven and dog-driven sledge. This was the first expedition of this kind in the history of polar exploration implemented with the support of the European Space Agency.
From the Barents Sea to the Bering Sea, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, a man and his dogs have walked in the utmost cold and solitude, across the wildest space of the planet. Using the sole force of his physical and mental health Gilles Elkaim crossed this immense continent, totally absorbed by the polar environment, as fascinating as merciless, confronted day after day, month after month, by extremely violent conditions.
On April 4, 2004, the the explorer and his dogs gained Uelen, the most Eastern village of Russia near the Bering Strait, successfully completing the four years of exploration mission implemented with courage, passion, simplicity and often a sense of humour. The record made by Gilles Elkaim has been unanimously recognized by the most prominent scientific institutions of the world.
Since September 2001, after Gilles met Hans Kappler, D/IMT, at that time till June 2004, the exploration project enjoyed the support of ESA in the technical and budgetary aspects. During these three years the tests of coverage for various satellite communications systems (Globalstar, Iridium) were performed in the regions with difficult or limited access. Despite the extreme conditions, these systems allowed to assure the security of the expedition and regular dispatch of detailed reports with photoes by e-mail. The analysis of satellite-made maps and radar images in collaboration with the Nansen Institute of St-Petersburg facilitated the navigation and the routing for the explorer in the areas of unstable and dangerous ice. The sledge of the traveller experienced a serious damage during the passage of the yakut tundra, and the specialists of ESTEC specialising in structures and materials managed to remotely guide the repair using the locally available means.
Gilles Elkaim told the Moscow-based media about his outstanding expedition during a press event at the ESA Permanent Mission on May 20, 2004. The brave traveller has not disclosed yet the details of his future plans.