Four hearty hikers plan record-setting North Pole trek
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Throughout the planning McGuire has been consulting closely with Ralph Plaisted, the Minnesotan who on his second try completed the first snowmobile expedition to the pole, in 1968. He holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first person verified as having reached the pole. For a fee, a US Air Force weather reconnaissance plane confirmed Mr. Plaisted's position at 90 degrees north.Skip to next paragraph
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Plaisted admits he's had a lot of calls since then from would-be polar explorers. He once advised a caller to try hauling 500 pounds of cement blocks on a sled over a sandy beach if he wanted to get a feel for what it was like to pull equipment across the ocean ice. But he says he soon realized in talking with McGuire that he was both serious and sensible in his plan of action. ``I told him if he did his homework and went up and spent some time on the [Arctic] ice, that he could probably do it,'' Plaisted recalls.
In addition to serving as the expedition's official Arctic adviser, Plaisted, along with alternate team member Andy Miller of Colorado, will monitor the daily progress of the team from the group's base camp in the Eskimo village of Resolute, on Canada's Cornwallis Island.
The two parties can keep in touch directly by two-way radio. And the base camp can also receive information from satellites that pass over the pole every 101 minutes. By turning on a transmitter for two hours every night when they set up camp, the hikers signal their location to one of the satellites. A thumbwheel on the transmitter and a coded number system would enable the expedition to send an emergency message if its radio went out and a need arose. The satellites will also be used to verify that the McGuire team has reached its goal, just as they did in 1978 for Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura, who with a dog team was the first to make it to the pole on a solo expedition.
McGuire says his parents as well as his fianc'ee, a Nebraska social-studies teacher whom he will marry next summer, have been ``100 percent supportive'' of his plan, despite a number of low periods in fund raising, when he thought he might have to give it all up.
He concedes that the prospect of setting a pole record in 1985 has made it far easier to interest others in supporting the expedition. But he says that for him, the reward lies more in the thought that natural science may be advanced by the data the group collects, as well as in the adventure of it all. (McGuire is a former Eagle Scout with a love of scuba and sky diving.)
Pushing and testing one's own capabilities, he says, helps a person not only to know himself better but also to develop a sense of inner strength. ``I like to collect experiences the way other people like to collect coins and stamps,'' he says.
It was that same zest for learning that led McGuire to one of his most potentially dangerous adventures in the Arctic, two years ago. He was staying unarmed and alone at a bush-pilot shelter at Lake Hazen and decided to take the camp's snowmobile to a mountain 25 miles away. After his climb to the summit, he came upon a herd of snoozing musk ox, which immediately stood up protectively. He photographed them and returned to the snowmobile, feeling very pleased with his day. Within minutes, however, two Arctic wolves were close on the heels of his machine and chased him all the way back to camp. He hit the kill switch on the snowmobile and jumped inside the shelter with his legs still shaking, he says. The wolves appeared immediately at the hut's plastic window. Man and beast watched each other closely for the next three days.
``I don't honestly know what would have happened,'' says McGuire, who had seen the movie ``Never Cry Wolf'' and read the book. ``I think now the wolves were probably more curious than anything else. They may have been more intrigued by the movement of the machine than interested in attacking me . . . but it was definitely an experience.'' Map: Highlights in North Pole exploration
April 21, 1908: Dr. Frederick Albert Cook (US) and two Eskimo team members reached pole by sled (unconfirmed and widely disputed).
April 6, 1909: Comdr. (later Rear Adm.) Robert Edwin Peary and four Eskimos, traveling by sled, established Camp Jessup in vicinity of the pole (unconfirmed).
May 9, 1926: Robert E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett flew over the pole (unconfirmed).
Aug. 3, 1958: US submarine Nautilus, under Comdr. William R. Anderson, completed first pole crossing beneath the Arctic ice.
April 19, 1968: Ralph Plaisted (US) and three companions arrived at pole after a 42-day trip in snowmobiles. Confirmed by US weather reconnaissance aircraft.
Aug. 16, 1977: Soviet nuclear icebreaker Arktika became the first surface ship to break through the Arctic ice pack to reach the pole.
May 1, 1978: Naomi Uemura (Japan), traveling on sled drawn by 17 huskies, made the first solo trip to the pole.
April 11, 1982: Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Charles Burton (Britain) became the first to circle the Earth pole to pole, reaching the North Pole after a three-year journey.