Students in a special class in Salt Lake City's Beacon Heights Elementary School are celebrating the arrival of an expedition of Canadian and Soviet adventurers who arrived at the North Pole this week.
The 40 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students are in teacher Coleen Menlove's extended learning class for talented and gifted youths. They have been listening to shortwave radio broadcasts telling about the progress of the 1,076-mile trans-polar ski expedition since it departed March 3 from Cape Arktichesky on Severnaya Zemlya Island in the Soviet Union.The adventurers, known as the Polar Bridge Expedition, are skiing and have traveled 620 miles on their journey. They are expected to arrive in Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island in Canada by June.
They want to become the first people to make the trip unaided by vehicles or dog sleds, the Beacon Heights students said.
The students have been aided in their science project by Stephen Peterson, an engineer and research scientist with Technical Research Associates. He is an amateur ham radio operator and has helped the students set up a listening station at the school tuned to the UO-11 amateur radio operators satellite, which broadcasts daily on the FM 145.825 MHZ frequency.
The satellite is one of several radio links between Soviet and Canadian scientists and the polar explorers.
According to radio transmissions the students have heard and the Reuter news agency, the four Canadian and seven Soviet skiers arrived at the geographic North Pole on Tuesday, but camped nearby to await the arrival of officials delayed by poor weather.
Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sent a congratulatory message to the explorers, who were expected to continue their journey Thursday.
According to news and radio reports the Salt Lakers have followed, Richard Weber, a mechanical engineer and Canadian co-leader of the group, believes the most dangerous part of the expedition lies in the next 400 miles.
"My biggest worry is open water and fog," he is reported as saying in a message relayed by amateur radio operators. "We have to go as fast as we can from now on."
Menlove said the explorers have tried a variety of equipment on their trek and tasted many kinds of food. "Peanut butter has turned out to be one of the better staples they have eaten," she said.
"The Russians had never before tasted peanut butter, but they liked it."
She said the skiers have had three air drops, all by Russian planes, and expect three more before they complete their journey.