Snowkiting polar explorers make history in Greenland

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Snowkiting expedition in Greenland saw a wave of clouds move in. Photo from the Polar Circles’ Facebook page

Two polar explorers made history on Tuesday by becoming the first to circumnavigate the Greenland ice sheet by snowkiting.

Dixie Dansercoer of Belgium and Eric McNair-Landry of Canada completed the 2,513.4-mile Greenland ICE Expedition in 55 days.

The pair reached their starting coordinates at 11:35 on Tuesday night, then went on to Greenspeed Ridge from where a helicopter picked them up on Friday.

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Snowkiting polar explorers circumnavigating Greenland. Photo from Polar Circles’ Facebook page

"Pioneering new routes requires the spirit of an audacious dreamer," Dansercoer said. "Carrying out the project to the very end imposes on-edge performance, every day, all day. I believe that we did both."

The polar explorers originally prepared for an 80-day expedition over 3,107 miles to achieve their goal. But "working with weather and terrain impositions, strategic adaptations were made to guarantee the circumnavigation, shortening the traveling distance and time," the expedition reported.

"Fifty-six days and [more than 2,500 miles] later we end where it began, at the foot of this vast icecap where glaciers stream through towering rock spires out to the sea," McNair-Landry said Wednesday. "As sore muscles rest, reflections of a mission well-accomplished cement themselves into memory."

Part of that memory includes surpassing the current longest Arctic unsupported snowkiting expedition of 1,938.67 miles in 67 days by Canadians Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, who set a Guinness World Record in 2009.

On Day 47, Dansercoer and McNair-Landry reached 1,967.5 miles and celebrated with a selfie displaying their national flags.

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Snowkiting polar explorers celebrate surpassing a Guinness World Record for longest Arctic unsupported snow kiting expedition. Photo from Polar Circles’ Facebook page

The Greenland ICE Expedition not only set the bar on snowkiting circumnavigation of Greenland, but it collected scientific data on climate change, information planned to be used by a scientific research committee.

As one might suspect, the polar explorers were no strangers to Greenland.

Dansercoer was part of the Trans-Greenland Expedition that trekked 435 miles in just over three weeks in 1995. He also partnered with Alain Hubert on a record-breaking traverse across the Antarctic, going 2,485.5 miles in 100 days.

And McNair-Landry set a Guinness World Record for farthest distance kiteskiing in 24 hours, covering 369.72 miles with American Sebastian Copeland in 2010 during a 43-day expedition to cross the Greenland icecap.

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Snowkiting polar explorers in action as Eric McNair-Landry snaps a selfie. Photo from Polar Circles’ Facebook page

Interestingly, Dansercoer and McNair-Landry weren't the only polar explorers snowkiting on Greenland.

Cornelius Strohm of Germany and Michael Charavin of France are on a similar expedition called Wings Over Greenland II. On Wednesday, the pair reported having reached 2,494 miles with sights set on 3,107 miles.

"We would like to congratulate warmly our 'inlandsis' companions Dixie Dansercoer and Eric McNair, who just finished their circumnavigation," Wings over Greenland II wrote on its blog Wednesday. "Well done!"

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