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Scientists Rescued at North Pole

March 07, 2004|From Times Wire Services

MOSCOW — Russian helicopters plucked a team of stranded scientists from deep within the Arctic Circle on Saturday after their floating research station was all but crushed beneath a wall of ice, officials said.

Emergency teams flew 450 miles from Spitsbergen, Norway -- a four-hour trip -- to reach the Severny Polyus-32 meteorological station, where the 12 researchers and two dogs had huddled for three days in temperatures of 38 below zero.

The meteorologists raised the alarm Wednesday after their wind-swept outpost was severely damaged by a 30-foot-tall ice wall that reared up from the surrounding floe and broke off a large chunk of the floe on which the station was built. Four of the station's six buildings were plunged into the icy water.

The researchers had been recording weather conditions and studying climate change.

Artur Chilingarov, deputy parliament speaker and a renowned polar explorer who took part in the rescue, said he expected the men to make a festive return to Russia for International Women's Day on Monday, a major holiday.

Severny Polyus-32, set up in April 2003, was Russia's first permanent research station near the North Pole since the fall of the Soviet Union curtailed scientific funding. It was seen as a symbol of the country's return to polar exploration.

The scientists managed to salvage much of the data collected during their studies, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

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