BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A Belgian and a Canadian have became the first people to circle the Greenland ice sheet, covering an Arctic record 4,000 kilometres (2,485 miles) in 55 days by using kites to pull their sleds and skis.
Belgian adventurer Dixie Dansercoer, who also set a record for the longest unaided expedition in Antarctica in 2012, and Canadian Eric McNair-Landry used the typical polar wind patterns to set out a circular route to cover the longest distance.
"It was a first because people never thought of a circular route before," Dansercoer told Reuters upon his return to Brussels.
The previous Arctic distance record of 3,120 kilometres, set in 2009 by British adventurer Adrian Hayes, was a south-to-north crossing of the Greenland ice.
Dansercoer said he also embarked on the adventure because he had felt his previous Antarctic expedition was incomplete, despite setting a record.
"I had followed a similar pattern in Antarctica but we did not close the circle there, so the goal was symbolically to close the circle," he said.
Though Greenland is not as cold as Antarctica, the smaller size of the ice sheet and proximity to the ocean create more unpredictable weather patterns.
During most of the first three weeks, the pair could only sit in a tent as fierce storms raged and temperatures dropped to as low as minus 28 degrees Celsius (-19 Fahrenheit).
"Our total distance was 200 kilometres out of the target 4,000, so not doing well at all. But suddenly we picked up the good winds and covered up to 300 kilometres in a day," Dansercoer said.
During their expedition, sponsored by a number of Belgian companies, Dansercoer and McNair-Landry collected data on weather patterns in the region to give to scientists looking into climate change.
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Larry King)