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Explorers ski across Arctic Ocean, reach North Pole

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GENEVA, Mar 23 (Reuters) Two adventurers today became the first men to ski across the frozen Arctic Ocean, completing a grueling 1,000-km (620 mile) expedition from northern Siberia to the North Pole, organisers said.

During the 61-day trek, mostly conducted in total darkness of winter, South African Mike Horn and Norwegian Borge Ousland braved bitter winds, temperatures of minus 50 degrees centigrade (minus 58 Fahrenheit) and polar bears.

''Today (Thursday) Mike and Borge reached their aim, the North Pole, and made history. They are the first people to ever attempt an expedition to the North Pole during the arctic winter,'' said a statement on the website www.mikehornnorthpole.com.

The skiing duo did not have the help of dogs or machines in the first ever bid to reach the North Pole in winter, it said.

Horn, who lives in Switzerland, battled an infection in the last days, taking antibiotics after a possible fuel leak inside his sledge may have contaminated his food.

The pair of adventurers left Geneva on Jan 8 for Moscow, then were dropped by helicopter at Cape Artichesky on Jan 22 when conditions were right to set out on the solid sea ice.

''Borge is 42 years old and now looks 80, and I'm 39 and look like 90,'' Horn quipped in an email to his site yesterday.

Ousland was obliged to saw his skis in half last week after a repair job did not hold.

In October 2004, Horn became the first man to circumnavigate the Arctic Circle without motorised transport, completing a more than two-year solo odyssey of 20,000 km (12,000 miles).

Married to a Swiss woman and the father of two daughters, his motto is: ''A caged lion is not happy''.

Reuters DH VP0307

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