Japanese adventurer missing in Arctic

Posted: Monday, May 21, 2001

TOKYO (AP) -- A Japanese adventurer on a six-year solo trek from the North Pole to Japan via Alaska has been missing for four days in the Arctic, his support group said Monday.

Hyoichi Kono, 43, has been out of reach since Thursday, when he last turned on his satellite location finder, according to supporters in his hometown of Matsuyama, about 680 kilometers (420 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

He also missed a scheduled radio contact Saturday, they said.

Kono, who in 1997 became the first Japanese to reach the North Pole solo on foot, is on a 15,000-kilometer (9,300-mile) journey to Japan by kayak, sled, skis and foot via Canada, Alaska and Russia's Sakhalin island, with an expected return date in 2007.

Staff at a base camp in Resolute, Canada, dispatched a private observation plane and spotted a sled and some belongings apparently belonging to Kono, but the adventurer could not be found, said Yoshiko Shinohara, a spokeswoman for the support group.

The Canadian Air Force was conducting its second search of the area after a first mission failed to find Kono, Shinohara said.

''We are worried, we have no idea what happened to Mr. Kono,'' she said. ''We can't afford to waste any time.''

Since he left the North Pole on March 27, Kono had kept daily contact with the support group by turning on his satellite locator device at night after each day's activity, Shinohara said.

The last contact Thursday indicated he was at Eureka near the Arctic Ocean, she said.

His trip was halted for two weeks to repair a malfunctioning radio caused by cold temperatures.

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