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OTTAWA (AFP) – A group of stranded British explorers fighting to survive at the North Pole received vital supplies of food, fuel and equipment Wednesday after a mission hampered by bad weather finally reached them, organizers of the aid effort said.
An airplane laden with supplies flew from the remote Inuit hamlet of Resolute on Cornwallis Island in northern Canada and reached the team at 2115 GMT.
The group -- Pen Hadow, Martin Hartley and Ann Daniels -- set off on an 85-day hike to the North Pole on February 28 to measure the thickness of sea ice, but bad weather has hampered supply flights.
They were down to half-rations and battling desperate sub-zero weather conditions, waiting for a break in the weather for a plane to reach them.
Hadow, speaking after the pilot made a safe landing, recounted how it has been a "pretty grim time waiting for the weather to lift."
The North Pole, he said, is "no place to just hang around" when temperatures drop below minus 40 degrees Celsius -- equivalent to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
"The team could not afford to move without our essential kit, food, fuel and batteries for our survey and communications gear," he said.
"All of us are just wanting to get going quickly and have a high calorie meal to fuel ourselves up."
The resupply flight was to return with scientific data collected by the team as part of an effort to capture data on floating ice in the Arctic Ocean.
The team aims to gather data to complement satellite and submarine observations to measure the sea ice and plot how fast it is disappearing during their 850-kilometer (530-mile) trek.
Global warming is believed to be the main culprit in the rapidly melting north polar ice cap that is freeing up new sea routes and untapped mineral resources on the ocean bottom.
"It's a relief to have finally get the plane down. The longer we were forced to delay by the weather the worse we knew it would get for the team," Simon Harris-Ward said Wednesday in a statement from the London headquarters of the Catlin Arctic Survey.
The expedition now expects to arrive at the North Pole in late May.
Three earlier flight to drop food supplies to the team had to turn back because of bad weather.
In an earlier statement, Hadow described the team's desperate plight.
"We're hungry, the cold is relentless, our sleeping bags are full of ice and because we're not moving, the colder we get," he said.