JOHANNESBURG - Two?South African?medics?are?swapping their?medical gear?for oars as they?train for a risky 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) journey?by rowboat through the Arctic Northwest Passage.

If the?14-member?team?finishes the?trip —?across?the?north of Canada?to Alaska —?they will make history, as?all?attempts to row the?icy?waters?have failed.

"Nobody conquers a passage there," said Leven Brown, the expedition leader.?"The ocean allows you to pass. And there is a very important distinction there.?We?will be lucky to get?through?the Northwest Passage, to row?from Pond Inlet?at the top right-hand corner?of Canada, to the top left-hand corner?of Alaska, a place called?Point Barrow."?

In?decades?past, travel through?the?icy, Arctic?waters?was only possible by large?ships.?

Physical, mental toll??

Reduced?summer ice will allow the team?to row the passage, but the journey?— planned for next year — will still be a physical and mental challenge.??

The South African team member, Daniel Lobjoilt, says such a long, confined journey will likely take a toll.

"We?are going to?be out there, in the elements, by ourselves, essentially, and I think after a certain?period of time?of repetitive rowing, on and off for, you know, weeks on end. Pressure on my mind might be the biggest challenge I have to overcome.?So, my fear?is ...?is that encounter that I have to have?with myself," Lobjoilt said.?

Gathering data

Along the journey, Brown says the?team will use scientific tools to gather data for climate change and wildlife studies.???

"We hope to be the first modern-day expedition through?the Northwest?Passage, and to highlight,?you know, what is happening with the environment and the climate. This is the sort of expedition that wouldn't be, wouldn't be possible, you know, 50 years ago," he said.?

Despite the?history of?failed attempts?to row the passage,?South African medic Dr. Daniel Kritzinger says the team?is hoping?to?finish the trip?within two months,?before the?winter?ice returns.???

"There has been a previous attempt in 2013, also trying to row the Northwest Passage, but they were unsuccessful as the ice caught on them," he said. "So hopefully the ice will stay back enough for us to finish, and to be the first to row the Northwest Passage."

The team?is planning?another expedition?to?help?them?prepare.???

In June,?they will row?from?England's?Newcastle to Orkney, a?much smaller?distance?than the length?of the?Arctic Northwest Passage.

Source: Voice of America