Icebreaker “Arktika” at the North Pole | Polarjournal
Encounter with a polar bear with its offspring in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo: Andrey Yakovlev / Atomflot)

This fall, the floe edge in the Arctic was at record levels. As a result, the distance to the North Pole was not too far for the nuclear-powered “Arktika” on its maiden voyage. The temptation was great to have a look at the first trip.

The “Arktika” left St. Petersburg on September 22, 2020 and reached the North Pole after only 12 days, on October 3, 2020 at 18:00 Moscow time. (Photo: Anton Haas, St. Petersburg)

The 173-metre-long icebreaker is the first in a series of five icebreakers from project 22220. They are currently the most powerful civilian ships ever built. The “Artika” is powered by two water-cooled reactors of the type RITM-200 with a thermal output of 175 MWt each. The drive power is 60 MW, which corresponds to about 80,000 hp.

The “Arktika” left the shipyard in St. Petersburg on September 22 towards the north. The icebreaker sailed along the Norwegian coast intto the Barents Sea and reached Russian waters between Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land. After a record-breaking warm summer in Spitsbergen and northern Siberia, the ice edge is currently at 85 degrees north. Never before was open water seen so far north in the European and Asian parts of the Arctic Ocean.

In search of proper sea ice to test its abilities, the “Arktika” and its 53-strong crew continued to the floe edge and from there to the North Pole. The “Arktika” reached this spot on October 3, 2020. On the way to the geographic North Pole, the maximum ice thickness was three meters, according to the Press Office of Atomflot.

“In these ice conditions, the ship confirmed the characteristics for the class,” said Captain Oleg Shhchapin. “In addition, the reactors and the propulsion worked perfectly,” he added.

After completion of the ice trials, the “Arktika” will travel to its home port in Murmansk, where Russia’s nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet is based. Arrival is expected at the end of this week.

Second “Arktika” to the North Pole

The new “Arktika” is the second nuclear-powered icebreaker called “Arktika” at the North Pole. The first “Arktika” made history when it became the first ship ever to reach the North Pole on August17, 1977.

The conquest of the North Pole was a challenge for the Soviet Union at the time, comparable to space exploration. The journey of the “Arktika” was carried out under the strictest secrecy. Never before had a ship reached this geographical point. (Foto: Archiv)

After 33 years of operation, the first “Arktika” was decommissioned in 2008. For ten years, the icebreaker lay in the port at Atomflot north of Murmansk, partly in anticipation of the cooling of the two reactors, partly in anticipation of funds for decommissioning.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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