Year-round research in the Arctic Ocean is a difficult and logistically complex proposition. On the one hand, you can freeze a suitable ship in the ice and let it drift with the current, as Nansen and the Alfred Wegener Institute had done. Or construct drift stations on the pack ice that stay there as long as possible collecting data, as the Soviets had done in the past. Russia is combining the two capabilities and building its Severny Polyus North Pole Station, a self-propelled research platform. Now the captain has been appointed for the unique station.
The management of the prestigious self-propelled research station was entrusted to the highly experienced Captain Sergey Nesterov by the Russian Minister of Natural Resources, Alexander Kozlov. “I am ready! Let’s take the helm,” Nesterov declared at a meeting with the minister. Sergey Nesterov may be known to many as the captain of various expedition ships such as the Polar Pioneer, the Ortelius or the Expedition. In the past 12 years, he has made a total of 25 voyages to Antarctica and another 13 voyages in the Arctic. However, his involvement goes back much further.
Nesterov’s new workstation, the Severny Polyus, is currently being completed at the Admirality shipyard in St. Petersburg. According to the shipyard and the Ministry of Natural Resources, the ship is expected to be more than 90 percent complete. Currently, the diesel-powered auxiliary generators are being installed. In addition, he said, they are working on the mooring, towing and mooring systems. The goal is for the station to be able to travel independently in the Arctic Ocean in the future, without the help of icebreakers, and to maintain itself at a point such as the geographic North Pole using a sophisticated positioning system. Its ice class is given as Arc8 (according to the Russian classification system) as the second highest class.
Actually, the Severny Polyus should have been completed as early as 2020, after construction began in 2018. But the schedule had been upset by various factors, not least the pandemic. According to the Russian authorities, however, the first two-year expedition is now scheduled to start in the fall of 2023. From then on, Captain Nesterov and his 14-member crew, with up to 34 scientists on board, will be sailing in the Arctic sea ice. According to the plans of the designers and the operator Roshydromet and the Russian polar research institute AARI, the ship should be able to operate autonomously for two years. Its service life is estimated at 25 years. The project is intended to replace the existing drift ice stations, which have fallen victim to climate change in recent years. Mainly in the fields of climate research and hydrometeorology, but also biology and oceanography research will be conducted from aboard the Severny Polyus.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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