Research platform “Severny Polyus” on test run | Polarjournal
With the commissioning of the drift ice station “Severy Polyus”, polar research is to receive a new input. (Photo: AARI)

Last week, the Russian ice-breaking self-propelled platform “Severny Polyus” (North Pole) passed the first sea trials in the Gulf of Finland. The unique ship is a new step in polar research. The floating platform is intended for scientific research in the Arctic, the development of which was started by Russian scientists with the drift station “Polus-1” as early as 1937.

North Pole-1 was the first polar station established by the then Soviet Union in 1937 on a drifting ice floe at the North Pole. “North Pole-1” was led by Ivan Papanin and also included scientists Yevgeny Fedorov and Pyotr Shirshov, and radio operator Ernst Krenkel. (Photo: Archive)

For a long time, ice floes on which research stations were located were used for Arctic research. However, global warming and the resulting melting of glaciers and pack ice have made this process extremely dangerous.

The first drift ice station “North Pole-1” was opened in 1937 under the leadership of Ivan Papanin. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, 30 expeditions were working in the Arctic. The scientists studied sea ice, the state of the atmosphere, currents, environmental conditions and climate. However, this practice was discontinued in 2015, and it became increasingly difficult for scientists to find suitable large ice floes for the station.

The “Severny Polyus” was designed and built at the Admirality shipyard in St. Petersburg with the participation of Roshydromet and the Arctic and Antarctic Institute (AARI). The official keel-laying of the ship took place on April 10, 2019. (Foto: Roshydromet)

New ways had to be sought

The contract for the construction of the platform was signed between Roshydromet and Admiralty Shipyards in spring 2018. The keel of the ship was laid on April 10, 2019. The strength of the new ship’s hull allows it to freeze in the ice and drift along with the ice drift. Thus, the platform can resume the practice of drift expeditions. The “Severny Polyus” should be able to travel autonomously for two years, but the researchers will be replaced after every 3-4 months.

The May 21, 2022 sea trial is expected to provide new input to polar research.We have the opportunity to send a floating observatory to the central Arctic and get new data about the environment, about all its parts and components, from the geological structure of the soil to the atmosphere and even to space,” said Alexander Makarov, director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute AARI.

“The need for such a platform arose because it became unsafe to organize observations on floating ice floes. The ice became more and more unstable in recent years. We have already prepared a program for the first expedition. In September, the series of drift ice stations called “North Pole-41″ is scheduled to go on its first voyage with polar researchers.”

After a construction period of almost 4 years, the “Severny Polyus” was ready for her first sea trials. (Photo: AARI)

The ice-resistant platform “Severny Polyus” will conduct geological, acoustic, geophysical and oceanographic research. It is capable of crossing the ice without the involvement of an icebreaker and of carrying heavy Mi-8 AMT (Mi-17) helicopters. The expedition will include a variety of specialists – oceanologists, meteorologists, geologists. A total of 48 specialists will board the ship in the fall, including 14 crew members. According to the director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, there are no analogs of the groundbreaking project anywhere in the world, nor will there be for the next decade.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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