Drift ice stations are a tradition in Russia. For the first time such an expedition was conducted under the leadership of Ivan Papanin with subsequent wintering in 1937. The expedition was given the name “North Pole-1”. Since then, each expedition has been carried out under the designation “North Pole” with a consecutive serial number.
The rapidly dwindling Arctic sea ice made it increasingly difficult to organize the expeditions. With “Nordpole-40” the last real drift ice station took place in winter 2012. In 2013, the program had to be cancelled due to ice melt in the Arctic. Another attempt in the summer of 2015 failed after only a few weeks because the ice was too unstable.
Knowing that traditional ‘Papanin-style’ stations could no longer be conducted, the ice-breaking and self-propelled Severny Polyus platform provided a way to continue Arctic research.
The Severny Polyus is capable of conducting geological, acoustic, geophysical and oceanographic research in the harshest Arctic conditions. Even at temperatures as low as minus 50 °C, it should be able to offer researchers and crew comfortable living and working conditions.
On September 15, 2022, the ice-breaking platform set off from Murmansk on the first expedition, which will be called “North Pole-41” in rotation. According to official statements, the expedition will represent “a new era in Russian Arctic research.” Less than two weeks later, on October 2, 2022, the ship reached the starting point for the long drift in the Arctic pack ice under its own power.
Severny Polyus then moored itself to the edge of the selected ice field and gradually froze onto it until the ship and the ice floe became one. Thus, after almost ten years, Russia resumed regular scientific observations in the Arctic Ocean.
After six months in operation, it is clear that the platform is on the move without any major disruptions. Consideration is now being given to whether the Arctic expedition would be economically feasible for a second year.
“Whether it makes sense to stay in the Arctic for the second year has not yet been decided, although technically it would be absolutely possible. In addition to the scientific research, which is in full swing, we are now looking at how the ship behaves. So far we haven’t encountered any serious disturbances, and if there aren’t, we’ll probably leave the ship in the ice. This would also be economically feasible,” said Igor Shumakov, head of Roshydromet’s Russian Meteorological Institute.
Scientists aboard the platform receive and transmit information, the analysis of which will help track climate change. There are 15 scientific laboratories aboard the platform, covering the entire spectrum of research into the natural environment of the Arctic. Scientists hope that they will be able to extend the life of the platform up to 40 years, the director of the “Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute” (AARI) Alexander Makarov told the press. The officially declared service life is 25 years.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal
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