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Arctic emergency as scientific station's ice sheet breaks up putting 16 researchers in jeopardy

By The Siberian Times reporter
24 May 2013

The Russian government has ordered the evacuation of North Pole-40 Arctic Station.

'It is extremely dangerous to leave the station in such a complicated ice situation', warned Vladimir Sokolov, the head of Russia's high-latitude Arctic expeditions. Picture: ec-arctic.ru

Decay in the ice sheet on which the floating station is drifting means that it would be in severe peril once summer takes hold. 

'The destruction of the ice has put at risk the station's further work and life of its staff,' said a statement by the Ministry of Natural Resources. 'It is extremely dangerous to leave the station in such a complicated ice situation', warned Vladimir Sokolov, the head of Russia's high-latitude Arctic expeditions.

Currently the station's ice floe is positioned far north of the New Siberian Islands, drifting east on a trajectory that would take it well to the north of Alaska. 

'The station's ice floe is cleaved and it was decided to dismantle (it) to prevent an emergency situation', explained Sokolov.

All 16 on board the station are in good health, it was stated. Its drift coordinates were 85 degrees North 143 degrees West, reported Interfax news agency.

'The scale of damage to the ice floe indicates that the station has no chance of surviving through this summer', added Sokolov. 'That is why a decision was made on the early evacuation. There is currently no threat to people, but it is better to do it now than later in emergency mode.'

North Pole 40 station

'Currently the station's ice floe is positioned far north of the New Siberian Islands, drifting east on a trajectory that would take it well to the north of Alaska'.  Picture: ec-arctic.ru

Russian Minister of Natural Resources Sergei Donskoi wants a full plan in place in three days to rescue the people on North Pole-40 (known as SP-40) and relocate the Arctic station, which was put into operation on 1 October 2012. 

This includes use of the Yamal nuclear-powered icebreaker - currently in Murmansk - which could reach the drifting polar station by June 10.

Failure to act could lead to pollution in the pristine waters, which would drift towards Canada's economic zone.

'There is already a plan. The Yamal is scheduled to leave the port of Murmansk on 31 May,' said Sokolov. 

Finding a suitable ice floe for the station is become a bigger challenge each year due to global warming, according to a report by RIA Novosti. 

North Pole 40 station


North Pole 40 station

'The destruction of the station's ice field threatens its further operation, the life of staff (and) is fraught with dangers of the environmental pollution in the area of the drift close to the Canadian economic zone'. Pictures: google maps, ec-arctic.ru 

There have been previous evacuations. The first such station was set up in 1937, and in May 2010 SP-37 was evacuated, and last year, in April 2012, SP-39 was moved to another ice floe. Ice in the Arctic in summer 2012 was shown to have declined by nearly 50%  since the start of satellite tracking in the late 1970s, revealed BarentsObserver.com, a Norway-run news service.

On the latest station, a statement read: 'The ice is disintegrating. An extraordinary situation has transpired in the work of the SP-40 drifting station in high Arctic latitudes, linked to an abnormal development of natural processes in the Arctic pool, which led to the destruction of the ice field around the SP-40. 

'The destruction of the station's ice field threatens its further operation, the life of staff, (and) is fraught with dangers of the environmental pollution in the area of the drift close to the Canadian economic zone'.

There was also a risk of 'the loss of equipment and materials'.

Reports say the station will be relocated to Bolshevik Island in the Russian Arctic. It is the southernmost island of the Severnaya Zemlya group. 

The station performs vital scientific work. It 'monitors the state of the environment in high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean and pollution of the Arctic, as well as carrying out meteorological surveillance. 

'Station staff register the temperatures of the snow cover, study air temperatures, record the concentrations of carbon dioxide and ozone in the 1000-metre near-ice atmospheric layer'. Scientists also 'carry out oceanographic research'.

Comments (1)

wonder what will global warming sceptics say to this?
Mariusz, Poland
24/05/2013 01:05
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