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New North Pole expeditions to be funded by Russian government

By Anna Liesowska
13 May 2015

Vice Premier sees scope to make Arctic 'ours forever' with plans to harness resources and help protect fragile environment.

The ice floe is between 10 and 40km from the North Pole – and approximately 1,280km from the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard - and is constantly moving. Picture: oborona.gov.ru

The Russian government has allocated 205 million roubles ($4million) to resume expeditions to the Arctic. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a document on Monday authorising the plans that will see activity return to a station at the North Pole.

According to officials this will 'contribute to the stabilisation and development of Russian activity in the world ocean, in connection with the growing needs of natural resources exploration and the protection of the environment'. Previous work in the region was suspended in June 2013 after the last station, North Pole 40, had to be evacuated due to a crack in the ice floe.

The 16 scientists based there were in danger of sinking on the ice that had shrunk 10 times, with a mercy mission launched by a Yamal icebreaker sailing 2,236 miles to reach them.

Sources said the decision to lower the Russian flag and pluck the crew to safety had come 'not a moment too soon'.

The new expedition has a number of purposes, including studying the ice, ocean and air quality and is expected to last up to three months. However, it may finish earlier depending on the weather and, crucially, the condition of the floe where the North Pole 2015 station has been deployed.

North Pole-2015


North Pole-2015


North Pole-2015

The new expedition has a number of purposes, including studying the ice, ocean and air quality and is expected to last up to three months. Pictures: oborona.gov.ru

The ice floe is between 10 and 40km from the North Pole – and approximately 1,280km from the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard - and is constantly moving. There are 17 people working here, seven of them specialists from the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.

In addition, the expedition includes six employees of the Polar Foundation, an expert from the Zubov State Oceanographic Institute, and scientists from Belarus. 

The official start of the new research began on April 19 when Vice Premier Dmitry Rogozin, the Minister of Economy Aleksey Ulyukaev and Natural Resources Minister Sergey Donskoy landed on the station and took part in an opening ceremony. Mr Rogozin said: 'We must come to the Arctic and to make it ours forever. At least the part that is within range of our responsibility.'

Russia sees the Arctic region as vitally important, not only scientifically but for economic reasons. The frozen northern region is thought to be rich with natural resources, particularly oil and gas, and a number of countries including Russia plan exploiting untapped reserves.

Scientists have been working on virtual models to predict climate change in the area and monitor the impact of mining and oil production. However, environmentalists have expressed concerns about the possible knock-on effect of industrialisation and pollution.

Earlier this year the first winter oil shipments also sailed over the roof of the world for Europe, navigating through the new Northern Sea Route across the Arctic.

Tests were carried out last year on the feasibility of using the frozen waters, traditionally open for just four months in the summer, all-year-round.

It is estimated the new route through the East Siberian Sea is able to slash at least three weeks off normal sailing times from Russia and Asia to European trading partners.

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