Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has approved the plans for evacuation of 16 persons and large amounts of materials from the floating research station “North Pole-40”, drifting close to the North Pole. As BarentsObserver reported, the ice floe carrying the station has started to break up and the scientists and equipment need to evacuated before long.
The nuclear-powered icebreaker “Yamal” is now preparing to leave for the Arctic Ocean on a rescue mission. The vessel is planned to leave Murmansk by the end of this week and will reach the station approximately two weeks later. The rescue mission is estimated to cost 65 million rubles (app €1.6 million).
The ice floe has now broken up in pieces that are 100 times 150 meters large, Head of the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring Aleksander Frolov says to Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The piece the research station is located on is about 2.5 meters thick. The air temperature in the area is -10 and rising.
The crew cannot be rescued by plane or helicopter, Frolov says. Because of ice ridging on the floe, it is not possible to build an airstrip for any plane, and the floe has drifted out of reach for helicopters.
The scientific station “North Pole-40” will continue its work in the Arctic even after it has been removed from the ice floe. An abandoned Polar station in Mys Baranova on Severnaya Zemlya is now being prepared to house the researchers and their equipment.
Russia has had floating research stations in the Arctic since 1937, when the first scientific drifting ice station in the world – “North Pole-1”, was established. From 1954 Soviet “North Pole” stations worked continuously, with one to three such stations operating simultaneously every year. In the post-Soviet era, Russian exploration of the Arctic by drifting ice stations was suspended for twelve years, and was resumed in 2003.