The floating research station “North Pole 39” has been drifting eastwards from the Wrangel Island area since October 2011, and is now about to be replaced.
The icebreaker “Rossiya” will leave Murmansk in the end of this week to pick up the 17 scientists and start the search for a suitable ice floe to place the next research station, “North Pole 40”. This will probably be somewhere to the north of Wrangel Island. The whole operation normally takes about one month.
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.
“North Pole 39” has moved 1580 kilometers during the 312 days it has been operational. Right now it is drifting around 84°N 98°W, RIA Novosti reports.
The ice situation in the area is considered to be normal, and the ice floe stable. In late April the scientists had to move to another ice floe because the first one was breaking up. Only three times has a station had to be evacuated before schedule. The last time was in 2010, when the icebreaker “Rossiya” had to go out and rescue the people on the floating station “North Pole-37” already in May.