Russian polar explorers descend on drifting ice floe

The nuclear powered icebreaker Rossiya

A suitable ice floe for Russia’s next drifting scientific station North Pole-38 has been found 600 km north of the Wrangel Island in the Eastern Arctic Ocean.

Early Monday morning Russian polar explorers Russian polar explorers started unloading their equipment and supplies from the nuclear icebreaker on a drifting ice floe they will call home for the next year or so, RIA Novosti reports.

15 scientists and two dogs will be staying at the floe for a year. The scientists will be using modern technology to measure depths and collect other indications of the sea bottom relief.

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The floe is 7 km by 12 km. The ice is at least three years old and 2-2.5 meters thick. About 1.5 meters had melted away during the summer season, but then it could gain as much or even more in winter. Its location and drifting pattern at about 0.2 knots will ensure the station’s operation at least through August or September 2011.

The previous drifting research station, North Pole 37, had to be evacuated in May 2010, some four months before schedule due to the threat of shifting ice floe.

The first scientific drifting ice station in the world, “North Pole-1” was established in May 1937. Since 1954 Soviet “NP” stations worked continuously, with one to three such stations operating simultaneously each year, according to Wikipedia. In the post-Soviet era, Russian exploration of the Arctic by drifting ice stations was suspended for twelve years, and was resumed in 2003.