Russia plans new floating Arctic research station

North Pole-40 was Russia's so far latest floating research station in the Arctic, operational from October 2012 to May 2013.

Amidst Arctic sea ice reaching all-time minimum for late winter, the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources says that Russia plans to establish a floating research station on an ice floe.


According to the Ministry, the floating research station “North Pole-41” is already in the making.

“The station will be an important instrument in securing Russian presence in the Arctic, and will give Russia the opportunity to give new priorities to scientific research from the ice,” the Ministry of Natural Resources says, according to RIA Novosti.

Russia has had floating research stations in the Arctic since 1937. Normally a station was established on an ice floe in September-October, and some two dozens of scientists would spend the winter there, measuring climate and weather conditions.

The researchers and all the needed equipment has usually been brought to the ice by icebreaker, but this year the plan is to drop everything in parachutes from planes, much the same way as the annual Barneo station is established, SeverPost reports..

During the last couple of years, it has become more and more difficult to find ice floes solid enough to hold a station, and last year The Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute recommended stopping using manned stations on ice floes because of the high risks.

The last station Russia established in the High North, “North Pole-40”, had to be evacuated in May 2013, because the ice floe the base was placed on, started to break apart. The 16 scientists that had spent the winter on the floe had to be picked up by a nuclear-powered icebreaker sent out from Murmansk. Russia has not had any similar station in the Arctic during the two last winters.

A recent study shows that the ice in the central Arctic Ocean has thinned dramatically over the last 40 years – from 3.59 meters to 1.25 meters between 1975 and 2012.

Russian authorities have earlier announced plans for construction of self-propelled, ice- strengthened floating platform to replace the natural ice floes for future research stations. In 2013 1.7 billion rubles (then €42 million – now €25,8 million) was allocated to this project, but since that, there have been no news about the platform.