Lack of financing hampers Arctic research

The floating research station "North Pole-38" during polar nights. (Photo:

For the first time in years, Russia does not have a floating research station in the Arctic. The reason is that Atomflot has raised charges on the use of nuclear icebreakers.


This winter no Russian scientists will be doing research from an ice floe whilst floating along with the drifting ice in the Arctic. According to Vladimir Sokolov from the Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring Agency’s department for Arctic expeditions, Atomflot, who operates the nuclear-powered icebreakers, has raised its charges, Lenta writes, citing Interfax.

The agency has asked the Government to take action, but has so far not received any answer, Sokolov says.

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.

The previous research station, “North Pole-40” was operational from October 2012 to June 2013, when the crew had to be evacuated after the ice floe had started breaking up.

With ice levels in the Arctic reaching record lows, finding a suitable floe for “North Pole-40” proved to be a difficult task. The icebreaker carrying the station’s crew had to sail all around the North Pole before finding an ice floe solid enough to hold the station. None of the three floes that had been pre-evaluated from land as possible objects were considered safe enough.

Also the previous shift of Russian scientists experienced problems with the ice situation in the Arctic. In late April the members of North Pole-39 had to move the whole research station to another ice floe because the first one was breaking up. 

Russia has allocated 1,7 billion rubles (app €42 million) to developing a self-propelled, ice- strengthened floating platform to replace the natural ice floes for future research stations.