Arctic garbage delivered to Arkhangelsk

Mikhail Somov

Research vessel Michael Somov returned to Arkhangelsk after her longest Arctic voyage in years. Onboard were more than 1800 empty fuel barrels found on Arctic islands.


Mikhail Somov”, which belongs to the Northern Directorate of the Hydro-Meteorological Services (UGMS), left Arkhangelsk 102 days ago loaded with food and fuel for Polar stations. The crew of the vessel delivered more than 2000 tons of fuel, 300 tons of food, 250 tons of construction materials, automated and semi-automated equipment to the Polar stations, informs official web-page of the Arkhangelsk Oblast Government.

But most important is that this time “Mikhail Somov” did not return empty – this time the vessel has brought 1350 compressed and 500 normal barrels which are quite suitable for further use. A total of around 30 tons of scrap metal that was collected on the Wrangel Island and on the Franz-Joseph Land.

The collection and removal of the Arctic wastes started this year according to the order of the Russian Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, tons of garbage left over from military establishments, permanent posts and hydro meteorological stations will be brought to the main land. According to Anatoly Kozhin, Vice-Governor on infrastructural development in the Arkhangelsk Oblast Government, it is very important for the region that this huge job started from our city.

Garbage from Arctic Islands, brought to Arkhangelsk by Mikhail Somov (Photo:
Unloading scrap metal form the research vessel “Mikhail Somov”. Photo from

Experts assure that the Arctic wastes are not dangerous for human beings. An expedition last year took necessary samples which were thoroughly analyzed, and only after that the wastes started to be collected and removed from the islands.

The grand-scaled cleaning of Arctic territories will last for at least 3 years – the wastes that had been accumulated for half a century are expected to be removed within the next few years. The Russian Government has given 2,3 billion rubles for this purpose.

Geopolitical aspect
In spite of the fact that the key mission of “Mikhail Somov” is to maintain normal life and research activities on the Polar stations, the political implication of the expedition is absolutely obvious.

The fact that the Russian research vessel has been sailing along the whole Northern Sea Route from Arkhangelsk to Chukotka over the last two years demonstrates Russia’s presence in the Arctic and emphasizes the significance of the Arkhangelsk port. Head of the Northern UGMS Leonid Vasiljev is convinced that in the years to come such voyages will become regular. Especially after the Law on the Northern Sea Route is adopted, as well as the Law on the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and Sailing Regulations for the Northern Sea Route.

Sorrowful cargo
Actually, the expedition is also related to a sad occasion. Pomorje informs that “Mikhail Somov” also delivered the body of Michael Eryomkin, a researcher from the Krenkel meteorological station. On September 20 he was bitten to death by a polar bear on the Kheysa Island in the Franz-Joseph Land Archipelago. Rosprirodnadzor issued a permission to kill the animal. The crew of the vessel explored the Kheysa Island several times from a helicopter but  did not manage to find the killer-bear. Michael Eryomkin had worked in the Arctic for only one month.

Written by Anastasia Sazhenova