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Russian Drifting Polar Station SP-38 Opens In Chukchi Sea
by Alexander Stelliferovsky
On Board The Rossiya, Chukchi Sea
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Nov 08, 2010


Strong winds blew snow across the ice as the Russian flag was raised above the Severny Polyus-38 base and the national anthem rung out across the ice floe in the Chukchi Sea. Photo courtesy RIA Novosti.

Icebreaker Rossiya completes Arctic expedition
(RIA Novosti) Nov 08 - Russia's nuclear-powered icebreaker Rossiya has successfully completed its Arctic expedition by returning to the northern port of Murmansk, RIA Novosti correspondent reported. The expedition, led by the president's envoy to the Arctic and Antarctic, Artur Chilingarov, delivered a drifting research station onto an ice floe to carry out a study on the Arctic's water area and climate conditions. RIA Novosti correspondent Alexander Stelliferovsky took part in the expedition.

Russia and other countries with an Arctic coastline are laying claims to the region's sea floor, said to contain one quarter of the world's mineral resources. The untapped riches are becoming more accessible due to melting ice. The vast hydrocarbon deposits that will become more accessible as rising global temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice have brought the Arctic to the center of geopolitical wrangling between Russia and the other nations that border the region. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the Arctic would not become a battleground as potential territory disputes could be resolved through negotiation.

In the bitterly cold darkness more than a thousand kilometers above the Arctic Circle, a team of Russian scientists on Friday inaugurated a floating research station that will be home to 15 researchers for up to a year.

Strong winds blew snow across the ice as the Russian flag was raised above the Severny Polyus-38 base and the national anthem rung out across the ice floe in the Chukchi Sea.

The ceremony was illuminated by the Rossiya nuclear icebreaker about half a kilometer away, and culminated in a fireworks display.

The flag was raised by the senior permanent member of the expedition, Tomash Petrovsky, and its youngest members, cook Dmitry Mitkovets and oceanologist Andrei Balakin. Suddenly, one of the participants pulled out his accordion and started to play popular Russian folk songs, with half a dozen voices chiming in.

Petrovsky said he had not seen a better ice floe in years. It was located on October 10 and meets all the basic requirements for the drifting station.

The head of the expedition, Artur Chilingarov, immediately sent separate telegrams to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Within a half hour, Putin called the station and congratulated Chilingarov and the other members on opening the research station.

"The opening of this station supports Russia's priorities in the Arctic," Chilingarov said during his radio conversation with Putin. He also said that 75% of the participants in the expedition are under 30 years old. He emphasized that the involvement of a new generation of scientists and researchers "is very good."

The meteorological station is now operating at SP-38 and has given its first information, which means the station has officially begun its work.

"This is the first time in my life that a station was equipped so fast," Chilingarov said in congratulating the crew of the expedition with the opening of the fully-equipped station.

Chilingarov wished the expedition "firm ice," as is the custom among polar researchers.

Despite the outside temperature of minus 7 degrees Celsius (19 degrees Fahrenheit), he said his "home" has already been heated to a comfortable 23 degrees Celsius (about 73 degrees Fahrenheit).

Chilingarov, Petrovsky and other members of the expedition spoke from a huge sledge, which served as a rostrum, during the opening ceremonies.

Two dogs also participated in the opening as the researchers were worried that a polar bear could appear on the ice floe.

"No polar bears participated in the ceremonies," Chilingarov said.

The Rossiya will leave the ice floe later on Friday and set course for Murmansk, where it will arrive in no less than a week.

The 15-member expedition will not only continue polar studies but also gather more scientific evidence to reinforce Russia's claims to the Arctic, which it regards as a "strategic economic asset." It is hoped that the ice will allow the research station to operate for a year.

The ice floe is located in the Chukchi Sea about 600 km north of Wrangel Island, at 76.05 degrees N 175.34 degrees W and is 7 km by 12 km. The ice is at least three years old and 2-2.5 meters thick. Its location and drifting pattern at about 0.2 knots suggest the station will be operable at least through August or September of next year.

Source: RIA Novosti News Agency

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