Russian researchers evacuate camp as Arctic ice cracks

Researchers from the Russian Hydrometeorological Institute working in the Arctic had to evacuate after the ice floe they had set up on began breaking up under their feet. File photo not from the site. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
In a rush, the Russian researchers picked up their gear when the giant ice floe broke into pieces.

The researchers from the Russian Hydrometeorological Institute Roshydromet had been on the ice for more than a month when the ice floe suddenly started to vanish under their feet.

In the early morning of the 29th April, an emergency situation was announced and the researchers in a rush packed up their equipment. The whole process took less than 3 hours, the camp organizers say.

Involved in the evacuation was a helicopter that lifted the equipment from the ice onto nearby icebreaking research vessel Akademik Tryoshnikov. Included in the equipment was a meteorological laboratory and a shed.

The break-up of the ice had been anticipated. The researchers had seen growing cracks in the ice over the preceding days and guards were on 24-hour duty to follow developments.

The evacuation took place on position 80°19’, 39°54’, the expedition blog informs.

Studying the changing Arctic

The expedition is part of Transarktika-2019, a major government-funded project on monitoring pollution in the Arctic. A key part of the project is the expedition with the Akademik Tryoshnikov. The ship set out from Murmansk on the 20th March and four days later made it into the Arctic ice north of Franz Josef Land.

The vessel has subsequently frozen into the ice and drifted with the current.

The ship and the researchers will now proceed further north to find a new suitable ice floe.

The Transarktika-2019 is organized as the Russian Arctic is undergoing unprecedented climate change with average temperatures far beyond normal. In parts of the region, the average temperatures have increased by up to five degrees Celsius in less than 30 years. The project is supported by government with almost 1 billion rubles.

Russia has a long tradition of organizing research expeditions on drifting Arctic ice. However, over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to find ice floes solid enough to hold the research stations.

The last “real” ice station, the North Pole-40, was established in October 2012, and 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 rescued by a nuclear-powered icebreaker sent out from Murmansk.

Russia did not set up any floating stations in 2013-2014 or in 2014-2015. In April 2015 they established a station called “North Pole 2015”, that only existed for four months.

In the future, Russia will organize its drifting Arctic stations only from vessels. In December 2018, ship builders at the Admiralty Yard in St.Petersburg officially started construction of the North Pole station. The 84 meter long, 22.5 meter wide platform will be the world’s first research station permanently based in high Arctic waters.

For periods of up to two years at a time, the North Pole will be drifting autonomously across the Arctic with a crew of 14 and teams of up to 34 researchers.

It is to be completed in year 2020.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Future Arctic won’t look like today’s Arctic, report says, CBC News

Finland: Finnish climate heating up: report, Yle News

Greenland: Tall ice cliffs are slumping and may trigger rapid sea-level rise, study finds, CBC News

Norway: December sea ice levels in Arctic Europe at record low, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: North Pole camp season cancelled before it even started, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Groundwater levels unusually low in Sweden despite melting snow, Radio Sweden

United States: New map shows what Bering land bridge looked like 18,000 years ago, CBC News

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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