Weekend Feature: A Russian invitation to the Arctic

Scientific studies in the Arctic are gaining importance, in particular with regard to its crucial role in the ongoing global climatic changes. Norwegian polar researchers will soon spend several months along with Russian colleagues on a research station located on a large ice floe in the Arctic Basin.(Ill: Svalbard map) Scientific studies in the Arctic are gaining importance, in particular with regard to its crucial role in the ongoing global climatic changes.

Norwegian polar researchers are now looking forward to spending several months along with Russian colleagues on a research station located on a large ice floe in the Arctic Basin.(Ill: Svalbard map)This is the first time Russian scientists invite other nations to live at their unique research stations in the North Pole Basin. The Norwegian Polar Institute has received a special invitation and has accepted the invitation, Aftenposten reports.

'This is a unique opportunity to gather up-to-date research data as well as glean experience from all the groundwork Russian scientists have undertaken in the northerly regions during the last 50 years, says Jan-Gunnar Winther at the institute.

Norway wishes to make use of the floating ice stations to do research on the climate, ocean ice floes and ocean environment. In addition Norwegian scientists will utilize the new European
satellite Cryosat in order to measure the thickness of the permanent ice in the Arctic. These so called 'ground stations' will then be used to check and improve the accuracy of the gathered data.

Much can be learned about climatic changes from the Arctic ice.
Researchers have alredy predicted that within 50 years the summer ice will have almost disappeared. With this will follow both negative and positive consequences.

Norway`s Minister for the Environment is extremely pleased about the collaboration.

'This reveals that the Cold War is over both politically and for the sake of science in the polar region. The co-operation will open up areas in the Russian Arctic for international researchers', he stated.

The minister also added that the research information gathered from the floating stations are valuable since the polar regions are sensitive to climatic fluctuations.

Fifty years ago Soviet scientists began using drifting ice floes as research stations in the North Pole Basin. These formed one of the Soviet Union`s most prestigious research projects in the northerly region. From 1991 until 2003 there was a pause in the project but now the work has recommenced.

The station which is now in operation near Frans Joseph`s Land is the 33rd in the series. It is situated on a large ice floe with elleven scientists stationed there. The floe is so large that work is being done to prepare a landing strip which will then simplify transport to and from the station.

'We are aiming to place Norwegian scientists permanently at station North Pole 34 from the 2005/06 season,' says Jan-Gunnar Winther.

'During the International Polar Year in 2007-2008, the Russian-Norwegian collaboration will constitute a significant part of the international research contribution in the Arctic. The stations are given high priority in the field of Russian polar research and it will be very interesting for Norway
to participate', Winther concluded to Aftenposten.

The Norway Post would like to add that unlike the Antarctica which is extremely thick ice firmly grounded on land, the North Pole Basin consists of an ocean with a relatively thin layer of
drifting ice. One could describe the ice as being capricious.In
the North Pole Basin there are gigantic ice blocks which float, twist, break up and push against one another as the ocean currents flows in various directions below.

In addition there are the ice floes, some large as described above, other much smaller. These too are capricious because they can crack anywhere and at any time.

That Norway has been chosen to carry out research in this demanding environment, comes as no surprise. Norwegians in the northern part of the country are surrounded by and live in ice and snow for up to 6 months of the year.

Historically Norway has been a leading nation in polar research along with Great Britain and America.

Pioneers such as Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen were forerunners of modern polar expeditions. In their time the unique wooden ship 'Fram', now one of Oslo`s tourist attractions, was their floating research station.

This beautifully built vessel was contructed to withstand the screwing ice of the North Pole regions. It passed the test with flying colours.

Today Norway's Svalbard Archipelago is the modern site for research, a land area covered in ice and snow all year round. It will be from here the flights to the ice stations will start. The Norwegians will be able to share valuable knowledge from their innate respect for the polar world.

(Aftenposten/Norway Post)
Aftenposten reporter Ole Magnus Rapp

Translated and edited by Amanda Bolsoy

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