Voices from Russia

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Always Darkest Before the Dawn: Polar Night Ends on Frants Iosif Land (Russia’s Northernmost Archipelago)

Border marker at Severnaya Bay on Alexandra Land in the Frants Iosif Land Archipelago

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On Thursday, the Sun rose over the horizon on Frants Iosif Land, the northernmost Arctic archipelago in Russia and Eurasia, signalling an end to the four-month-long pitch-dark polar night. Aleksei Barakov, a deputy director of the Russian Arctic National Park, told us:

The Sun rose over Alexandra Land Island where the Omega permanent field base is located.

The polar night began on Frants Iosif Land, an archipelago lying only 1,100 kilometres (684 miles) away from the North Pole, on 18 October. Vadim Zakharyin, the chief of the national park’s expedition centre, noted:

The night is very cold, windy, and dark there. The Northern Lights rarely occur on the archipelago because the cloud cover is rather thick and low. The temperatures usually hover at around -30 degrees (-22 Fahrenheit), with high humidity that’s difficult to bear. Besides that, winds reach hurricane-like speeds of 36 metres per second (80.5 miles per hour). You have to be especially careful in that darkness because you can run into polar bears there.

On Thursday, the weather on Alexandra Island was frigid and calm. Two park staff-members are always present at the Omega field base of the Russian Arctic National Park. Only two of the 192 islands making up Frants Iosif Land are habitable during the winter. Alexandra Land, the westernmost island of the archipelago, is home to the Nagurskoye border outpost and a Northern Fleet base, in addition to the national park’s field base. A weather monitoring station, also known as “the observatory”, is on Kheysa Island in the very centre of the archipelago. A source at the Northern Department for Meteorology and Environment Monitoring said:

Currently, there are six workers at the Ernst Krenkel Observatory.

22 February 2018

TASS

http://tass.com/economy/991293

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Russian Navy Confirms Discovery of New Island in Arctic

00 Russia. Franz Josef Land. 24.09.13

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On Monday, a naval spokesman said that a surveying expedition in the Arctic Ocean by the Northern Fleet made several geographic discoveries and confirmed the formation of a new island in the Franz Josef Land archipelago. Captain First Rank Vadim Serga said, “Conducting hydrographical research in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, the expedition discovered a strait dividing Northbrook Island into two parts. The participants of the expedition carried out topographic mapping of the shoreline and measured depths along the new strait”. The expedition, which included the research vessel Gorizont and the tug MB-56, also discovered an unknown stretch of rocks near the Alexandra Land Island and registered recent alterations to the shoreline of Hall Island. Both islands are part of Franz Josef Land.

Back in 2006, Russian Arctic explorers hypothesised that after the isthmus that connected the eastern and western parts of Northbrook Island eroded, it formed a “new” island. However, bad weather prevented explorers from finding proof for another six years. Finally, an Arctic expedition in 2012 aboard the nuclear icebreaker Rossiya took photographs of the new strait and registered the coordinates of the coastline, claiming the discovery of a new island. The expedition handed over the data on the new island to the navigation and oceanography department in St Petersburg, and a special governmental commission expects to name the island in the near future. Currently, the Franz Josef Land archipelago consists of 191 ice-covered islands with a total area of about 16,000 square kilometres (6,178 square miles).

23 September 2013

RIA-Novosti

http://www.en.rian.ru/russia/20130923/183673932/Russian-Navy-Confirms-Discovery-of-New-Island-in-Arctic.html

 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Russia “Consecrates” North Pole to Reassert Ownership

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Russian Orthodox Bishop Iakov Tislenko of Naryan-Marsky lowered a “holy memorial capsule” into the sea at the North Pole in an attempt to “consecrate” the Arctic and reassert Moscow‘s claims to the territory. Bishop Iakov conducted a service on the ice alongside the nuclear icebreaker Rossiya during a polar expedition titled “Arctic-2012”, organised by the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. The metal capsule bore the inscription, “With the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all the Russias, the consecration of the North Pole marking 1,150 years of Russian Statehood”.

The Kremlin is keen to claim the hydrocarbon riches off its northern coast despite territorial claims from other governments, and is gradually re-militarising the area. In July, a Moscow think-tank suggested that the Arctic Ocean should be renamed the “Russian Ocean“, and, this week, the Defence Ministry announced that MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft would have bases in the region by the end of the year.

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (sic), is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, who says exploiting oil and gas reserves in the North is a “strategic priority”. At the North Pole, a small group of scientists and the Rossiya’s captain Oleg Shchapin attended the bishop’s service, which was held during an expedition to find a floe suitable for Russia’s 40th drifting polar research station and to deliver a 17-strong team to man the outpost for the next year. The consecration earlier this month highlights Russia’s urge to claim international waters beyond its continental shelf because of underwater ridges it says are attached to the mainland.

Bishop Iakov, who is thought to be the first Russian priest to visit the pole {not so, there was liturgy served here some time back: editor}, emphasised that the consecration symbolised efforts “to restore Russia’s position and confirm its achievements in the Arctic”. In 2007, in another political move, Russia planted its flag on the seabed below the polar ice cap using a remotely-operated mini-submarine, symbolically laying claim to the surrounding area. The Rossiya carried on its voyage an icon and holy relics of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, the patron saint of sailors, normally kept in the diocese’s main church on land.

The MP appointed Bishop Iakov last year as ruling bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Naryan-Marsky, which lies inside the Arctic Circle on the White and Barents Seas, which is its most northerly diocese. The diocese includes the islands of Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, where the Long-range Aviation (VVS-DA) has recently upgraded airfields as operational strategic bomber stations. One airbase on Graham Bell Island boasts a 7,000-foot year-round compacted-ice runway. Bishop Iakov has taken part in other polar missions, sailing the length of the contested Northern Sea Route between Scandinavia and Alaska along Russia’s Arctic coast, which Russia claims and seeks to charge ships for using like the Panama Canal, but most other countries regard it as international waters. In 2004, the bishop consecrated an Orthodox church in Antarctica at Russia’s Bellingshausen research station.

27 September 2012

Bruce Jones

Tom Parfitt

The Telegraph (London UK)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9571743/Russia-consecrates-North-Pole-to-reassert-ownership.html

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