First North Pole platform crew rotated in the Arctic
© Photo courtesy of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute

First North Pole platform crew rotated in the Arctic

The first crew of the North Pole-41 drifting station, operated by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), was rotated in the Arctic Ocean at 89°24’ north latitude and 110°32’ east longitude, 60 kilometers from the North Pole.

The logistics involved 10 flights over a distance of 16,000-plus kilometers. Airplanes flew polar explorers from St. Petersburg to Krasnoyarsk and then to Khatanga. The flight from Khatanga to Cape Baranov Ice Base (where the North Pole self-propelled drifting platform is located) had to be delayed for 24 hours due to bad weather. It took all-in-all 24 hours to fly explorers from Khatanga to Cape Baranov, Barneo Ice Base and the North Pole self-propelled drifting platform. On April 20, 2023, an An-72 with the replacement crew flew from Krasnoyarsk and landed safely on a runway at Barneo Ice Base. 

Two Mi-8T helicopters covered the final 200-km leg and brought the replacement crew to the drifting station. Seven people are already working aboard the ice-resistant North Pole platform (ship). Nine specialists who have completed their Arctic tour of duty are now back in St. Petersburg. A dog named Buran (Blizzard) also completed his stint at Cape Baranov Ice Base and was returned home. 

“The North Pole-41 crew was rotated on an ice floe over 200 km from the drifting station and 60 km from the geographical North Pole. This complicated operation was successful. We have streamlined a system to rotate personnel in and out quickly and efficiently. We restored an airstrip at Cape Baranov Ice Base almost from scratch that stopped receiving aircraft almost 35 years ago. This airstrip played a key role in this move. The airstrip will support polar expeditions and, if necessary, emergency rescue operations on the Northern Sea Route,” AARI Director Alexander Makarov noted.

This logistics operation involved skilled polar explorers, ice specialists and pilots from several aviation units.

“Helicopters are unable to reach the drifting station, and the establishment of fuel depots on ice is expensive and dangerous. So, we decided to use runways at the Cape Baranov and Barneo ice bases. The preparations and rotation procedure took place in adverse weather conditions, with temperatures fluctuating sharply. However, the incoming crewmembers and those leaving the station, were delighted to see each other; they smiled and joked. Despite the difficulties, we were able to complete the change on schedule. Polar explorers and over one metric ton of cargo, including scientific equipment and parcels from home, reached the ice-resistant platform safely,” Head of the AARI High-Latitude Arctic Expedition Vladimir Sokolov noted.

After successfully rotating the crew, AARI experts started preparing for a high-seas expedition to rotate other polar explorers and to deliver large freight consignments to the drifting station. In August, the scientific expedition ship Akademik Tryoshnikov will sail for the North Pole drifting ice-resistant platform.