Arctic Floating University returns from voyage to northern seas
The expedition’s leader Olga Gripas told TASS the voyage route took the explorers to the White and Barents Seas.
"We also approached the Kara Gates," she said. "We have completed all the planned works, with the exception for studies at three points in the White Sea because of the storm."
The ship’s Captain Sergei Khokhlov told TASS most time of the voyage the weather conditions were favorable.
"However, about ten days before the voyage end date, it was clear - on the 28th waves will begin growing, on the 29th a storm will begin, and on the 30th it will develop into a hurricane," he said. "The only wish was to anchor, to find a shelter somewhere by the shore and to wait somewhere near the Vaigach before going back to Arkhangelsk."
"But, if we had waited to make all the outstanding research after the storm, we would’ve returned only on August 4 or 5," he added.
Thus, the decision was to go into the White Sea. That decision turned out to be very important, as the vessel rescued the Kreiser yacht in distress on July 30. On July 31, the ship towed the yacht to Arkhangelsk. All the six people on board the yacht were safe.
The expedition’s 57 members come from Russia. Students represented the Moscow State University, the St. Petersburg State University, the Russian State Hydro-Meteorology University, and the Northern Arctic Federal University.
"The students participated in all practical studies, from taking samples to chemical tests in the lab onboard the ship," the expedition’s leader said.
During the voyage, the expedition crossed two cyclones: one came from the Baltic Sea, and the other - from the Caspian Sea.
The second one, which came from the Caspian Sea, met the anticyclone, which had been in the Arctic already and caused those storms," a third-year student at the Northern Arctic Federal University Evgeny Kostyakov told TASS. "The current chilly weather is the Arctic’s influences," he said.
Feeling climate changes
A group of social sciences students surveyed the locals, asking whether they could feel climate changes. The people mentioned a strait, which for a few recent years either remained unfrozen or froze for a very short time. "While in the past, they used to go to the other side by frozen ice, nowadays such a road may freeze up in February only, if ever," a researcher said.
On the Vaigach Island, the locals pointed to less fish, though to more berries and mushrooms. Those are only very preliminary results, and many questionnaires are still to be analyzed.
Signs of Arctic’s exploration
On the Bely Nos and Vaigach, the expedition studied objects, which remain there from the 1930s. Ore exploration works, which involved prisoners, continued there in the 1930s. Remaining barracks and mines are ruining now. The objects, which the Floating University registered four years earlier, are sliding into the swamp. "Those are signs of the Arctic’s exploration," the expedition’s leader said, adding they will report the situation to the Likhachev Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage.
On the Vaigach Island, the group examined the mines, where in the 1930 polymetallic ores were produced. Not much, though. "Back in 2016, we could see entrances to at least two mines, and this year we saw only one of them remain clear from the soil," she continued. "The entrance from the sea is blocked - there must have been a rock collapse."
Polymetallic ores on the Vaigach were found in 1921, and ore production began there in early 1930. Prisoners worked in five mines. "Some reports say about a group of prisoners, who were executed, probably, because of a riot," she said. "Another 200 people died in 1934 when the mine was flooded." The attempts to pump out water, and later on to freeze it, failed, and all the prisoners were sent out to Vorkuta. That was before World War II began.
All tests and experiments are to be analyzed, Gripas said, adding the researchers had not found pollutants above the average rates. "Anyway, we shall analyze further the received results at our lab," she said.
Photo: Lev Fedoseev/TASS