Expedition Chronicles

June 2

The Professor Molchanov has crossed the Arctic Circle and is heading northwards. This could not but have motivated the inauguration of newcomers into real polar researchers. Supported by the employees of Russian Arctic National Park and Northern TAHEM, the participants of the expedition underwent a baptism of fire and took a swallow of sea water.

June 4

By 9 a.m., the Professor Molchanov had reached the first section of the Kola meridian, where they started hydrological studies. At this point, the rosette was submerged – a hydrological facility with 12 bathometers, each designed to get filled with water at a certain depth (5-250 m).

June 7

In the morning, a shoal of Atlantic white-sided dolphins was chasing us, trying to outrun the vessel, for half an hour. Simultaneously jumping out of the water from underneath the forebody, they were performing as if they were circus dolphins and seemed to be greatly enjoying themselves.

The scientists and students are working twenty-four hours a day, in shifts, sampling water and processing the obtained data despite their fatigue and drowsiness and the sudden storm of force 7 in the evening. Two of the rosette’s bathometers failed. The cause could not be identified.

June 8

The main event of the day: the Professor Molchanov has entered the ice-covered waters! The Barents Sea bottom can now be sampled. The winch is back in operation to submerge in the black abyss a special purpose bucket – bottom-grab. The grab brought back to the researchers some sand, a few stones, two mollusks and sample of corals. A person who is not scientifically-minded would wonder at the joyful exclamations of the people who just discovered dirt in their bucket. It appeared later that dirt in the Arctic is as precious as gold.

June 10

The vessel has entered the Russkaya Havan bay to find itself embraced by the snow-covered shores of the archipelago. At 4 in the morning the sun was still high and was not about to go down at all! The unreality of what the participants were witnessing caused a euphoria that awakened everyone.

The Professor Molchanov came to the shore as close as it could and stood motionless…

June 11

Climbing down the storm-ladder and into the Zodiac, fully equipped and in life-saving jackets, seemed at first sight impossible. Yet, the participants embarked all right and quickly.

A group of glaciologists headed for the huge turquoise iceberg. Its glacial-ice shaped outline reminded of a ruined medieval castle, or remnants of a shipwreck. Sampling was a success only at the fifth try.

All the impressions of the day, however, were eclipsed by walruses. We spotted them sunning themselves, lying on their backs motionless. With strangers close to them, they would only raise their heads lazily to assume their initial position.

June 13

It finally happened! We spotted the ‘hosts’ of the Arctic – two adult bears and three cubs walking along the shoreline.

The Professor Molchanov headed for the Big Oransky Islands, whose tops were all covered by tiny but amazingly beautiful Arctic plants. The birdy spots looked impressive. Hundreds of birds, auks and guillemots being dominant, were simply fastened upon the rocks. The noise the spot produced was eerie, and so was the smell.

Biologists, radiologists, geographers and television reporters got into the boats to reach the shore. That was their most extreme landing as they were back all soaking wet. The weather suddenly took a turn for the worse: the wind was increasing, high waves threatened a storm and it started raining.

June 16

In the morning, the Professor Molchanov reached the northernmost point of its voyage – at 80°20’’N – to lie in the snow-covered Tikhaya bay, Hooker Island, Franz Joseph Land. The abandoned weather station on its shore is where the ‘Floating University’ researchers disembarked. They have as if been to a museum one has to have the nerve to enter, as it is guarded by the ‘hosts of the Arctic’. The bears’ footprints are everywhere – in the snow, by the abandoned buildings, on the hill slopes.

June 19

Research officer at IEPN Alexey Morozov has christened this day as the ‘beginning of new history of seismic research in the Arctic region’ because they placed the first seismic station on Cape Zhelaniya. Monitored by surveyors, the station will remain here for one month and is designed to register the unique information which, if it really exists, is owned today only by military science and is therefore classified as strictly confidential. The seismic studies in the Arctic may offer a wide range of data applicable in many branches of science.

June 20

On reaching Cape Zhelaniya (‘zhelaniye’ being Russian for ‘wish’) the participants of the expedition were fussing over what they would. Selecting the fondest wish took many a long time, for only one wish could be made!

The end of the day was marked by another natural phenomena of amazing beauty. When leaving Novaya Zemlya, the geographers spotted Arctic mirages, or ‘light refraction’ in scientific terms. The reflection of the rocks was mirrored in the air! It was almost impossible to discern the border between the real rock and its perfect twin reflected in the sky.

June 23

At the section of Franz Joseph Land and Cape Zhelaniya the AARI research officers have discovered an unusually warm current! Anticipating the DISCOVERY, the eyes of specialists in hydrochemistry gleamed! Everyone astir, the deep-water current changed the schedule of the works to be performed at the sections.

The water samples showed that the temperature of one of the streams was one degree above zero – an interesting discovery that made hydrologists decide to look into the behavior of the stream within the section of Admiralteistvo Island. With advanced devices at their disposal, the participants of the expedition are able to obtain unique and high-precision data, which helps them tracking changes in the Barents ecosystem induced by global warming.

July 1

The ‘Floating University’ has by now been sweeping the seas and performing en-route complex research work for one month! In the place where the Professor Molchanov stopped – only 30 km away from Arkhangelsk (!) – the researchers had a chance to spot a unique natural phenomena spanning 570 million years!

Here on these shores are visible the outcrop of Vendian strata dating back to Proterozoic era. These shaking shales still bear the imprints left from the remains of the first metazoan invertebrates. Such unique territories with primordial sediments are five in Arkhangelsk Region and they are the world’s largest in terms of species diversity!

Updated 21.09.2012