Expedition Diaries 2017

July 12. Day 6

July 12. Day 6

We are approaching the Russkaya Gavan’ Bay and in the evening, we will be there and we’ll take the course to the Aleksandra Land after it taking water samples for the hydrological research. All in all, during the twenty-four hours 18 stops will be made. It’s +28 degrees in Arkhangelsk. Aleksander Saburov commented: of course! As soon as we went to the Arctic the real summer began in our city! But we are enjoying our journey: the sea is serene of a very beautiful silver color, Novaya Zemlya is on the right board, sometimes fog appears. There is a possibility that we will meet “Sea Spirit” – the cruise ship, which follows the route Spitsbergen-Franz Josef Land. Today it is situated near Aleksandra Land. Though I don’t remember whether it is going forth or back to Spitsbergen

The Ingo’s unicorn

Since 4 pm many people are coming to the captain’s bridge hoping to see the marine unicorn. It’s all about Ingo Weiss. He had taken a photo of some sea creature and then it turned out that it was narwhal. Ingo took its picture when we were at a 76o N near the Novaya Zemlya shores. It’s not very typical place to meet them. As far as I remember no one has met this creature here for the last several years. The most typical one is the Cambridge Bay near the shores of Franz Josef Land. Though the water area where narwhals do live is the whole High Arctic. The biggest part of narwhals (about 70%) lives in the waters of the Canadian archipelago.


A rare marine mammal which is sometimes called marine unicorn. The length of the body of the adult species can be up to 4.5 meters. The main feature of this animal is its horn which can spiral up to 2-3 meters. It is the upper tooth, usually the left one and is typical for males only.

Though I have somewhere read that theoretically females may also have horns if they have hormonal problems. In 1 out of 500 cases (talking about males) both upper teeth grow and create a double horn. Such skulls are stored in the museums.

Why all the unicorns occur only when I’m going to sleep?..

Of the life in the ice

Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land are the territories which have the biggest areas covered with ice (in Russia and in the entire world). Aleksandra Urazgildeeva told us today that glaciers cover 0,5% of the earth crust, the Antarctic ice shield – 8,3%. Cryosphere (frozen water) contains snow, river, lake and sea ice, ice shields, glaciers and ice caps, permafrost.

People are constantly talking about the rise of temperatures in the Arctic. It can be traced through the sea ice in the Arctic ocean. Its number is decreasing. The record was set in 2012. There are no such processes in the southern hemisphere. Though the ice shield of the southern mainland seems to be decreasing as well, but only in the western part, in the eastern one vice versa it increases.

Anna Vesman explained us how ice forms and melts. That is quite time-consuming process which consists of several stages (which have various interesting names: ice needles, slush, etc.). We were told that first-year ice has grey color, later it becomes white-grey. In the high latitudes of the Arctic it will become a second-year ice and then multi-year ice. Arctic ice which age is more than 4 years accumulates within the region of the Canadian archipelago.

There are different forms of ice: pancake ice (very beautiful round ice pieces), Anna told us that once this term had been translated with the Russian word “oladushki” (like pancakes). Others are anchor ice and fast ice. The latter can prevent our landings.

I will not mention the stages of ice melting, it’s even more complicated than its formation.

The breath of soils

The scientific group which studies soils will also pay its attention on the “breath of soils” as Sergey Goryachkin mentioned. For the first time, the quantity of CO2 and methane which segregates from the soil surface will be calculated.

- Plants’ roots and different microorganisms breathes in the soil as like we do they also excrete CO2 into the atmosphere.

CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases as well as methane СН4. The latter excretes where the level of humidity is high.

- Each our calculation also includes calculation of temperatures and humidity. We try to make model for each region where we count how much CO2 and CH4 excreted per year.

Theoretically the greenhouse effect occurs because of greenhouse gases. The increase in its number leads to an increase of the phytomass which absorbs CO2. That’s why the final result should be calculated not by soil researchers and geographers but by other specialists. All in all, the climate change topic may be called the multidisciplinary one. The most difficult thing is to create the overall picture and to say what is waiting o\for us in the future.

Scientific group which studies soils will take its samples. It seems to be very easy, but it isn’t. Arctic soils are used to low temperatures and taken, for example, on board the vessel can change their chemical structure and the results of the research may not be accurate. 

- That’s why we take samples and immediately put them into the refrigerator. Besides we also have special thermos-isolating boxes and we hope we’ll manage to take them successfully to our laboratory on the mainland, - Sergey Goryachkin told us.

One day people on the “Omega” base of the Russian Arctic National Park tried to grow lemon tree there. The soils were collected not far from the base, it was mixed with various organic remnants, weed for making this soil fertile. By the way the lemon tree has grown but I don’t know its further fate. I asked Sergey Goryachkin whether there are soils on Franz Josef Land at all. He explained me very patiently, that soils are found everywhere where there is life.

 - There is an interaction between any organism and minerals. It is literally the story of soil formation.  

Cheluskintsy from Eric

Eric Hösli continued his lecture about the history of Russia's exploration of the Arctic. Today, the Soviet period was considered: SP-1, it is the first polar station at the FJL in 1929. It was organized very quickly: the expedition was collected in a record short time because the Norwegian expedition was heading to the FJL at the same time. The Soviet expedition was more fortunate with the ice situation.

An interesting moment: how linguistically the development of the Arctic was given in the 1930s. A lot of military vocabulary was used: conquest of the Arctic, an army of polar explorers, storm the Arctic, the Arctic front, fight against the elements ... Well, we are used to it. The struggle for harvest, the struggle against harvest, life is struggle, otherwise it is not interesting. Indeed, it was a struggle and conquest. It was difficult and so many people harm for it.

At the end of the lecture Eric showed the official world map of the Chinese army from 2017 with the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage indicated on it. The Chinese are very interested in the Arctic ..


The first wall newspaper from AFU-2017 will be on the board of the "Molchanov". Eric Hösli suggested to take pictures of all the participants and post their photos with short characteristic of their scientific interests . It would be better to make a photosession in the morning while it was cloudy. I think, I will take pictures one more time later with the sea background.

Russian Harbor and Shokalsky Glacier

About 7 p.m. we approached the Bay of Russkaya Gavan - one of the largest on Novaya Zemlya. Norwegians called it so because  of a huge number of Russian (Pomor) crosses  on the shore. In the bay it was possible to hide from the storm. Now I would like to tell you some information about this place that I have already written for an exhibition dedicated to the Novaya Zemlya some time ago.

Russkaya Gavan

The bay is on the west - the Barents Sea - side of the Northern Island of Novaya Zemlya between the peninsulas of Litke and Schmidt. The bay is open to the north and penetrates deeper into the North Island for 10 km. Its space in conjunction with the peninsulas Goryakov and Savich is divided into a number of separate water areas: the bays - Volodkina and Voronina in the east, the Otkupshchikova Bay in the west. The distance between the entrance capes of Makarov in the west and Uteshenija in the east is 8 km.

Approximately the Russkaya Gavan bay was mapped in 1871 by the Norwegian industrialist Friedrich Mack. The name was given by the Norwegians in 1869-1871 years in honor of Russian sailors who visited these remote places long before the Europeans. The undoubted proof is that the ancient Pomor crosses were later found by the researchers of the Russkaya Gavan Bay. On the peninsula Goryakova and the island of Bogatom  they were found in the 30 years of the twentieth century.  These crosses still exist.

In 1932 the polar station Russkaya Gavan was opened. It was located at the base of the Goryakov Peninsula on the second sea terrace 15 meters high. The houses stand on the flat surface between the Voronina Bay in the east and Otkupshikova Bay in the west. To both bays the terrace is sloped 5-7 °.

Currently four buildings have remained on the territory of the former polar station: the main building of the 1930s with two laboratories (meteorological and hydrological) and a radio station; residential building of the 1950s; bath and household building. The famous film "Seven braves" about the real events of 1932-1933 was made at the polar station "Russkaya Gavan".

In 1932 in the Russkaya Gavan` was also founded a station. It was located 1 km north of the polar station in the place of a modern beach on the Goryakova Peninsula at an altitude of 1.5 meters. In 1957-1959 years. Its was used as a base for the Novaya Zemlya glaciological expedition of the Institute of Geography of the USSR Academy of Sciences  which worked under the program of the International Geophysical Year. Almost all buildings were broken down or burnt.

From the south the Shokalsky glacier goes to Otkupshchikova Bay, the frontal breakage of which is 5 km in length. The height of the glacier wall is about 30 meters. The glacier reduces annually, it slips into the sea by about 150 meters.

Shokalsky glacier is amazing. In spite the fact that I had made already a million photos of the glacier from all sides, I started taking photographs from the porthole. At the moment I found the hat in which I had made the same photo last year my phone sat down! But the modern reality is following-  if you don`t make any selfie it can be considered that it doesn`t happen.

Konstantin Sergeevich began to keep after those who didn`t have hats. The rules are strict: those who do not care about their health lose their landings. There were such cases.

July 12. Day 6
July 12. Day 6
July 12. Day 6
July 12. Day 6
July 12. Day 6
July 12. Day 6
July 12. Day 6
July 12. Day 6

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Updated 12.07.2017