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8 Oct, 2010 06:31

Arctic expedition en route to year-long stay on ice floe

Russian scientists will spend one year drifting on an ice floe in an epic expedition to the Arctic. It is the latest in a series of trips to study the area and support Russia's claim to the region's territory.

The ice floe that the expedition will pick for its base will "voyage" a long distance in a year, which means scientists will be able to a do research work on a vast territory of the Arctic.

The research team will study underwater shelves, estimate solar radiation and take water and ice probes in different parts of Arctic

Fanfares at the top of the world are nothing new for the likes of Arctic veteran, Russia’s Artur Chilingarov. He has lost count of the times he has traveled to both poles.

For others, a new, lonely, cold, possibly dangerous adventure on North Pole-38 expedition lies ahead.

For the team, two weeks aboard an icebreaker is their last chance to have fun and get to know new colleagues. As soon as they get to their final destination, it will be hard work and survival.

“This diary is a present from my girlfriend,” said a 25-year-old expedition member, oceanologist Andrey Balakin. “It is handmade, stylized as an old traveler’s book, with drawings and layers of papyrus paper. She wants me to write down my impressions, interesting stories.”

Andrey is one of a 15-strong team who will be left to fend for themselves for a year. Whatever food, medicine, equipment or clothes they need has to go with them now, because they will be out of reach. Scientists will have to keep an eye on ice cracks, dangerous storms, and polar bears on the hunt.

Also heading north on the ship is veteran Galiy Kumyshev from the sunny Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. He says his family are not exactly happy with his career choice.

“My parents were against the expedition,” he said. “To worsen relations with parents in the Caucasus is a serious thing.”

”I came back home for six months to build a house for my sons and moved to St Petersburg. For me, the Nordic climate is better. Now I fall ill in the warm,” he says.

Galiy has been looking forward to reuniting with his best friends. While he has been on leave, huskies Dina and Dick spent a year on the island of Vise in the Arctic Ocean, most of it outdoors. Scientists tell stories of how they fearlessly chase bears into the sea.

Galiy has seen them grow from puppies into courageous explorers, but they can never head south to warmer climes. The biggest threat to husky dogs lies not within the Arctic, but outside it.

Born in the North, which is almost clean of viruses, these dogs would not survive in the cities. That is why they are moved from one station to another, in other words, they are anchored to the north for the rest of their lives.

The reunion between Galiy and his best friends was a happy one.

“Today is a special day for me. I can not express it with words. I am overjoyed!” he said. “I took a puppy from these two to the city and it died. I would have been less upset if my wife had fallen sick, than when my dog died. I could not eat and sleep for a week.”

Now the dogs are up and ready for a new polar journey. You need all the friends you can get alone in the Arctic.