Arctic dream: Russia’s polar des res

Fancy a swim in the Arctic? Well, with an ambitious new project Russia is developing, this could become a pleasurable experience! A luxury settlement housing 5,000 people under a huge dome with complex life support is to rise up from the polar ice.

­Architect Valery Rzhevsky says this is the world’s first such project with an artificial climate and life support, like at a space station. The energy would be supplied by a floating nuclear electric power station. The city would be called ‘Umka’, which means polar bear. It is to be built on Kotelny, an uninhabited island off Russia’s north coast, a thousand kilometers from the North Pole.

Its design shares features with the ISS, but it will be around a mile long and will contain parks, swimming pools and a church. As for the food, the idea is that the town would feed itself with the help of fish and poultry farms, greenhouses, a grain handling plant and a bakery. Rzhevsky claims the town would survive “even on the Moon, if need be”.

Rzhevsky says his ‘ice town’ can be built soon, and could change the demographics of the globe.

“We’re convinced that this is something our country and even entire mankind really need. It may not happen overnight, but people will eventually move to the North.”  

Others aren’t so sure.

“I think it may carry a certain element of a dream,” President of the University of the Arctic Lars Kullerud told RT, admitting that “dreams are very often healthy”. Still he calls the idea “very ambitious and probably very costly”.

­Russia’s Ice Town would be called Umka, which means ‘adult male polar bear’. For most Russians, Umka is the name of a cute polar bear cub from a well-loved Soviet cartoon of the same name. Umka lived in the north with his mother, and one day became friends with a little boy.

­Umka will host mainly oil and gas engineers working in the frozen resource-rich reaches.

“These people provide the entire country with huge funds for the budget,” Rzhevsky explains. “They deserve to live in good conditions. So we are providing them with comfortable living space, practically like 5-star hotels.”

It is estimated the Arctic could hold a third of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13% of its oil. As the Soviet Union ended, so did many of the mining and mineral projects it had in the region. But in 2007, Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov planted the country’s flag on the seabed under the North Pole. Now, with international competition heating up for black gold in the cold, Russia is turning back north.

“Today we have to do some reconstruction. It is oil and gas companies that will play the major role here,” Anton Vasiliev, Russia’s senior Arctic official says.

With the project’s cost estimated at $5-7 billion dollars, the Umka architect is keen to get oil companies onboard.

The plan is ambitious, but Valery Rzhevsky says with the benefits it could bring, Russia isn’t about to get cold feet.