Russia launches its Antarctic conquest

The flagship of Russia's polar fleet, The Academic Fyodorov, has begun its journey to the Antarctic. In the past 20 years the ship has sailed to the Arctic and Antarctica 26 times. Now, it's begun its longest journey, which is expected to take more than 2

Members of the 53rd Russian Antarctic expedition will study the influence of global warming on the southernmost continent.

Their voyage starts in Saint Petersburg and will finish there in June 2008.

The 102 members of the Russian expedition and 70 sailors will first go to the port of Bremerhaven in Germany to pick up team members from Austria, France and South Korea. The ship will then head to Capetown in South Africa, where the crew will be joined by more scientists.

The organisers of the expedition are planning to re-open two bases that were closed at the beginning of the 1990s and install seismic measuring equipment.

“For the first time in the last 16 years we'll have to go around the Antarctic to carry out research activities in its Pacific sector,” stated Valery Lukin, the head of the expedition.

They will also explore Lake Vostok, which is hidden under Antarctica's 4 km-thick ice. This is one of the mission's priorities.

The Academic Fyodorov science-research vessel was built in 1987 and is named after Soviet scientist Evgeny Fyodorov.