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8 Aug, 2007 10:34

Russian Polar expedition: "Mission Accomplished!"

Russia's mission to the North Pole has been successfully completed, with all team members safely back home.

4,300 metres deep under the ice, they were going down in history. Those who took part in this Polar Odyssey now admit there was always the second thought: “What if…”

“I have to say, before going down I wrote several lines to my family. Because I knew, I felt it – you don't come up easy from under the ice. For an hour-and-half we were looking for the ice hole. God and professionalism helped us,” Artur Chilingarov, the leader of the expedition, said.   

Nine hours under the ice, numerous scientific experiments, lives of the expedition members always at risk – all that to say: “Mission accomplished!”

“Let me show you one thing. This little short glass was taken to the depth of 4,300 metres, it used to be a glass this big, and look what it turned out to be after being exposed to water pressure,” Vladimir Strugatsky from the Polar Association explained.

The most important thing, the team prepared the sea-bed for further exploration. The scientists were to map part of the Lomonosov Ridge. Then underwater mountain range might be an extension of the Eurasian continent and therefore a part of Russia's continental shelf.

“We have the technology. We proved you can go down under the ice and go up safely. Now it’s for  science to go further and prove the shelf is the extension of the continent. That's a state task. Our expedition was a geographic one, they labeled it political,” Mr Chilingarov said.

The region could store enormous gas and oil resources, and it’s the question that has caused  controversy among the countries which are after these reserves. Some experts say this dive has already triggered a race for the Arctic.

“Some countries expressed their dislike of the mission. I said it yesterday, I'll repeat it today: if they wish, they can organise a similar expedition. It was an international mission. Our foreign colleagues believed in us, and in our mission. They trusted their lives to our skills,” he added.

Even the foreign crew members wore the Russian uniform. Mike McDowel said the expedition is a success first for all human beings, and only then for Russia.

“The political part of this will be things that will be solved over many years. Who owns the Arctic? Who doesn’t own the Arctic? – is something that will be talked about and discussed by lawyers and politicians for the next fifty years. But I say – focus on the fact that this was an exploration, a human achievement. There is a Russian flag at the North Pole as there should be. This was a great expedition, and Russia has every right to put a flag to celebrate this expedition,” Mr McDowell explained.

The Australian also left his mark, a little plate with his name and the name of his Motherland. He stressed that this was not a territorial claim.

But the crew members can certainly claim to be the first ones who saw the very top of the Earth hidden under the ice.

The participants of the expedition have already become living legends, as the trailblazers of the Arctic depths. The Russian flag on the Arctic seabed is a symbol and a reminder – they were the first ones to get there.