Russia's North Pole mission successfully completed
The ten-day expedition explored the sea bed of the Arctic and planted a Russian flag there. The mission was to collect geological evidence proving that a vast underwater area of the Lomonosov Ridge, rich in oil and gas, is a continuation of Russia's continental shelf.
They have done a lot to be able to say “Mission accomplished”: 4,300 metres and nine hours under the ice, and numerous scientific experiments conducted.
Anatoly Sagalevich, Mir-1 pilot, says it’s been the hardest dive he’s ever done. “Now we know how to do it. And this is very important. If necessary, we can do it again,” he assures.
Vladimir Gruzdev, also a crew member, for whom it was the first dive, recalls, “The cold – this was the most memorable thing. The water temperature was below zero, – 0.6 – and this feeling that you are nothing but a grain of sand in the universe.”
Correspondent Dmitry Glukhovsky, RT’s insider onboard of the expedition vessel, explained why August had been chosen as the best time for the journey.
“As a matter of fact it’s summer, the warmest time of the year. And that’s why the expedition organisers decided to choose this time for the journey. The ice is the thinnest possible this time of year. It was about zero degrees Celsius – not very cold,” he noted.
Another expedition participant, Frederik Paulsen, a Swedish pharmaceuticals millionaire and one of the main investors in the Russian mission to the North Pole, believes the Arctic team has done even more it had planned to do.
“I think we even surpassed what we were trying to do. We took all the necessary samples, we managed to get down – were the first persons to go down to the bottom of the North Pole. But what we’ve also achieved on top of that is the increased awareness of the Polar regions. The future of the world is being decided at the Polar regions. So we have managed to increase awareness, people have become interested in this fascinating achievement,” he explained.
The leader of the expedition, Artur Chilingarov, pointed out during a press-conference in Moscow on Wednesday that the expedition was actually an international one.
“It was a very complicated, a very dangerous mission. It was an act of heroism – to descend to the very bottom of the Ocean. 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,” the explorer said.
To watch the full version of the press-conference please follow the link.
Meanwhile, the trip sparked criticism from Canada and the U.S. The Americans are now sending their own icebreaker to the North Pole for what it calls a pre-planned research mission.
The Russian scientists were to map part of the Lomonosov Ridge. The underwater mountain range might be an extension of the Eurasian continent and therefore a part of Russia's continental shelf. The region could store enormous gas and oil resources, and Russia is not the only country who is after these reserves. Some experts say this dive has already triggered a race for the Arctic.
“It’s being politicised at the moment around the world, and I think it’s a little bit sad because it was never designed as a political operation. It was designed for seven or eight years as exploration, history and science. And that’s how it was carried out,” Mike McDowell, crew member from Australia, commented.
Russia plans to officially claim the area after 2010 after it gathers more evidence to convince the UN.