The Russian research vessel Akademik Tryoshnikov, the flagship of the country’s polar research fleet, set out from Murmansk on 20 March for the North Pole to begin compiling data on sea and ice conditions along the Northern Sea Route (NSR).
The ice-class ship will sail north of the archipelago of Franz Josef Land and drift with the ice for two months to waters near Norway’s Svalbard islands.
On board the vessel is a group of scientists from the Russian state meteorological institute, Roshydromet, and the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.
Data gathered by Akademik Tryoshnikov will also assist with the development of Russia’s new Arctic research platform, which will be designed to drift through the Arctic for up to three years.
Aleksandr Makarov, the director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, told Russian news outlets that the voyage will be important for developing safe navigation along the Northern Sea Route. This, he said, is because “natural processes become more complicated when the number of vessels is growing.”
Warmer temperatures have led to significant ice melt along the previously inaccessible Northern Sea Route. In September last year, the container ship Venta Maersk became the first commercial vessel of its kind of navigate the route, which can reduce journey times between Asia and Europe by up to two weeks.
Akademik Tryoshnikov’s mission is part of Transarktika-2019, a Russian government-sponsored Arctic research programme. In February this year, the government allocated some one billion rubles to fund several Arctic expeditions.
By 24 March, the vessel had made it to the Arctic ice edge on 75 degrees North.
Russia is not the only country to be making moves in the Arctic, with recent news that China is to be opening up vessel routes with news that it will soon build its first nuclear-powered icebreaker.