MOSCOW, May 23 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi ordered preparation of an evacuation plan on Thursday for the country’s North Pole 40 (SP-40) drifting polar research station, due to the break-up of the ice floe it is located on.
The break-up of the ice floe poses a threat not only to the station itself and the 16 scientists working there, but could also cause environmental pollution in the area near Canada where it is drifting, the ministry said in a statement.
Vladimir Sokolov, the head of Russia’s high-latitude Arctic expeditions, told RIA Novosti that an evacuation plan was ready and the Yamal nuclear-powered icebreaker could reach the drifting polar station by June 10.
“There is already a plan. The Yamal is scheduled to leave the port of Murmansk on May 31…, and there are about 10 days of navigation to reach the station’s location,” he said.
SP-40, which was put into operation on October 1, 2012, was originally due to work until September this year, Sokolov said, “but the station’s ice floe is cleaved and it was decided to dismantle the station to prevent an emergency situation.”
“The scale of damage to the ice floe indicates that the station has no chance of surviving through this summer. That is why a decision was made on the early evacuation. There is currently no threat to people, but it is better to do it now than later in emergency mode,” Sokolov added.
Finding a suitable ice floe for the stations is becoming harder every year due to global climate change. The coverage of ice in the Arctic in summer 2012 had declined by nearly 50 percent since the start of satellite tracking in the late 1970s, according to BarentsObserver.com, a Norway-run news service.
This is not the first time that Russia, which opened its first SP-1 station in 1937, has made an early evacuation in the Arctic. In late April 2012, the previous research station, SP-39, was moved to another ice floe because its original one was breaking up, and in May 2010, the Rossiya nuclear-powered icebreaker evacuated floating station SP-37.