Supply Chain Council of European Union |

2,068 kilometers on drifting ice

We were absorbed in setting up the station and did not notice that a wet and cold summer had set in. The pea-soup fog that often shrouded the camp was interspersed with drizzle and sleet. The sun shone only rarely. Air temperatures hovered around zero degrees most of the time. The snow covering our ice-floe was melting quickly. The first puddles of meltwater appeared in early July and they expanded day after day, turning into lakes.

We drilled dozens of holes all over the camp. At first, some of them froze over because of the low temperatures inside the layers of ice.

All the snow melted away in mid-July, and the ice also began to thaw at a fast pace. A one-meter-thick ice layer had disappeared by late summer. Ice remained intact under the houses, turning into pedestals that could fall at any moment. So, we had to relocate some of the houses

More intense shifts in the ice also forced us to move from place to place. Adjacent ice-floes compressed our own ice-floe and formed new ridges, hummocks and cracks. One of the cracks was within 40 meters of the aerologists’ house and cut off a section of the camp with two tents. Another crack running parallel to the first one cut off the ice-floe’s western section and ended near a large mound. We barely had time to remove our tents before the ice-floe partly disintegrated. One of its sections started drifting away, and a large patch of ice-free water formed where the crack had been.

We took off in our helicopter and saw that ice-free water around the ice-floe had expanded greatly. After reaching the runway 30 kilometers from our camp, we saw that the smooth ice surface, covered with a thin layer of snow, had turned into a long and narrow lake, with tiny ripples on the surface of the water. A tent, bleached white by the sun, stood all alone on a small islet.

It took a lot of time and effort to prepare a standby runway which was also rendered useless. This posed additional problems for us because we did not know where incoming aircraft could land. Therefore, we decided to construct a runway on the station’s ice-floe.

A powerful blizzard hit the camp on August 23, with wind gusts blowing at 20 meters per second. The wind tore the roof off a garage where there were two tractors. Dry snowflakes hit our eyes so hard that we were unable to open them. Visibility was down to 50–100 meters, and ambient air temperatures dropped to minus five degrees Celsius. Large snow-drifts formed at work sites and around the houses. At that time, Moscow was enduring a 30-degree heat wave.

The polar summer was over, and autumn would soon set in. Sub-zero temperatures bit harder and harder every day. Snow began to cover the puddles of meltwater, and new ice started forming on patches of ice-free water. Seagulls and ducks no longer called on us. A snow bunting that sometimes visited us in summer also flew away. Ringed seals surfaced less often in patches of ice-free water

By that time, the station’s ice-floe had traveled almost 1,000 kilometers along an intricate route. It crossed the 87th Parallel and drifted 500 kilometers due north. The station was located in a circumpolar region where ocean depths reach almost 4,000 meters.


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