Severnyi Polius

Severnyi Polius


(North Pole), the name of several Soviet scientific observation stations established on drift ice over deep water in the Arctic Ocean. The stations carry out year-round research on oceanography, glaciology (the physics and dynamics of ice), meteorology, aerology, geophysics (ionospheric and magnetic-field research), hydrochemistry, hydrophysics, and marine biology. In one year a Severnyi Polius station conducts on the average 600–650 ocean depth measurements, 3,500–3,900 weather observations, 600–650 launchings of balloons equipped with radiosondes, and 1,200–1,300 temperature measurements and samplings of seawater for chemical analysis. Also carried out are magnetic, ionospheric, ice, and other observations. Data on the direction and speed of the ice floe on which the station is located are obtained through regular astronomical determination of the floe’s coordinates. The results of the station’s observations are transmitted on a regular basis to scientific centers by radio.

From 1956 to 1959 the observation programs of the Severnyi Polius stations were coordinated with the programs of the International Geophysical Year. Beginning in 1973, the stations participated in the international POLEX (Polar Experiment) program concerned with the interaction of the ocean and atmosphere in the polar regions.

The results of the stations’ observations are used to forecast weather and ice conditions for navigation along the Northern Sea Route and to meet the needs of various branches of the economy, such as shipping, river transport, air transport, industry, and construction.

F. Nansen originated the idea of making use of the drift of ice—that is, the movement of ice under the influence of winds and currents—to study the character of the high-latitude regions of the Arctic Ocean. Between 1893 and 1896 he carried out such exploration on the Fram.

The establishment of the Severnyi Polius drifting ice stations has been necessary because the central part of the Arctic Ocean lacks dry land suitable for the construction of permanent observation posts. The first Severnyi Polius station (SP-1) was set up in May 1937 by the high-latitude air expedition Sever-1 (North-1), which was led by Academician O. Iu. Shmidt. SP-1 was established in the vicinity of the north geographic pole and was staffed by I. D. Papanin, P. P. Shirshov, E. K. Federov, and E. T. Krenkel’. After drifting southward for nine months, it was finally carried into the Greenland Sea.

Since 1954, Soviet polar research workers have conducted investigations in the central arctic on a continuous basis. One to three Severnyi Polius stations are in operation each year. The scientific work of the stations is directed by the Arctic and Antarctic Scientific Research Institute. When a station drifts across the polar region to the passage between Spitsbergen and Greenland (a journey lasting two or three years), it is evacuated and is replaced by a new station established in the starting region. A station may be carried along by the anticyclonic gyre that causes ice to circulate in a counterclockwise direction in the region adjoining northern Greenland, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and Alaska. In this case, the station is maintained as long as it can be supplied by air. Such stations are usually located 1,500–1,800 km from the Soviet coastline and operate for three to four years before being evacuated. Between 1937 and 1973 the Severnyi Polius stations drifted a total of 35,000 km—reckoned on the basis of smoothed out paths—or 80,000 km—measured along the meandering paths they actually followed. Details of the drift of the stations established between 1937 and 1973 are given in Table 1.

Severnyi Polius stations are established either by air—usually in April or May—or through the use of icebreakers—in October or November. The average station remains in operation for a period of 26–27 months; nine months has been the minimum period and 48 months the maximum. There were 54 annual staff” changes at the 22 stations operating between 1937 and 1974. The total number of personnel was 1,400.

The staff of a Severnyi Polius station usually includes two to five oceanographers and glaciologists, two to six aerologists, meteorologists, and actinometry specialists, three to five geo-physicists, one or two mechanics, one or two radio operators, a doctor, and a cook. In addition, as many as 10 to 20 temporary scientific personnel may join the staff for several months, usually

Table 1. Drift of Severnyi Polius drifting ice stations in the Arctic Basin
StationStation leadersDrift datesDrift duration (days)Drift coordinatesDrift distance (km)Drift speed (km/day)
  StartFinish StartFinishActual path followedSmoothed out pathActual path followedSmoothed out path
SP-1I. D. PapaninMay 21,
Feb. 19,
SP-2M. M. SomovApr. 2,
Apr. 11,
37476°03′166°36′W81°44′163°48’ W2,6006406.91.4
SP-3A. F. TreshnikovApr. 9,
Apr. 20,
SP-4E. I. Tolstikov
P. A. Gordienko
A. G. Dralkin
Apr. 8,
Apr. 19,
SP-5N. A. Volkov
A. L. Sokolov
Apr. 21,
Oct. 8,
53682° 10′156°51′E84–18′63°20’ E3,6301,0806.72.0
SP-6K. A. Sychev
V. M. Driatskii
S. T. Serlapov
V. S. Antonov
Apr. 19,
Sept. 14,
1,24574° 24′177°04′W82°06′03°56’ E8,6502,9207.02.5
SP-7V. A. Vedernikov
N. A. Belov
Apr. 23,
Apr. 11,
SP-8V. M. Rogachev
N. I. Blinov
I. P. Romanov
Apr. 27,
Mar. 19,
1,05876°11′164°24′W83° 15′132°30′W6,0901,6655.31.6
SP-9V. A. Shamont’evApr. 26,
Mar. 28,
SP-10N. A. Kornilov
Iu. B. Konstantinov
F. V. Zakharov
Oct. 17,
Apr. 29,
91475°27′177°10′E88°32′90°30’ E3,9601,7954.31.6
SP-11N. N. BriazginApr. 16,
Apr. 20,
SP-12L. N. Beliakov
N. F. Kudriavtsev
Apr. 30,
Apr. 25,
SP-13A. la. Buzuev
V. F. Dubovtsev
Iu. L. Nazintsev
Apr. 22,
Apr. 20,
1,09973°55′161–19′W87°55′03°32’ E3,5452,6703.22.4
SP-14Iu. B. KonstantinovMay1, 1965Feb. 12,
SP-15V. V. Panov
L. V. Bulatov
Apr. 15,
Mar. 25,
SP-16Iu. B. Konstantinov
P. T. Morozov A. la. Buzuev
P. T. Morozov
Apr. 10,
Mar. 22,
SP-17N. I. BlinovN. N. OvchinnikovApr. 18,
Oct. 16,
54680°30′165°26′E86°48′25°20’ E1,7501,5003.22.9
SP-18N. N. Ovchinnikov
I. P. Romanov
V. F. Dubovtsev
Iu. V. Kolosov
Oct. 9,
Oct. 24,
1,11075° 10′165°02’ W86°06′153°51′E5,2402,1604.71.9
SP-19A. N. Chilingarov
N. P. Ereminlu.
B. Konstantinov
Nov. 7,
Apr. 16,
SP-20Iu. P. Tikhonov
E. Maikhrovskii
I. Boiko
Apr. 22,
May 17,
SP-21G. I. Kizino
N. B. Makurin
Apr. 30,
May 17,
SP-22V. G. Moroz
P. T. Morozov
Sept. 13,
Still in progress76°16′168°31′W

in the spring, to carry out short-term observations.

The stations occasionally are used as bases for the work of the mobile scientific teams of the Sever expeditions. These teams use small aircraft to make short-term observations in areas within 300–500 km of the station.

A Severnyi Polius camp consists of a complex of portable dwellings, areas for scientific work (in small buildings or hemispherical tents), a messroom, an electric power plant, a radio set, meteorological radar, and basic and emergency stores. An airstrip is set up on a level section of the ice.

The staff of the stations must work under severe conditions. The long polar nights can last up to five months. In the winter, temperatures can fall as low as –50°C, and frequent snowstorms occur with wind speeds exceeding 15–20 m/sec. In the summer, damp and foggy weather predominates. Particularly dangerous are water openings, cracks, and hummocks in the ice. An ice floe of average size has an area of 1 sq km, is 2–3 mm thick, and weighs approximately 2–3 million tons. Enormous stresses arise in the ice when it drifts unevenly or turns. When floes collide, these stresses give rise to cracks and hummocks.

The Severnyi Polius stations experienced more than 500 instances of cracking between 1937 and 1973. In January 1970 the 30-meter-thick ice island of SP-19 broke up, and the staff and equipment were left on small ice fragments. The station was reestablished by air on the part of the island that remained intact.

The work of the Severnyi Polius stations over many years has resulted in a number of important physical and geographical discoveries. Valuable findings have been made concerning processes in the hydrosphere and atmosphere in the polar region; information has been obtained on the laws governing such processes and on the interrelationship of the processes.

Among the most important achievements are the discovery of the submarine Lomonosov Ridge, which cuts across the Arctic Ocean, and the discovery of other rises and depressions of the ocean floor. Two basic mechanisms for ice drift have been found—direct and circular. It has been established that cyclones actively penetrate the central arctic.

The stations perform a great service by providing data on atmospheric circulation in the high latitudes of the arctic: the circulation there influences weather patterns in regions farther south.

The development of arctic research—in particular, the use of the Severnyi Polius stations—has resulted in substantial advances by Soviet science in knowledge of one of the harshest and most inaccessible regions of the earth.


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