Geologists leave for expedition to Severnaya Zemlya, Laptev Sea


Geology experts will study the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago’s islands and the Laptev Sea’s shelf during an expedition onboard the Ivan Petrov research/survey vessel, which departed from Arkhangelsk on Sunday, the Northern Department on Hydrometeorology and Environment’s Director Roman Yershov told TASS.

"The Ivan Petrov will conduct research jointly with the ocean studies institute [S. Gramberg All-Russia Scientific Research Institute for Geology and Mineral Resources of the Ocean] in the Laptev Sea and on the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago," the scientist said.

The research vessel leaves for its first voyage after renovation, which continued for two months, the Northern Department’s Deputy Director Alexei Burakov told TASS. "Those were upgrade of the navigation and deck equipment, and the dock repairs," he said. The ship was built in Finland in 1989 for scientific research in ocean, meteorology, hydrochemistry, biology and environment studies in Russia’s inner seas. For those purposes, the ship has five equipped laboratories and elevating systems. The Ivan Petrov has an unlimited sailing area, including in ice conditions.

Severnaya Zemlya

The first part of the expedition will be on the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago. Geologists will study the rocks there to find possible deposits of oil and gas. "We shall take samples to study them at the lab," the expedition’s leader, Deputy Director General of the ocean studies institute Evgeny Gusev told TASS. "We shall work on three islands: the Komsomolets, Pioneer and October Revolution."

Severnaya Zemlya is the most hard-to-reach archipelago in the Russian Arctic. In September, the ice retreats from the sea around islands, and thus the scientists will be able to go ashore. "It is less studied than other regions - our institute took pictures there back in the 1950s and 1980s, later on there were only geology tours - some foreigners came to make some research," Gusev said. "Many questions are still to be answered."

"There is no big difference [from other Arctic archipelagoes: Franz Josef Land, New Siberian Islands] - similar folded areas, the range of rocks is about the same, they are similar, but Severnaya Zemlya is very hard-to-reach, probably the most hard-to-reach of the archipelagos."

In September, it will be rather chilly on Severnaya Zemlya, the air temperatures will drop below zero degrees. "But there won’t be ice, the ship will approach the land and the researchers will be able to go ashore practically anywhere," Gusev said. "Light snowfalls will begin on the islands." The scientists will have to be ready to protect themselves from polar bears. "We have special people, who are responsible for the safety, we have false-fire devices to frighten off the polar bears," he added.


The sea of earthquakes

The expedition’s second part will be in the Laptev Sea. "It includes geology video recording of the Laptev Sea’s shelf," Gusev said. "It’s a part of the state program for geology maps - to make maps of the land and continental shelf - our institute is responsible for the shelf."

Experts are making third-generation 1:1,000,000 scale geology maps. The program will continue to 2025.

The ice situation in the Laptev Sea in September is very favorable. "There is no ice, it disappears at that time," he continued. "Two weeks ago, the Vilkitsky Strait was locked with ice, and a ship like this could barely cross it."

The Laptev Sea’s shelf is a unique place for the Arctic. "It is an active seismic zone, the only place in the Arctic, a belt, where submarine earthquakes occur," Gusev said.

The Ivan Petrov will return to Arkhangelsk on October 10.

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