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Evacuation Ordered as Melting Ice Cracks Beneath Arctic Research Station

A Russian deep-diving miniature submarine is lowered from the research vessel Akademik Fyodorov. (Vladimir Chistyakov/AP/File)

By Jacob Chamberlain | Agencies | 27 May 2013

A Russian Arctic research station has been forced to evacuate following the discovery that the ice was melting beneath it.

The Russian Arctic research station was expected to last until September, depending on usual ice melting patterns. However, the ice floe on which the research station sat began melting at a faster rate than expected.

Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Sergei Donskoi set a three-day deadline to draft a plan to evacuate the North Pole-40 floating research station, the ministry said in a statement.

“The ice is disintegrating,” a ministry spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse. “Cracks appeared in the floe.”

"It's getting harder and harder to find a proper block of ice to sustain one of these stations," said Viktor Boyarsky, a former polar explorer and current director of the Russian State Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic in St. Petersburg.

"There are fewer suitable ice locations, and they are much more mobile than in the past. The SP-40 expedition [being evacuated] lasted barely 9 months, and there are no proper ice floes in the area that they can move to. We'll go on sending these expeditions, but it's going to be much more costly. The best idea is to have a station that lasts for two or three years, but that's probably a thing of the past," Boyarsky stated.

The spreading cracks in the ice under the station are yet another sign of the record breaking pace at which the Arctic ice sheet continues to melt. The year 2012 kept up pace with the 9 previous years of warming. The past 10 years have been the warmest on record.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the extent of sea ice last September was the lowest on record.

“It’s a huge loss for us, and for science,” Vladimir Sokolov, director of the expedition, said in a telephone interview with the Washington Post. “For us, it is very important to get information about the climate system in the high-latitude Arctic”—a task that will be increasingly difficult given the lack of places for researchers to stand.


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