Soviet and Russian manned drifting ice stations are important contributors to exploration of the Arctic. An idea to use the drift ice for the exploration of nature in the high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean belongs to Fridtjof Nansen, who fulfilled it on Fram between 1893 and 1896. The first stations to use drift ice as means of scientific exploration of the Arctic, so-called drift ice stations, originated in the Soviet Union in 1937, when the first such station in the world, North Pole-1, started operations.
"NP" stations carry out the program of complex year-round research in the fields of oceanology, ice studies, meteorology, aerology, geophysics, hydrochemistry, hydrophysics, as well as in the field of marine biology. On average, an "NP" station is the host for 600 to 650 ocean depth measurements, 3500 to 3900 complex meteorology measurements, 1200 to 1300 temperature measurements and sea water probes for chemical analysis, 600 to 650 research balloon launches. Magnetic, ionosphere, ice and other observations are also carried out there. Regular measurements of the ice floe coordinates provide the data on the direction and speed of its drift.
The modern "NP" drifting ice station resembles a small settlement with housing for polar explorers and special buildings for the scientific equipment. Usually an "NP" station begins operations in April and continues for two or three years until the ice floe reaches the Greenland Sea. Polar explorers are substituted yearly. Since 1937 some 800 people were drifting at "NP" stations.
There are two groups of "NP" stations:
All "NP" stations are organized by the Russian (former Soviet) Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI).
Since 1954 Soviet "NP" stations worked continuously, with one to three such stations operating simultaneously each year. Total distance drifted between 1937 and 1973 was more than 80,000 kilometers. North Pole-22 is particularly notable for its record drift, lasting nine years. The ice floe carrying North Pole-19 passed through the North Pole for the first time ever on June 28, 1972.
During such long-term observations by "NP" stations, a lot of important discoveries in physical geography were made, valuable conclusions on regularities and the connection between processes in the polar region of the Earth's hydrosphere and atmosphere were obtained. Some of the most important discoveries were finding the deep-water Lomonosov Ridge, which crosses the Arctic Ocean, other large features of the ocean bottom's relief, the discovery of two systems of the drift (circular and "wash-out"), the fact of cyclones' active penetration into the Central Arctic.
The last Soviet "NP" station, North Pole-31, was closed in July 1991.
In the post-Soviet era, Russian exploration of the Arctic by drifting ice stations was suspended for twelve years. The year 2003 was notable for Russia's return into the Arctic. , three "NP" stations had carried out scientific measurements and research since then: "NP-32" through "NP-34". The latter was closed on May 25, 2006.
"NP-35" started operations on September 21, 2007 at the point , when flags of Russia and Saint Petersburg were raised there. 22 scientists, lead by A.A.Visnevsky are working on the ice floe. Establishment of the station was the third stage of the Arktika 2007 expedition. An appropriate ice floe was searched for from Akademik Fedorov research vessel, accompanied by nuclear icebreaker Russia, using MI-8 helicopters, for a week, until an ice floe with an area of 16 square kilometers was found. The ice has since shrunk significantly, however, and the station is now being abandoned ahead of schedule.
|Station name||Head of the first shift||Drift dates||Drift coordinates||Distance (km)|
|North Pole-1||I.D.Papanin||May 21, 1937||February 19, 1938||2,850|
|North Pole-2||M.M.Somov||April 2, 1950||April 11, 1951||2,600|
|North Pole-3||A.F.Trioshnikov||April 4, 1954||April 20, 1955||1,865|
|North Pole-4||E.I.Tolstikov||April 8, 1954||April 19, 1957||6,970|
|North Pole-5||N.A.Volkov||April 21, 1955||October 8, 1956||3,630|
|North Pole-6||K.A.Sychev||April 19, 1956||September 14, 1959||8,650|
|North Pole-7||V.A.Vedernikov||April 23, 1957||April 11, 1959||3,520|
|North Pole-8||V.M.Rogachyov||April 27, 1959||March 19, 1962||6,090|
|North Pole-9||V.A.Shamontyev||April 26, 1960||March 28, 1961||2,660|
|N.A.Kornilov||October 17, 1961||April 29, 1964||3,960|
|North Pole-11||N.N.Bryazgin||April 16, 1962||April 20, 1963||2,400|
|North Pole-12||L.N.Belyakov||April 30, 1963||April 25, 1965||1,595|
|North Pole-13||A.Ya. Buzuyev||April 22, 1964||April 20, 1967||3,545|
|North Pole-14||Yu. B.Konstantinov||May 1, 1965||February 12, 1966||1,040|
|North Pole-15||V.V.Panov||April 15, 1966||March 25, 1968||2,330|
|North Pole-16||Yu. B.Konstantinov||April 10, 1968||March 22, 1972||5,850|
|North Pole-17||N.I.Blinov||April 18, 1968||October 16, 1969||1,750|
|North Pole-18||N.N.Ovchinnikov||October 9, 1969||October 24, 1971||5,240|
|North Pole-19||A.N.Chilingarov||November 7, 1969||April 16, 1973||6,705|
|North Pole-20||Yu. P.Tikhonov||April 22, 1970||May 17, 1972||3,780|
|North Pole-21||G.I.Kizino||April 30, 1972||May 17, 1974||3,605|
|North Pole-22||V.G.Moroz||September 13, 1973||April 8, 1982||17,069|
|North Pole-23||V.M.Piguzov||December 5, 1975||November 1, 1978||5,786|
|North Pole-24||I.K.Popov||June 23, 1978||November 19, 1980||5,652|
|North Pole-25||V.S.Sidorov||May 16, 1981||April 20, 1984||5,754|
|North Pole-26||V.S.Sidorov||May 21, 1983||April 9, 1986||5,380|
|North Pole-27||Yu. P.Tikhonov||June 2, 1984||May 20, 1987||5,655|
|North Pole-28||A.F.Chernyshov||May 21, 1986||January 23, 1989||7,634|
|North Pole-29||V.V.Lukin||June 10, 1987||August 19, 1988||2,686|
|North Pole-30||V.M.Piguzov||October 9, 1987||April 4, 1991||7,675|
|North Pole-31||V.S.Sidorov||October 22, 1988||July 25, 1991||5,475|
|North Pole-32||V.S.Koshelev||April 25, 2003||March 6, 2004||2,418|
|North Pole-33||A.A.Visnevsky||September 9, 2004||October 5, 2005||3,156|
|North Pole-34||T.V.Petrovsky||September 19, 2005||May 25, 2006||2,032|
|North Pole-35||Vladimir Chupun||September 21, 2007||July 2008||between Franz Josef Landand the island of Spitsbergen||2,422|