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Scientists on board Professor Molchanov leave for expedition to Severnaya Zemlya

The voyage will continue to September 18

ARKHANGELSK, August 19, /TASS/. The Arctic Archipelagoes 2019: Severnaya Zemlya expedition on board the Professor Molchanov research vessel began on Friday.

The ship heads for the Kara Sea, the expedition’s head Maria Gavrilo told TASS, adding that the voyage will continue to September 18.

"Our expedition heads for the Kara Sea, to the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago, to the Kara Sea’s islands, and, if the ice situation is favorable, we shall try to take to the Laptev Sea," she said. "Our plans are rather ambitions; the announced area is big."

"We shall return to Arkhangelsk on September 18," Gavrilo said.

The route depends on the ice situation

The expedition’s time — late summer-early autumn — is most favorable in terms of ice situation in the Kara and Laptev Seas, Gavrilo explained.

"We realize that the weather and nature will make us adjust our plans, but we want to get to the Kara Sea’s north-east and to explore the coastline, which is far off, understudied and in some places, that we have included in our plans, completely lacking complex studies," the expedition's head noted.

The ship’s Captain Sergei Khokhlov expects that "the ice situation wouldn’t be easy." "In such a case, our plans will depend on the weather conditions, and we might go to a different area," he added.

The exploration team includes 22 specialists. "The project features Russian specialists with financial support of the US National Geographic Society," the expedition’s head said.

To study and to preserve

Severnaya Zemlya is a territory, which does not have permanent population. "In the past, the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute had three bases [on the archipelago], in the 1990s they were closed, and one of them was re-opened in 2013," the expedition’s head pointed out. "It works year-round... Besides, on the Bolshevik Island a team of gold prospectors [work], and obviously, their settlement is the biggest there."

One of the tasks for the expedition is to prepare materials to provide the rationale for the expansion of the nature reserve’s territory on Severnaya Zemlya.

"The idea to expand the nature reserve territory there is not new, but when scientists put together scientific rationale for the expansion, the document was, so to say, rather 'weak'," the expert said. "The earlier research was either insufficient or the results were outdated. Our expedition will collect materials, which will fill in the existing gaps."

Presently, on the archipelago, there is one nature reserve, which takes less than 10% of the territory, while, for example, Franz Josef Land is fully integrated into the nature reserve — the Russian Arctic National Park.

Severnaya Zemlya has rather vast land area, with glaciers covering about half the territory. "The central Siberian location affects the local flora and fauna: the archipelago is the northern outpost of the so-called Yenisei zoological and geographical borderline," she continued. "The archipelago lies at an equal distance from the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. It is an area, where populations of Atlantic and Pacific animals contact."

"Our ‘terra voluntas’ is the Severnaya Zemlya’s north-eastern shore, where the shelf is very narrow... and it is an area of known high biological productivity," she added. "We expect that those biological hotspots will be very interesting for studies."

In the Arctic like in the highlands

During the voyage, the expedition members will become objects of studies too — scientists will take part in the program to study the work of blood circulation mechanisms in the Arctic conditions. When in the Arctic, people suffer moderate hypoxia, like in climbing mountains.

The Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago was discovered on September 4, 1913 by the Vilkitsky expedition. Before 1926, it was called the Emperor Nicholas II Land. Severnaya Zemlya is at the border between the Kara and Laptev Seas. It consists of four big (the October Revolution, the Bolshevik, the Komsomolets, and the Pioneer) and many small islands.