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Russian Arctic National Park plans big research projects in summer

The Russian Arctic National Park is the country’s northernmost and biggest nature reserve

ARKHANGELSK, March 5. /TASS/. A few research projects will be implemented at the Russian Arctic National Park in summer, 2020. On Novaya Zemlya, scientists jointly with the Northern Fleet will search for a depo of Julius Payer’s expedition, which opened Eurasia’s northernmost archipelago - Franz Josef Land - in 1873, the National Park’s Director Alexander Kirilov told TASS.

"On Novaya Zemlya, we shall be searching for Payer’s depo, where it was built. Those would be joint works with the Northern Fleet," he said.

The Payer expedition’s task was to study the Arctic part of Northern Siberia and to get to the Bering Strait. On small Barents Islands, which are a part of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, the expedition in August, 1872, organized a food depo, which was supposed to be the team’s shelter in case they lost the ship. But the explorers never used the base.

"Our specialist now translates Payer’s text, published in a book in 1876, fights through the Gothic script, and tries to understand correctly the language of the late 19th century," the director said. "We do not know a clear location of the depo, only the exact date of its organization - August 14, and we know roughly what there was. Bread, meat, tinned food."

On a picture, made in August 1872 near the Barents Island, a sign reads the expedition anchored on floating ice. According to the park’s director, the explorers put the stock there and covered it with big stones. Thus, just wandering the area would not help unless you know what to look for, he added.

The islands are mostly plains, but some passages are mountainous. "A space image is rather interesting - you get a feeling the islands were scraped with a knife," the expert said. "The ice would’ve crawled onto them and then retreated."

Pomors on Novaya Zemlya and Savva Loshkin

Another project on Novaya Zemlya is to find traces of the Pomors on the archipelago. "Barentsz (Willem Barentsz - a Dutch polar explorer, a leader of three Arctic expeditions, died on Novaya Zemlya in 1597 - TASS) used to write about the Promors’ many crosses on Novaya Zemlya. Where are they now? This is what we want to find out," the National Park’s director said.

In 2016, on the Big Eastern Oransky Island, Northern Novaya Zemlya, explorers found a boat, made the way the Pomors used. It was the first discovery of the kind on the archipelago. Three fragments have been taken from the island, they underwent restoration in Arkhangelsk, but the boat’s biggest part still remains on the archipelago. During the summer season in 2020, scientists will study the territory around the boat. "Specialists may see there something we could have missed," the director said.

The park has been working on an expedition, which could repeat the route of Savva Loshkin - a sailor and an Arctic explorer of the 18th century. He was the first to sail around Novaya Zemlya in 1760-1763 and describe it in writing. "We want to manage Savva Loshkin’s route within one navigation season; surely, nobody would stay for the winter there, and we want to see all those places, where he could be, and to find a place where he built a house. We have been working on this project jointly with the Northern Fleet," he said.

Projects on Franz Josef Land

This year (2020), researchers plan to bring to the mainland the fuselage of an ANT-6A plane, piloted by Boris Chukhnovsky. It is the only plane of the kind in Russia. The fuselage remains near an abandoned Soviet polar station from March 17, 1938, when the plane crashed there. "It will be a complicated expedition: we shall have to bring a group, which will prepare the plane for transportation," the national park’s director said. The Rudolf Island is one of the most hard-to-reach islands. The bay, where the polar station is and where the plane lies, often is covered with fog, or the sea could be stormy and harsh. The project will be carried out during a voyage of the Mikhail Somov scientific research vessel.

During the voyage of the Arctic floating university, due in July-August, researchers will study jointly with the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Geography and with the Rosneft Company Franz Josef Land’s polluted islands. They will take samples of polluted soils and will describe the landscapes.

The Heiss Island used to be home for the Ernst Krenkel geo-physics polar observatory (formerly Druzhnaya). The station was opened in 1957. About 200 people could be accommodated there at a time in more than 40 houses. Cleaning on the island began in 2014. "On the Heiss Island, we want to take samples and to use UAVs for cartography purposes," the park’s director said.

The Russian Arctic National Park is Russia’s northernmost and biggest nature reserve, which takes the area of 8.8 million hectares. It was organized on June 15, 2009. The Park includes a northern part of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago’s Severny Island and the entire Franz Josef Land Archipelago.