Open lecture by Prof. Joern Thiede

September 11, 2012, Prof. Joern Thiede — an open lecture titled «From Lomonosov to Modern Times: History of the Russian-German Cooperation in the Scientific Exploration of High Northern Latitudes» at the Petrovsky Hall of SPbU.

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In Lomonosov’s time (1711-1765), Arctic Ocean exploration was in its infancy. Apart from the Great Nordic Expedition, Lomonosov himself promoted research through marine expeditions to find a passage between the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. Nansen (1861-1930) built the first dedicated polar research vessel, the FRAM, which allowed him to cross the Arctic Ocean. FRAM’s voyages are typical examples for the many national expeditions organized during the heroic times of polar research which brought about new insights into the geographic properties of the Arctic and Antarctica.

Icebreaker technology was further developed in the early 1900s. KRASSIN demonstrated that icebreakers could enter the Arctic sea ice to the North of Svalbard, but this new technology did not lead to a new research vessel. 50 years later, a new generation of icebreakers specifically dedicated to research was founded. These ships provide for modern laboratories and are able to venture deeply into the central Arctic Ocean, at least during summer: 20 years ago, ODEN and POLARSTERN reached the North Pole as the first conventionally driven research icebreakers. Many Russian and German institutes have benefited from having access to such vessels.

A few years ago, the European Polar Board of the European Science Foundation (ESF) has taken the initiative to plan a new ship. Within the ERICON AURORA BOREALIS-project, in which Russia and Germany are important members, a technical feasibility study was conducted. It demonstrated that a vessel with features like all-season capability for the central Arctic Ocean, large moonpool, and effective dynamic positioning could be constructed. However, it would need an international consortium of countries bordering the Arctic Ocean and of polar research organisations to jointly shoulder the costs to build and run such a ship.

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