#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. There are currently seven operating nuclear-powered icebreakers in Russia. In the near future, two more nuclear ship will be launched – Yakutia and Chukotka. A unique nuclear-powered icebreaker of project 10510 Rossiya (Russia) is being built in the Far East – it is larger than the world’s largest ships of project 22220 and almost twice as large as the nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 Years of Victory, which is operated by a person of the rarest profession – there are only 14 of these in Russia – captain Dmitry Lobusov, the federal project Clean Arctic ideological inspirer.
In an interview with Saint Petersburg Vedomosti, the polar explorer said why powerful icebreakers are needed, whether they harm the Arctic, and how tourism is developing on the ‘top’ of the Earth.
What are icebreakers for if the Arctic is melting?
Dmitry Lobusov has been going to the North Pole for 30 years – the ice has really become smaller: a two-year-old is rare, and there is almost no older one. The captain says that Russia cannot do without icebreakers – it is impossible to do without them on the Northern Sea Route (NSR). And the power will not be redundant.
“For some time, until new icebreakers were built, there weren’t even enough existing ones. Once, a ship stood for a month on the edge, waiting for the icebreaker, and returned when the stocks came to an end. There will be no excess capacity for year-round navigation along the NSR. Even now we sometimes have to stand to wait out the bad weather, because the section cannot be passed safely”.
The speaker explained that previously there were enough icebreakers to transport cargo and small vessels, since only Norilsk Nickel products were exported in winter. Now there are hydrocarbons deposits. It is unprofitable to transport gas and oil in small vessels, so their sizes have become larger. And in order to lay a convenient channel for them, large icebreakers are needed. By 2030, cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route is planned to increase to 200 million tons.
Heavy ice and emergency situations in the Arctic
Captain Dmitry Lobusov says that complex ice is ice 1.5 to 2 meters thick. In the open sea, ice is rarely even – there are many hummocks, mountains grow up to 10-20 meters. Only 2 or 3 meters is above the surface, and everything else is under water. It is very difficult to pass in such places.
“When the ice compresses, every second you need to make a decision where to pave the way. In space, automatic docking is possible, but not in ice. We analyze hydrometeorological information, satellite images. We have a saying: in our business, sometimes a hundred miles around is faster than ten miles straight”.
An emergency situation in the Arctic is when, for example, equipment fails. An icebreaker, says the captain, is a self-contained ‘house’ that can withstand the impact of a similar vessel. Nothing will happen to the reactor, even if the Tu-154 crashes on it. The polar explorers are only worried about the ships that they lead along the route, and about people there.
Leisure on the icebreaker
Dmitry Lobusov says that 25-30 years ago, in their free time, sailors on icebreakers gathered around one VCR, for example, he and his comrades watched the same film – Pokrovsky Gates.
“Now everyone in the cabin has a TV, a laptop with books or movies. And also – a swimming pool, a bathhouse, a small gym with exercise equipment, and a large one where you can play three-on-three volleyball”.
Icebreaker-Arctic educational program
Dmitry Lobusov has been blogging on LiveJournal for 13 years, he shares his knowledge there. People ask why the polar night is not completely dark, how many ships a caravan can consist of, or whether nuclear-powered ships harm nature and why they are needed at all if there are diesel ones.
“We refuel our tanks once every five years, and new icebreakers once every seven years. If a powerful diesel icebreaker reverses, the sky is black. And we are clean. From us, the only harm to nature is when cold water, cooling the reactors, flows out warm”.
In summer, the icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy takes tourists to the Arctic. Previously, they were mostly foreigners, now there are more Russians. Russian sailors even let tourists onto the bridge and into the engine room. Travelers live in ordinary cabins, and the crew moves to the very bottom for a while. At first, guests accustomed to the luxury may complain about the cold or draft, but by the end of the tour everyone is delighted! You won’t see such things anywhere…
“Icebreakers fascinate with their power, capabilities, maneuverability. But in general, their job is to help. And that makes you love them”.
Earlier, we told the story of the captain’s chief assistant in the 50 Years of Victory icebreaker Diana Kidzhi, as well as how they celebrated the New Year on nuclear-powered ships in the Arctic.
Text: Angelica Stepanova, Photo: editorial archive