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18 August 2011

It took only eight days for the STI Heritage tanker to go from Murmansk in Russia and through the Arctic Ocean via the Northeast Passage.

This is a new record for speed, bettering the 15 days it took Perservance earlier in the summer. The average speed of Perservance was 7,6 knots but STI Heritage averaged 14 knots.

Twice as fast means a lot of money has been saved by Novatek which also plans to send the largest tanker through the Northeast Passage later in August.

The STI Heritage sailed from Murmansk to its destination in Thailand, Map Ta Phut, in just under a month.

See more about the Northeast Passage here.

See also:
Breakthrough of the Russians
Sea ice levels at an all time low

Photo: STI Heritage

17 August 2011

One of Icelands best photographers has travelled in the Arctic half his life. For around 25 years Ragnar Axelsson, Rax, has shot hunters and the people in the Arctic with his cameras.

A new documentary about the people and his trips and photos from the Arctic will premiere in Iceland on August 19th. The film has already been shown on BBC4 and will be shown around the world.

Rax spoke to Arctic Portal about the film in our Feature of the week where more photos and the movie trailer can be seen.

Feature of the week.

Photo: Ragnar Axelsson (Rax).

16 August 2011

Sea ice in the Arctic is at an all time low. Data from July confirm this. The level is the lowest since satellite records have been used for measures. Sea ice coverage also remained below normal everywhere except the East Greenland Sea.

The data also shows that more of the Arctic's oldest ice has disappeared.

The ice declined at a fast pace in the beginning of July but as August approached, the pace went down.

Since 1979, when satellites were introduced as measuring tools for ice in the Arctic, the ice as declined at around 6,8% per decade.

As reported earlier, the loss of sea ice has resulted in Russians using the Northern Sea route more frequently. The tanker Perserverance set sail on June 29, 2011 from Murmansk, Russia, aided by two icebreakers and completed the passage on July 14. At least six more ships are scheduled for the route in the summer.

In August they also plan to send the largest ever tanker through the route.

The Northwest Passage is still choked with ice but its level is also diminishing. An open route for vessels could open up this year, but weather in the region for the next few weeks will determine that.

Read more about sea ice at the Arctic Portal Sea Ice Portlet.

Also see the Arctic Portal Interactive map for sea ice maps and sailing routes here.

Picture: Sea Ice Extent in July 2011 - From The National Snow and Ice data Center.

15 August 2011

Although the ice in the Arctic is slowly diminishing, regular sea transport has not begun in the area. Russians have perhaps the most interest in Arctic shipping due to the enormous resources near the Arctic Ocean, in their own backyard.

But Russia has two mainfold problems. They need more icebreakers and more infrastructures to use the Northern Sea Route more regularly.

Nikolay Patrushev, Russia’s Security Council’s secretary says instruments for navigation and communication and bases for search and rescue services are not sufficient. Russia plans to build a series of new search and rescue vessels and make the port of Amderma into a main base for a new emergency unit. Six icebreakers are being built, three of them nuclear powered.

Tankers with a draught of over 12 meters can now use the Northern Sea Route and Russia’s second largest producer of natural gas, Novatek, is sending the largest tanker ever through the Northeast Passage in August.

Russia’s Ministry of Transport believes cargo transport through NSR will increase from last year’s 1.8 million tons to 64 million tons by 2020, according to the BarentsObserver.

12 August 2011

Human actions have had adverse affects on the Arctic, even its deep sea ocean bed. A new report warns that better care needs to be taken of this vastly unknown area.

It has been said that humans know less about the deep sea bed then the dark side of the moon. The average depth of 3.8 kilometres makes access for exploration inhospitable and only a handful of the approximately 326 million square kilometres deep ocean bed has been explored.

“The main problem is that we still know very little of what we call the deep sea, making it difficult to evaluate accurately the real impact of industrial activities, litter accumulation and climate change in the deep sea habitats,” says the team conducting the deep sea project for the Census of Marine Life.

The report, published in the journal PLOS One says that after dumping waste in the oceans for centuries, humans have introduced invasive species from one hemisphere to another. Climate change has also begun to alter the basic chemistry of marine life with dramatic increases in the concentrations of dissolved CO2 and overall world temperatures.

The report: Man and the Last Great Wilderness: Human Impact on the Deep Sea

It also reports that those who want to exploit the oceans must realise that their explorations and actions have consequences. But although human actions can have adverse effects, climate change will be the main factor in the future.

“We predict that from now and into the future, increases in atmospheric CO2 and facets and consequences of climate change will have the most impact  on deep-sea habitats and their fauna,” the report states.

Finally, the report says that extracting methane hydrates from the seafloor could be more complicated and ecologically sensitive than first thought.

“Most gas hydrates are buried beneath a thick sediment cap on the sea floor below 250 (meters),” the authors wrote. “In places where gas hydrates intercept the sediment surface … methane seep ecosystems are well developed. Should mass extraction of gas hydrates become a reality, many methane seeps might become subject to disturbance more significant than that of oil and gas extraction.”

The report: Man and the Last Great Wilderness: Human Impact on the Deep Sea

Picture: Nature Reviews

11 August 2011

The extent of the Arctic sea ice is extremely variable. Danish researches have come to this conclusion.

Measuring the extent of sea ice is almost impossible. It constantly breaks off the ice caps in the Arctic and then melts after drifting in the ocean.

The Danish researchers say this is the first time that an idea of past sea ice levels has been extracted from the region.

“Our key to the mystery of the extent of sea ice during earlier epochs lies in the driftwood we found along the coast,” Svend Funder, one of the researchers said to PlanetSave and added: “Our studies show that there have been large fluctuations in the amount of summer sea ice during the last 10,000 years."

8-5000 years ago the temperature was considerably warmer then today. That mens the sea ice was significantly less at the time then now. That means a direct connection between the temperature and amounts of sea ice, Funder says.

10 August 2011

Arctic adventurist Jock Wishart is trying to make history by rowing to the magnetic North Pole. A crew of six started their journey in the beginning of August and anticipates rowing around 450 miles in a race against time - their route will freeze in September.

They are on board a specifically designed boat seen on the picture. They will sail through Canadian waters to the Pole.

The CNN reports the crew will row for around 18 hours a day.

"This is probably one of the most difficult exercises ever done in the polar region since (Edmund) Hillary took tractors across Antarctica. It's no light feat and it's no job for the faint-hearted,” Wishart told CNN.

9 August 2011

northseaHigh quality oil reserve has been found in the North Sea. Statoil and its partners are responsible for the found, described as a “reservoir of excellent quality.”

The North Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean located between Great Britain, Scandinavia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Statoil expects the well to deliver between 200 and 400 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) from the 65 metre deep oil column. The company also expects additional upside in the licence both north and south of the discovery.

Exploration and drilling in the area has already taken place with the Aldous Major North Well being one of the favourites for high volumes of oil potential. Statoil is the major stakeholder in the area but Petro, Det norske oljeselskap and Lundin also have stakes in the area.

5 August 2011

polar_bearOne person has deceased and four injured severely in a polar bear attack in Svalbard this morning. The incident happened at Von Postbreen, about 40 km from Longyearbyen.

The injured were brought by helicopter to the hospital in Longyearbyen. They were then moved to Tromsö in Norway before transferred back home to Britain.

A 17 year old male from Britain deceased and four others were seriously injured. They were travelling with a group of 80 with the British Schools Exploring Society, a youth development charity based in London.

The bear was shot and killed after the attack. Although polar bears are common in Svalbard, they rarely attack people. From 1971, a total of five have been killed by polar bears on the archipelago.

1 August 2011

1807276-uURBR

eu_flag

The INTERACT program under EU FP7 has Transnational Access program that offers access to 18 research stations in Northernmost Europe and Russian Federation including:

  • Free access for user groups/users to research facilities and field sites, including support for travel and logistic support
  • Free access to information and data in the public domain held at the infrastructures

The call for Transnational Access proposals is open until 31st August 2011 at 16:00 (+3GMT) at the INTERACT website http://www.eu-interact.org/

The Winter Season refers to the period Oct 2011–April 2012, with some variation depending on research station. The list of available field sites can be found from the INTERACT website.

The call also includes Summer Season 2012 (May – Sept) to field stations located in the Russian Federation. Assistance and support with visa applications and other required documents is available for the accepted user groups conducting field work in these stations.

Eligibility

The user group (= the research group that applies for access to one or more research stations) must satisfy the following three conditions:

a) the user group leader and the majority of the users must work in an institution established in a Member State or Associated State*

b) the user group leader and the majority of the users must work in a country other than the country(ies) where the legal entity(ies) operating the infrastructure is(are) established. In other words the users must come from outside the countries were the INTERACT stations are located

c) there should not be a corresponding infrastructure in the country hosting the institution employing the user group’s leader. If such an infrastructure exists, the applicant should show how the specific conditions of the requested visit cannot  be met by this national infrastructure.

(*Associate states: Switzerland, Israel, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Turkey, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, Albania and Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Faeroe Islands)

Priority is given to

  • Researchers who have not previously used the infrastructure
  • Researchers who want to conduct research at more than one location for generating comparative studies
  • Early career scientists**

**Applicants must hold a position at an institution of advanced research and/or education. Applicants without a PhD degree or equivalent research experience must provide letters of support from a supervisor.

Travel arrangements

Users are required to make their own travel arrangements and keep all original tickets and receipts. The travel costs will be reimbursed after the visit to the station(s) where the visit(s) was/were made. Advice on travel options can be obtained on request.

On completion of their visit(s), successful applicants will be required to

  • Provide a Project Summary Report on results obtained during the visit(s)
  • Complete the User Group Questionnaire at http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/capacities/questionnaire_en.html
  • Publish the results within a reasonable time in open literature, specifying in Acknowledgements that the research has received support from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement No262693
  • Note that the European Commission has the right to publish the list of users, containing their names, home institutions and description of the work.

More information about the TA call and INTERACT can be found from http://www.eu-interact.org/ or by contacting WP4 coordinator Hannele Savela, PhD, hannele.savela(at)oulu.fi, or WP4 leader Kirsi Latola, PhD, kirsi.latola(at)oulu.fi.

26 July 2011

eu_flagThe European Commission is pleased to inform that Mrs. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, has announced on 21 June 2011 the new name for the future EU funding programme for research and innovation: "Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation". It will enter into force on 1st January 2014, after the end of FP7 on 31 Dec 2013.

"Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation" is not just a new name for the same Framework Programme. It is the name for the new, integrated funding system that will cover all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). These different types of funding will be brought together in a coherent and flexible manner. Research and innovation funding will focus clearly on addressing global challenges. Needless red tape will be cut out and access to programs and participation will be made easier and simpler.

More details can be found in the press release as well as the website of the European Commission.

25 July 2011

iasc_newsletter

The summer edition of the IASC is available. This Progress edition covers:

  • Indian Research in the Arctic: Collaborative Research on Ny-Ålesund
  • From Carl Weyprecht to the Future Polar Research Institute - A Long History of Austrian Activities in the Arctic
  • Czech Contributions to Polar Science
  • The Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) project, and
  • ...much, much more

The next edition of the newsletter will be produced jointly with our sister organization, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). This bipolar issue will include a report on the outcomes of the Symposium on Research Urgencies in the Polar Regions and the ICSU General Assembly, the latter which includes a dedicated polar session.

Download IASC Progress Summer 2011