Odyssey in the Arctic with the Russian Icebreaker Fleet
The nuclear-powered icebreakers were considered the symbol of Soviet technological power for many decades. Today this fleet is still used to aid ship navigation in the seas north of Siberia - but also for the purpose of elite tourism, which surely helps to pay the bills.
The most powerful of all icebreakers - "50 years of Victory" (one of six "Arktika" class)- has two nuclear reactors and is capable of reaching North Pole in just a couple of days.
Svetlana Bogdanova has recently returned from a very special trip on board the icebreaker "Vaigach"
and provided us with these unique photographs. Thanks to her exclusive permission (including collection of photos from the seamen of the Murmansk Sea Shipping Company) we can now offer you a glimpse of what it really means to follow along the caravan of ships in the Northern seas, led by a colossal nuclear-powered vessel.
Svetlana says: "A nuclear icebreaker almost feels alive, like a huge proud creature with a benevolent and dependable character. See it moving in the dark of night, projecting a powerful light ahead, making the snow sparkle in a misty path, feel it tremble under your feet... Its sheer immensity is inspiring, making one think of heroic exploration of unknown lands, the stuff that kids should be dreaming about". "Vaigach"
in the mist:
The blizzard is getting worse: Unexpected Rescue:
This truck got in trouble on treacherous ice, so a professional team quickly comes up with a plan:
The journey resumes:
Breaking the way for a caravan of ships: "30 Days of Night"...
Arriving into Dixon: a small town of about a thousand people -
Its population lives in the Arctic wasteland, enduring the most extreme climate. A significant part of Dixon has become a ghost town during Soviet years - and a series of ghastly buildings line up to haunt the endless night:
It's easy to start imagining vampires... but these buildings are long abandoned. Though one has to wonder about this cannon-looking thing left nearby: Back to the Arctic trail
Serene and wonderfully wide-format views along the way - the Svalbard archipelago:
Franz Josef Land has some fascinating rock formations:
And mammoth fossils are simply everywhere, just lying around (left). On the right is an object that looks like a rusted bomb: A day in the life of Murmansk Sea Shipping Company
A custom paint job looks aggressive on an icebreaker (appropriately enough):
Launching the deep sea research vessel (Bathysphere) "MIR-1":
Encountering some heavy seas:
"Yamal" towing the oil rig:
Land-based oil rigs are usually towed by a chain of tractors:
Staying in port for maintenance: Here are Some of the Giants of the Arctic Fleet: "Lenin"
was the first Russian nuclear icebreaker, built in 1957. It looked imposing, but suffered two nuclear accidents while in operation till 1989, and now is being converted into a museum ship. Another milestone: "Arktika"
became the first surface ship ever to reach the North Pole in 1977. "50 Years of Victory"
- is the largest, most powerful icebreaker ever constructed.
This lid covers a nuclear reactor:
Nuclear reactor room:
117 meters in length, the "50 Years of Victory" has TWO nuclear reactors, develops around 500,000 horse power, and its huge steel ice belt 5 meters wide can easily break through ice up to 2.5 meters (9.2 feet) thick. (The "victory" in its name is the Russian people's victory over the Nazis in 1945)
And by the way, in case you're thinking that no ice can ever stop such behemoths, let me remind you that the nuclear icebreaker "Soviet Union" was trapped in ice for three days in 1998 (which is nothing compared to Mother Russia trapped in communism for 70 years)
Here is that "Soviet Union" ship - Bears just wanna have... milk
Polar bears lead pretty eventful life: from "romantic" courtships to intense family squabbles:
However, if they spot a passing ship, they will drop everything and try to get closer, knowing exactly what they want.
>They will surely start begging for their most favorite treat - condensed sweetened milk in cans: (not healthy of course, but simply irresistible)
They try to stretch their meal: one can will keep a bear occupied for up to 3 hours. After they lick the can clean, they start to chew on it, like some sort of chewing gum - to get that last whiff of flavor.
Finally, to sleep with a full tummy:
Polar bear tracks: