Russian Yachtsmen Note Evidence of Climate Catastrophe in the Arctic

The Russian yacht “Peter I” made the 4 months record polar circumnavigation in the Arctics. Its crew noted the catastrophic destruction of the Arctic Ocean ice cover. Will polar bears survive in such a situation?

The yacht “Peter I” started its navigation from St.Petersburg on July 4, 2010, and went around Scandinavia to Murmansk, then through the Northeast and the Northwest passages along the perimeter of the Arctic Ocean, calling at the harbors of Dickson, Tiksi, Pevek, Providence, Barrow (USA), Sayuks Harbor, Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet (Canada). The yachtsmen closed the ring around the polar ocean in the Norwegian harbor of Grimstad on October 23 (http://www.nkj.ru/news/18907/). In almost four months the crew covered the distance of 10,600 nautical miles, almost one third of them - in severe ice conditions. The total route length before returning to the home harbor was over 13,000 nautical miles. This was a record circumnavigation, whose participants overcame the Arctic Ocean without icebreakers during one navigation season http://www.rian.ru/society/20101114/296261388.html).

The photo was taken at Taimyr coast on August 02, 2010The photo was taken at Taimyr coast on August 02, 2010The unconditional achievement of the Russian yachtsmen leads, however, to the sad thoughts about ice situation in the Arctic Seas and destruction of the Northern polar cap of our planet. Just some 30 - 40 years ago, not to mention the earlier times, such a travel would be absolutely unthinkable. For many summer seasons of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries the Laptev Sea, parts of the Kara, the East Siberian, and the Beaufort Seas, much of the straits of the Northwest Passage were not released from the solid ice cover at all. It is enough to remember the trials borne by many of the great polar explorers - U.I. Parry, H. Laptev, S. Dezhnev, J. Franklin, J. Ross, F. McClintock, G. Sedov, F.P. Wrangel, R. Amundsen, N.A. Nordenskjöld and many others. The very short expedition period is even more surprising: only three months in polar waters, the average of 3,600 nautical miles per month! It means that the yacht navigated the overwhelming part of the route in free waters without fear of ice collision.

“Science and Life” magazine quotes Eugeniy Vizir, chief of the "Peter I" expedition staff as follows: “The habitat of the Earth’s Northern polar region changes, and new opportunities for navigation open”. Thus for more cogency, the Russian yachtsmen just have to achieve the geographic North Pole in free sailing. Though it will take one and half century before the global warming melts a road in the ice shell to the top of the planet" (http://www.nkj.ru/news/18907/). One may disagree with him. If the ice cover reduction rates observed over the last 35 years are kept, free waters to the Pole will open much earlier.

“Permafrost degradation and the Arctic Ocean ice cover reduction will continue through the 21st century, and, by some assessments, the Arctic will be able to get rid of sea ice in summer completely by the end of the 21st century”, – states the evaluation report “On strategic evaluations of the climate change consequences for the next 10-20 years for the Environment and the Economy of the Union State” (Russia and Belarus) prepared by Russian scientists and published on Roshydromet website http://rian.ru/arctic_mm/20100415/221448502.html.

In connection with similar forecasts by all leading and respected research institutions, commissions and target research groups in the world, future of the polar bear is increasingly alarming. By the WWF data in the Canadian Arctic cannibalism among polar bears has already been observed due to inability to get on ice followed by starvation.

According to Nikita Ovsyannikov, research director of “Wrangel Island” nature reserve, population of the polar bear – the Arctic symbol – is in danger again. He expressed this opinion at the International Arctic Forum “The Arctic: Territory of Dialog” in Moscow on September 22-23, 2010 (http://rian.ru/arctic_news/20100922/278141094.html). According to the scientist, polar bears’ habitat narrows due to the serious reduction of drifting ice in the Arctic, forcing them to come ashore, where they inevitably confront with human beings. “It is not the global warming that kills polar bears, but human beings when the animals come ashore”, - he said.

According to Ovsyannikov, it is necessary to change “behavior rules” in the Arctic to make survival of the polar bear possible. The scientist considers it necessary to adopt International Regulations for possibilities to visit Arctic territories, alike the already existing document regarding the Antarctic. This document should regulate polar tourism, which nowadays in some regions is a serious threat to Arctic ecosystems, in particular, to the polar bear population.

This proposal should get a response from the world community.

Photo of a polar bear family from the diary of the Captain Senior Assistant of yacht "Peter I ". The photo was taken at Taimyr coast on August 02, 2010 (http://rusarc.ru/blog/2010/08/cm_0208/).