Russia is this week celebrating the historic achievements of its nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet and has also announced project milestones for its latest vessels. The Arktika was the first surface vessel to reach the North Pole, on 17 August 1977. The seventh and largest Arktika class icebreaker - 50 Years of Victory - entered service in 2007 and is now on its way to the North Pole to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Arktika's expedition.
50 Years of Victory - which is 25,800 dwt, 160 m long and 20 m wide, and is designed to break through ice up to 2.8 m thick - left the port of Murmansk on 13 August. It aims to reach the North Pole on 17 August when the Russian Federation flag will be hoisted in memory of the Arktika's pioneering captain, Yury Kuchiyev, and his crew.
During the expedition, the icebreaker will host a conference dedicated to the future of the Arktika fleet, environmental protection of the Arctic region and the development of year-round navigation along the Northern Sea Route. Members of the original crew, parliamentarians, veterans of Atomflot and representatives of the state nuclear corporation Rosatom will attend the conference.
Atomflot Director-General Vyacheslav Ruksha said yesterday the voyage has two meanings. "We are paying tribute to the Arktika's legendary campaign and expressing our gratitude to our veterans. We are also demonstrating that, today, after 40 years of successful work in the western sector of the Arctic, modern Russia is ready to perform such global tasks as ensuring year-round navigation along the Northern Sea Route. The construction of new universal nuclear icebreakers will serve this purpose."
50 Years of Victory is scheduled to return to port on 23 August.
Atomflot, a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation ROSATOM, said yesterday that Kuchiyev's achievement was comparable to "the first human's journey into outer space", referring to Yury Gagarin's orbit of the Earth in the Vostok spacecraft on 12 April 1961.
"The Arktika expedition, which took seven days and eight hours to complete and crossed 2528 miles, practically proved the possibility of year-round navigation on the shortest routes of the Arctic Ocean, as well as the possibility of transit passage of the Northern Sea Route," it added.