Arctic – our home
The North Pole is the best point on the Earth. Those who have been there are friends forever, taking as a pleasure all difficulties of the Polar life. In warm Moscow with their loving families they dream about the extreme point of the planet. Arctic is cold, dangerous, heavy. Polar explorer – is not an occupation, it is the whole life. Ices and ice-reefs, a frost and a pale sky at summer time, darkness and horizon-less ice cover and a solitude of a small bunch of people in winter time.
Corr: The North Pole – is it a geographical point or a state of a sole? The Polar is visited by only about two thousand people. Arctic is one of the most unknown places of the Earth.
Vladimir Koshelev: If we consider the Pole as a geographic object – a summit of our planet – is extremely beautiful place. Once you’ve been there, you want to come back again. But the North Pole is an absolutely important strategic object for the State. First – the North shelf of Barents and Karskoe seas contains great deposits of hydrocarbons to be explored in the nearest future. It is a strategic fuel reserve not only for our country but for the whole planet. The North Pole itself served in the Soviet era as the shelter for our submarines being on alert duty. Unfortunately this practice is not followed and I think we will return to this frontier and resource issues. It is a very important component of submarine force so that our politicians were confident when communicating with our opponents.
Coor: According to our President, the North Pole exploration must be continues and Russia should strengthen its positions in this region.
VK: The North makes a strategic reserve for our company. This is the main concept of our politics. The North is a geopolitical base which we should never leave. After the Polar stations liquidation in 90-s our country became open from the side of the Arctic Ocean. It’s dangerous. That is why we do everything now to restore previous positions and settle the Polar stations working all the year round. It will require more planes, more flights, and more ships. Arctic will be filled with people, equipment. Exploration of the territory will continue. We must do it as the death of Arctic will mean the death of Russia.
Corr: The North Pole is a neutral territory.
VK: Yes, it is neutral. Any expeditions may debark on the Pole. But Russia and the Soviet Union are more experienced in this region. Since 1937 we carry out researches. Our work was based on heroism and enthusiasm without any materialistic and pragmatic aims. Money and enthusiasm are different things. Besides our research programs are more reliable.
Corr: Financial issues are not significant for the Polar explorer? Everything is based only on enthusiasm and friendship?
VK: No doubts the explorers must feed their families and their earnings were always good. But after working the first, the second season in the North Pole the accents shift and proud and duty to their Motherland, friends, families, to oneself come to the fore. They feel they are entrusted to keep a watch. You know, the number of the drifting Polar station members is very limited - 12-18 persons per year. The selection is very strict.
Corr: You’ve been drifting with “Severniy Polus-32” for 11 months. Tells us about the relations between people working and living together so far from the rest manhood for so long?
VK: The relations are the most well-intentioned. Each expedition includes both new comers and experiences explorers. There is no squabbles but there is no democracy either – only the head of the expedition is responsible for decision making. The polar station is the zone of high risk and everyone realizes his responsibility. For example you can not walk on ice alone. There are plenty of dangerous cracks and only your partner can save you in case of falling. It is clear that everyone has different character. But in a few weeks all characters are amalgamated into one – kind and tolerant. Our wives often ask the same question. The answer is simple – we maintain normal relations when a feeling of fellowship and male bonding comes the first.
Corr: why the Polar explorers often return to the Pole?
VK: After one winter in a company of 12 Polar explorers a person wants to come back and work again with these people. The station’s staff constantly changes. Young scientists change more often, but doctors, cooks, radio operators, mechanics usually stay for several seasons. The Polar is addictive…it is forever.
Corr: Are there any specific Polar jokes?
VK: The first Polar expedition consisted of four persons. When Petr Shirshov was on duty he used to fire the furnace too hot. Having received several reproaches from his friends he made the following poster: “The Pole explorers are not afraid of heat! But they are afraid of cold, hunger and work!” Since that this poster was kept at the station for the following 13 seasons together with “Glory to the Communist Party” and “Onward to Communism” posters.
Communist Party meetings were also held at the station. Even three member of the Communist Party made a local party nucleus. During the meeting the non-members of the Party was asked to leave the tent. But it must be said that the Communists worked much harder.
Corr: And women are allowed on ice? Like on a ship?
VK: Women can also work very hard. Living conditions make the main problem. We move a lot and sometimes we don’t change cloths for many days.
Corr: But “Metelitsa” team was visiting both the Pole and Antarctica.
VKК: “Metelitsa” – is a sport team and they spent there one week or one month, not the whole year. I’m well acquainted with “Metelitsa” center President Valentina M. Kuznetsova. For 27 years I’ve been living at Wrangel Island and she made part of women expeditions visiting our Island, the Pole, the North Land and Franc Josef Land. They are very well prepared specialists and one month on the extreme North for them quite ok. But one year is a bit difficult.
Corr: What is the significance of Papanin and Schmidt role in the Arctic exploration?
VK: Huge territories were to be explored at the Soviet period and the Northern Sea Rout was the shortest way from Europe to Siberia and the Far East. In 1937 the country survived an upturn and the polar stations gave valueless data concerning water depth, ice nature and its interaction with atmosphere, nature of streams. For example it was found that Gulf stream reaches the North Pole. Besides patriotic basement was very strong and that allowed to bring up people like Papanin and his team. Such persons can be formed only in those conditions. The West never knew such self-sacrifice.
Corr: Do you consider MVK project has any significance from patriotism point of view?
VK: Any move to the North is important. Since 1990-1993 when Polar researches financing was discontinued no Russian citizen visited the Pole. The chain of observations was interrupted. What a loss for the Polar science! And this project is very important. Look, the youth of today doesn’t rush to the North. They want to work in the bars, to earn a lot. The schools for pilots and sailor are half empty. I think that this project will attract the youth that is sick and tired of bars and chewing gums
Corr: Do you think this project has a historical significance?
VK: Unfortunately many people know nothing about Arctic exploration by the Soviet and Russian polar explorers. And there is nothing more awful then to forget one history.
Dalstroy and Sevmorput required huge efforts. Bit it allowed us to explore such vast territories. This project represents an honest illustration of these history pages. It is a very good job. I’m doing the same – I am the head of the foundation supporting the Polar explorers-veterans. We work in cooperation with the union of young polar explorers and sailors.
That’s great that you installed Papani’s tent on the Pole. There are plenty of foreign tourists nowadays and they will see it and will be aware of the fact that our history is very important for us. Museum which will visit many cities of the country is very important too. When I presented any exhibition devoted to the North in different regions of our country it always gathered lots of audience – adults and schoolchildren. They need this knowledge.
“When you visit the North Pole for the first time, you see how beautiful it is. You meet outstanding people. You get acquainted with a different world. And invisible line will connect those who came there for the first time and those who spent the whole life in the Polar. Arctic –is our home”, - said Vladimir Koshelev in his farewell speech to the MVK exhibition, leaving to the Pole.
MVK company General Director press-secretary
Tel. 995 05 95