Two Norwegian polar researchers have returned from a project to collect seismic data over an area of the Arctic usually inaccessible to seismic vessels.
The pair, Yngve Kristoffersen and Audun Tholfsen, deployed their ice drift technique to collect some 1000sq km of seismic data during a winter spent in the central Arctic Ocean, predominantly over the Lomonosov Ridge.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), one of the sponsors of the expedition, says the data will provide new knowledge of the geological development of the northern marine on the Barents Sea shelf.
The data could also be of interest to Russia, which has laid claim to some 1.2 million sq km of Arctic Sea shelf, which includes a claim over an area of the Lomonosov Ridge, which it believes belongs to submarine elevations that it says are natural components of the continental margin.
Despite having reached a landmark agreement over territorial claims in the Barents Sea, which has paved the way for co-operation between both countries on exploration projects, Norway and Russia were reported to be on a "collision course" by commodities pricing and news group Platts, over Norway opening areas around the remote Svalbard islands up for exploration. Russia claims the area is subject to a 1920 treaty, which would mean it had to be consulted over any activity there.
The two polar researchers are from the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre (NERSC) and the University of Bergen. They used a hovercraft, Sabvaaba, which in Inuit means "floats quickly above", placed on the ice on 31 August last year by the German research ice breaker Polarstern.
During their expedition they crossed the Lomonosov ridge five times, and then the Morris Jesup plateau north of Greenland.
Most of the route passes through the most inaccessible areas of the Arctic Ocean, where ice is so thick you need a nuclear icebreaker to get there. Unless you happen to have a hovercraft, says the NPD.
In addition to the seismic data, the expedition also collected almost 2000sq km of a number of other data from air, ice, and water.
The NPD says: The data set from the 2014/15 Fram expedition will be one of the most important Arctic Ocean references in many disciplines for years to come. The seismic data collected from the Lomonosov Ridge and the Morris Jesup plateau will provide new knowledge of the geological development of the northern marine on the Barents Sea shelf.”
On 18 August this year, the remaining equipment was picked up from what was left of the ice floe by the sealing vessel Havsel. It then returned to Longyearbyen in Svalbard together with Sabvaaba.