The Northern Sea Route and Its Prospects: Part 4.

Ending the story [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3] of the Arctic and Northern Sea Route, I cannot circumvent the theme of the icebreakers of Russia. I will not say banalities known to everyone, like Russia has more icebreakers than everyone else combined. What is more interesting is what is hidden inside and what sensations it causes. So, eyewitnesses who were lucky enough to see the work of the icebreaker say in unison – this is unreal strength!

“I remember in the mid-2000s in the Gulf of Finland there was heavy ice and we, on the Aleksandr Tvardovsky container ship, got stuck in the ice near the Little Sommers rock. They were carrying fruit from the Netherlands, the cargo was light and the ship was sitting high and constantly stuck in the ice. Then we were carried with the ice field on the rock and had to declare an emergency. It was ‘Kapitan Dranitsyn’ who pulled us out then. When it whizzed past us splitting the ice field, I was simply stunned by its power, ice floes about half a meter thick and an area of 5 – 10 meters, just flew out from under the propellers, like small splashes!”

In general, there are no epithets and pathos will be superfluous, nuclear-powered icebreakers is an area of high technology that Russia and us all can be proud of by right.

A small deviation.

I have not been lucky yet, I have not been to the Arctic or the Antarctic, so I am terribly jealous of those who have been there at least once. And to those who work there and go to the seas, I take off my hat. The most northerly sea point I’ve been to is the Fastnet lighthouse in the Irish sea, which I entered in the 600 mile sailing race in 2011. So, can I assume only theoretically that both the Arctic and the Antarctic are terribly cold, both in the winter and in the summer. However, I also understand the fundamental difference.

The Antarctica is the South pole, where the ice cover lies mainly on the continent of Antarctica, which means that the ice is almost stationary, up to ice layers that are many thousands of years old (and maybe millions).

The North pole is the Arctic ocean, covered with ice, which, in turn, implies that in the North the ice is mobile, i.e., constantly drifting. So, not only theoretically, but also practically, a modern powerful icebreaker can reach, especially in the summer, as far as the North pole, which is already happening regularly, including in the tourism industry.

By the way, tourists are also taken to Antarctica, although the tourist flow is not so intense. Once I listened to a fairly famous person tell me about such a trip. When he reached the point of complete loss of reference points (in the morning he moved a few steps away from the base), he realised that this is just space, if not tougher. In space, reference points are always there — the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, and lastly the stars, but in the Antarctica, at certain moments, you get lost to the point of universal solitude, not only without directions, but also without a clue where the top is and where the bottom is.

The storyteller, however, was very good — a theatre and film actor, and already in the second generation and with a well-known surname. So, I left with a strong impression.

In general, if we continue to draw an analogy with space, then a nuclear icebreaker is probably comparable to a space rocket in terms of the complexity of its technologies. It’s comparable, but not quite. When launched into space, the rocket engine runs for a few minutes, but the life of an icebreaker’s nuclear engine is five years! Imagine, five years of full autonomy, and a supply of water and food for 7.5 months!

Let’s go to the icebreaker’s apparatus, and then to the virtual tour.

For example, take the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreaker, “50 years of Victory”, which regularly runs not only along the Northern Sea Route (in the winter), but also to the North pole (in the summer). These materials are taken from the LiveJournal page of the icebreaker captain Dmitry Lobusov.

Here are its performance characteristics:

Contrary to popular belief, the modern icebreaker does not crash into the ice, as if pushing it apart, but breaks it with its weight, pouring all its power on it. Fragments of thinner ice actually diverge to the sides, and that thick ice that goes under the bottom is milled by the propellers and turned into ice porridge. Each blade of such a propeller weighs 7 tons, and on each propeller there are 4 blades – 3 propellers in total. I.e., the propellers and their blades weigh 84 tons alone!

The icebreaker’s hull is naturally reinforced, it is also two-layer, the cavity between the layers is filled with water, which allows, if necessary, to use the method of breaking ice by means of a carène (when water is forcibly pumped from one side to the other).

And now just an amazing virtual icebreaker tour [additional links – here, here, and here]:

And again I cannot do without epithets – “unreal power”, “amazing beauty”, etc. – simply because it really captivates and grabs you. Still, there is something mysterious and eternal in the North. In the Russian North, by the way (this is so that no one has any unnecessary fruitless illusions).


Aleksandr Dubrovsky

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