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21 August 2017

Russian Icebreaker ’50 Years of Victory’ Smashes Arctic Speed Record

Russia’s nuclear-powered icebreaker '50 Let Pobedy' (translation: '50 Years of Victory') made history on the morning of August 17 2017, covering the distance from Murmansk to the North Pole in an unprecedented 79 hours and setting a new world record in the process.

Img: Tuomas Romu
The journey made by the 50 Let Pobedy under the command of Captain Dmitry Lobusov was to commemorate the historic trip made by another Russian icebreaker, the Arktika, 40 years ago. The Arktika’s voyage marked the first time ever that a surface vessel had reached the North Pole.

However while the Arktika took 176 hours to reach the North Pole, leaving Murmansk at 20:00 Moscow time on August 9 1977 and reaching the North Pole at 4:00 Moscow time on August 17, the 50 Let Pobedy managed the same feat in just a fraction of this time at a total of 79 hours.

Viktor Boyarsky, chairman of the Polar Commission of the Russian Geographical Society, offered some insight into just how this exceptionally-short journey time was accomplished, stating, “[The Arktika’s voyage] was for the first time in the world that a surface ship was reaching the Pole and therefore we were preparing for a year-long drift. We took tractors on-board.

“Today you can travel to the Pole according to the schedule; there is no thick ice there now.”

Alongside changes to the Arctic in terms of its sea ice concentration and overall environment, advances in shipping and icebreaker technologies also undoubtedly contributed to the exceptionally-fast pace.

Vyacheslav Ruksha, head of Rosatomflot, the company responsible for operating Russia’s fleet of nuclear icebreakers, commented on how the voyage of the 50 Let Pobedy served “dual purposes”, telling the Barents Observer publication, “We honour the legendary expedition of icebreaker Arktika and give gratitude to our veterans, and at the same time we demonstrate that today’s Russia, after forty years of successful work in the western part of the Arctic, is ready to take on global tasks such as providing year-round navigation on the Northern Sea Route.”

A conference was also organised aboard the 50 Let Pobedy which brought together representatives of both houses of Russia’s parliament, Rosatom civil nuclear power corporation, and polar explorers of various generations for a diverse program of lectures and discussions concerning topics such as the Arctic landscape, how it is reacting to forces natural and man-made, and Russia’s eventual role in its future.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.