Russian Schoolchildren Discovered A New Island In The Arctic

Северная Земля. Фото: Алексей Логинов
Северная Земля. Фото: Алексей Логинов

Russian schoolchildren have discovered the emergence of a new island in the Arctic. The kids examined satellite images and came to the conclusion that, as a result of the retreat of the glacier on the Schmidt Island in the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, Cape Zemlyanoy turned into an island. Presumably, meltwater streams eroded the earthen bridges  connecting the cape with the island. The size of the new formation  is 1.9 × 1 km, the area is 110 hectares, the coordinates of the center are 81° 08'13.82" N 90° 54'10.75" E

The authors of the discovery are schoolchildren from the Youth Interregional Design Group, who work under the leadership of “RiskSat”, a company specializing in the development of space education in the Russian regions. The discovery was made during World Space Week in the Republic of Chuvashia in October 2019 by comparing current satellite images and available topographic maps.

“The schoolchildren worked in the laboratory “Fundamentals of Remote Sensing of the Earth from Space”, said Alexey Kucheiko, Director General of “RiskSat”.“Their main task was to study the missing polar station on Ushakov Island, which broke off with the iceberg. The kids determined that the station split off in September-October 2018. They also found that the rate of shrinking  of the glacier is increasing every year. At the same time, the second group of students decided to investigate the shrinking rate ​​of the glacier on Shmidt Island. It turned out, that the speed there was slower, but the main discovery was that of  the straits between Cape Zemlyanoy and Schmidt Island. After studying satellite images, the kids ascertained that, even during low tide, the island, which was previously considered to be a cape, was still separated by straits. Traces of vegetation and walrus rookeries are also found on it. We passed the data to the Northern Fleet Hydrographic Service, now they have to land on the island during one of their expeditions and check the data. "

“We had a group of ten people from several regions of Russia, which, I and my research advisor , Alexei Kucheyko, supervised,” said Artyom Makarenko, a first-year student at the Moscow Aviation Institute, who had previously participated in the discovery of new islands in the Arctic. “The importance of the discovery is that we can update the maps that researchers need when planning expeditions to the Arctic, for example, so that an expeditionary ship can moor. It’s also interesting, that there are few zones in the Arctic where plants grow, but, in this case, mosses actively grow on the island. And it’s important to watch the glaciers, because they show how the climate is changing. Glaciers store large volumes of water; currents, water temperature, sea level depend on them. If the glacier behaves unstably, an iceberg can form. And the lack of monitoring can lead to problems. For Russia, such monitoring is very important, since we are interested in the Arctic development."

Artyom Makarenko also noted, that doing such studies, students can get skills that will help them in further scientific activities. "And if enthusiasts take up part of the duties, it will be easier for specialists to work," he added.


Попечительский Совет РГО 2019 года. Школьники Валерия Саенко и Артем Макаренко, открывшие новый остров в Арктике. Фото: пресс-служба РГО

Earlier, the Youth Group had already discovered two new islands in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, which were formed as a result of the retreat of the Vize and Vilkitsky-Yuzhniy  glaciers in 2016 and 2018. Schoolchildren, Artyom Makarenko and Valeriya Sayenko, reported on the results of their research to Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the Russian Geographical Society Board of Trustees in April 2018 in St. Petersburg.