Spring Cleaning of the Arctic to Continue on Wrangel Island

Самка белого медведя с детёнышем отдыхают на льдине возле побережья острова Врангеля. Фото: Екатерина Овсянникова, участница фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"

The specialists from the RGS and military personnel of the Environmental Platoon of the Northern Fleet went to Wrangel Island. The second stage of the project “Arctic: Spring Cleaning” began on August 5. As part of this project, the participants will clean the territory of waste fuels and lubricants, and abandoned broken equipment that destroys the ecosystem of the island.

Wrangel Island, washed by the Arctic Ocean, is located simultaneously in the Eastern and Western hemispheres. It was discovered two centuries ago, but the development of these lands began only in the 1920s. In Soviet times, military bases were located here, which left man-made garbage after their liquidation.

To clean the Arctic zone from industrial pollution is the main goal of the integrated environmental expedition "Arctic: Spring Cleaning". Its participants will collect large-sized barrels from fuel and lubricants on the island in the area of Cape Hawaii. With the help of special plasma metal cutting equipment, the RGS specialists will disassemble massive metal structures and, after pressing, the scrap will be delivered to the mainland for subsequent disposal.


Специалисты отправились из Петропавловска-Камчатского на остров Врангеля на судне КИЛ-168. Фото предоставлено участниками экспедиции

A special mission of the RGS scientists will be to monitor the ecological state of the island and assess the level of anthropogenic impact on the ecosystem. Wrangel Island is the northernmost nature reserve of the Far East. This is the ancestral home of polar bears, a walrus haul-out, and the habitat of rare bird species, such as sandhill cranes and snow geese. Despite the polar night and the harsh climate, the flora of the island has more than 400 species of plants that have no analogues in the Arctic zone.

The first season of "Spring Cleaning" in 2022 was successfully completed on the island of Kildin in the Barents Sea. The expedition members collected metal objects all over the island and took the garbage to the Murmansk coast on the ships of the Kola Flotilla. For the first time in many years, the RGS specialists conducted a comprehensive survey of the island's nature, drew up a vegetation map, and investigated a unique population of cod in the waters of Lake Mogilnoye with the help of an echo sounder. Ornithologists also managed to find habitats of endangered species of birds – black-legged kittiwakes, gyrfalcons, white-tailed eagles, and long-tailed ducks.

Integrated ecological and social project "Arctic: Spring Cleaning" includes the organization of joint work, as a result of which it is planned to create an up-to-date electronic environmental map of the Arctic, which will be updated with new data on this strategic zone for Russia.

Natalia Sadovskikh