From Suite 101 article by author http://christopher-eger.suite101.com/soviet-russian-drifting-north-pole-ice-stations-a406731
Since 1937, first the Soviet Union and now Russia has maintained floating ice stations in the Arctic Ocean.
In March 1937, just over two years before the start of the Second World War, polictical commissar Ivan Dmitrievich Papanin flew from an island in Northern Siberia towards the North Pole. With nine aircraft equipped with skies, the Papanin expedition touched down on a piece of sea ice. A few days later, the airplanes departed and Papanin, along with radioman Ernst Krenkel, geophysicist Yevgeny Fedorov and hydro biologist Petr Shirshov remained on the ice in tents. They had established Severniy Polyus (North Pole) #1. Known ever after as NP-1, the four Soviets remained isolated on the floating ice performing experiments for ten months until they were retrieved in February 1938. During which the station floated some 2850 km (1676 miles.) Papanin and his fellow scientists were extensively decorated and most later led independent expeditions. Papanin himself remained on the staff of the Soviet Navy, retiring as an Admiral. He later was the representative of the State Defense Committee (Gosudarstvennij Komiet Oborony) responsible for the Northern Sea Route during WWII.
Post WWII North Pole Stations
The Soviets waited until April 2, 1950 to establish NP-2, which floated around the Arctic Sea for a year. Increasingly, with US and Canadian submarines operating under the pack ice of the Polar Regions, the interest of these stations soon swung to investigating under ice acoustics that could lead to tracking these submarines. From 1950 through 1991, a series of no less than 30 NP stations were in operation on both ice islands and floating ice floes above the Arctic Circle. Some of these stations remained in operation 2-3 years on average while they traveled around the frigid north at the mercy of currents. The longest-lived station was NP-22, which survived for nine years from September 13, 1978-April 8 1982 during which it traveled more than 17,000 km (10,000 miles.)
US Intelligence Operations
Airdrops, long-range helicopters, and icebreakers supplied these stations. Once the station became unstable or uninhabitable, the crews, ranging from five to fifteen members, were withdrawn. Sometimes these abandoned stations became the target of US Naval interest into their former activities. The Navy tracked two stations, NP-8 and NP-9, in 1961-62. Station NP-8 was visited by a pair of US intelligence operatives, one from the Navy and the other from the Air Force for seven days. The pair was dropped by parachute and extracted by the experimental Fulton Skyhook in an operation dubbed Project Coldfeet.
North Pole Stations Since the end of the Cold War
Today the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of Russia continues to operate floating ice stations. In August 2007, the 16,200-ton government owned and operated research ship RV Akademik Fyodorov, named after one of the original members of NP-1, planted a titanium capsule containing a Russian flag at the bottom of the sea under the North Pole. The next month the RV Akademik Fyodorov helped set up NP-35 with more than two dozen scientists from the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, St. Petersburg. Another station, NP-37, drifted to within 500 miles of Point Barrow Alaska and was overflown regularly by USCG C-130 aircraft in 2010.
The current ice station, NP-39 has been in existence since October 2011.
AM. Prokhorov Great Soviet encyclopedia, ed. (New York: Macmillan, London: Collier Macmillan, 1974–1983) 31 volumes, three volumes of indexes. Translation of third Russian edition of Bol’shaya sovetskaya entsiklopediya, online at http://slovari.yandex.ru Retrieved onine April 24, 2012
International Polar Year 2007 page on RV Akademik Fyodorov http://www.ipyeaso.aari.ru/Fedorovwork.html retrived April 24, 2012
LeSchack, Lenord A and Leary, William M. Project Coldfeet: Secret Mission to a Soviet Ice Station .1996, USNI Press
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project archives entitled North Pole Drifting Stations (1930s-1980s.) Retrieved online April 24, 2012