Tag Archives: ice station

Lots of cold bubbleheads this month

Scheduled to last five weeks, ICEX 2018 has kicked off with a joint NATO effort to show readiness in the Arctic.

The Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) and the Canadian Defence Forces have set up Ice Camp Skate on a floe drifting in the Arctic Ocean.

“The base will serve as a temporary base for submarine operations, including under-ice navigation and torpedo exercises. The camp consists of shelters, a command center and infrastructure to safely house and support more than 50 personnel at any one time.”

Ice Camp Skate (March 5, 2018) A Royal Canadian DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft delivering supplies and personnel flies over Ice Camp Skate during camp build during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. ICEX 2018 is a five-week exercise that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies and partner organizations. (U.S. Navy photo by Airman 1st Class Kelly Willett/Released)

“With every ICEX we are able to build upon our existing experience and continue to learn the best way to operate in this unique and harsh environment,” said Rear Adm. James Pitts, commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC). “We are constantly testing new tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) under the ice, and this exercise allows us to do so on a larger scale and alongside our U.K., joint and academic partners.”

USS Hartford (SSN 768) surfaces in the Arctic Circle near Ice Camp Sargo during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2016. She will make a return to the ice this year, along with some company

Three submarines– Seawolf-class fast attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) from Bangor, Wash., the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) from Groton, Conn., and the Royal Navy Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Trenchant (S91)— will conduct multiple arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing, scientific data collection and other training evolutions during their time in the region.

The floating ice station also conducts oceanography experiments, as shown below with personnel from NAL, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) Science collecting data through the floe.

Soviet-Russian Drifting North Pole Ice Stations

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

NP 37 drifting within 500-miles of Alaska.

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