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Source: Moscow Government – Moscow Government –

In the vast expanses of the Arctic, a snowdrift can turn out to be a polar bear; in the whiteout you have to move almost by touch, and you often have to spend the night on the ice of a frozen sea. Such memories were brought back by Moscow high school and college students from the Great Arctic Expedition 2024, which ended on April 30. Two teams of guys explored the Far North for about two weeks, followed the path of pioneers, tested the strength of a smart city and strengthened their character.

About who is taken on such expeditions, how schoolchildren help environmentalists and whether it is possible to get a tan on a polar day – in the material.

How to get to the Arctic

A large Arctic expedition is held annually. It will be organized by Center for Further Education “Travel Laboratory”under the leadership of the honored polar explorer Matvey Shparo, the son of the famous Soviet explorer Dmitry Shparo, who in 1979 reached the North Pole on skis for the first time in history. The main task of the expedition is to educate a new generation of polar explorers and motivate them to further solve environmental and socio-economic issues of the region.

This year, two teams of seven people each went to the Arctic. The “Discoverers” team, consisting of high school students, had to ski in the footsteps of the leader of the Russian polar expedition of the early twentieth century, Eduard Toll, and the Soviet scientist Ivan Papanin. The route ran along the coast of Taimyr Island along the Laptev Sea to Cape Chelyuskin, the northernmost point of the Eurasian continent. And the “Moscow Professionals” team, which included college students, faced an equally difficult task – to build a mobile town-station on Cape Chelyuskin.

Future polar explorers were selected for a long time and carefully. Some guys applied a year ago, but then did not pass all the tests. Among them was Elena Voinova, an 11th grade student at school No. 1241 on Krasnaya Presnya. The girl, who was passionate about tourism, sought to get into the “Pioneers” and finally achieved her goal.

At the first stage of selection, hundreds of applicants wrote an Arctic dictation on their knowledge of the region and participated in skiing competitions. Almost 40 winners went to a six-day training camp in Karelia, in conditions close to the Arctic. There, instructors tested us for physical, technical and psychological readiness for the hike. Then Matvey Shparo personally communicated with the 16 candidates who passed the training camp, leaving only seven. Finally, for a week we were taught how to set up a tent, properly equip ourselves, and how to resist bears. Elena Voinova, 11th grade student at school No. 1241

Nikolai Belkov, a second-year student at College of Hospitality Industry and Management No. 23, also dreamed of conquering the north on skis, but it didn’t work out. But the young man was accepted into the Moscow Professionals team.

I am studying to become an engineer of ventilation and heating systems, and such specialists are needed for the construction of an Arctic station. In the first qualifying round, the applicants were given the task of putting together a structure according to the drawing and assembling an electrical circuit. They selected 30 people and sent them to a forest near Moscow with tents for three days to test their ability to work as a team in an extreme environment. There we passed the GTO standards and answered 200 questions on a psychological test. After this, only 13 guys remained, of which Matvey Shparo chose seven Nikolay Belkov, student at College of Hospitality Industry and Management No. 23

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Skis, sleeping bags and whiteout

From Moscow, the expedition members flew to Krasnoyarsk, and from there to Khatanga, where the northernmost civilian airport operates. There, the young polar explorers were divided into two groups: the “Discoverers” were sent by helicopter to Cape Lasinius, and the “Moscow Professionals” were sent to Cape Chelyuskin.

“The Arctic met us harshly. When we disembarked from the helicopter, a strong wind was blowing, and due to the snowstorm there was zero visibility. At first we thought it was from the rotating blades. But the helicopter flew away, and we remained, and nothing changed. Our team plunged into the snowy sour cream. The glasses fog up and you can’t take them off. There is no turning back. We got on our skis and went. Each person carried a sleigh with a trunk containing spare things and eight kilograms of provisions. We were guided only by the GPS satellite system,” recalls Elena Voinova.

The team of skiers was led by Matvey Shparo. But he, an experienced traveler, admitted that the weather was too difficult. The young polar explorers found themselves in the northern elements – a whiteout, when the sky and earth practically merge and it is impossible to see the people standing next to them. In addition, a piercing wind was constantly blowing.

We had to walk 104 kilometers. It was much more difficult than a year ago. Every day we fought the wind. The body was in constant tension. Calories were burned from physical activity, heat was generated, and the wind immediately blew out this heat. The journey seemed endless Matvey Shparo, head of the Arctic expedition

Even multi-layered clothing did not help: the guys put on two sets of thermal underwear, fleece pants, special windproof trousers, down jackets, and windbreakers on top. Every 45 minutes, the travelers took a five-minute break, drank tea from thermoses and ate sublimates – quickly brewed oatmeal, dry soups, noodles.

The tent – one for everyone – was assembled only for the night. The pegs were screwed with drills directly into the ice of the Laptev Sea. The walls were pulled tight, holding different ends on all sides, otherwise the wind could tear off the covering. Having built a shelter for the night, they lit primus stoves and melted snow on them to get drinking water. When we went to bed, the stoves were turned off – there was no heating. We kept warm in our sleeping bags. And the bathroom was three sticks driven into the ice, and a rug between them. The air temperature reached minus 20 degrees.

Papanin’s hut and polar bears

Despite the weather adversity, the guys walked forward cheerfully. “In order not to succumb to the blues, we entertained ourselves. For every word they came up with a song and sang in chorus,” Elena Voinova smiles.

We took geographical notes along the way. One day they found Papanin’s hut: they dug it up, measured it and photographed it for future restoration.

One day the schoolchildren saw two snowdrifts standing out on the sea plain. And suddenly the snow mounds began to move and turned into a polar bear and a bear cub. “In previous expeditions, we also saw these animals, but not 100 meters from us. The children were delighted and shouted: “Umka has come to us!” And the adults understood perfectly well that there was nothing to be happy about,” recalls Matvey Shparo.

When meeting polar bears, it is important to crowd together and not panic, and let the one with the weapon go ahead. Matvey Shparo, noticing that the animals were not lagging behind the group and were getting closer, and from the leeward side, from which they usually hunt, fired upward several times from the Osa traumatic pistol, and then from the gun. Only then did the animals retreat.

Talking about the expedition, Elena Voinova assures that it is difficult to convey all the emotions. To feel the Arctic, you need to experience snow drifts, winds, and walk across an endless frozen sea, where there is no phone reception, not a soul, and nature seems to have rebelled against you. “During such a journey, you understand who you are, rethink life, learn to fight and not give up,” shares the high school student. She has already decided that she will connect her profession with tourism and will lead groups to hard-to-reach places.

Smart plugs, radars and electric fences

When Nikolai Belkov and his fellow travelers, led by traveler Vladimir Melnik, arrived at Cape Chelyuskin, they found only the wreckage of Soviet barns and a meteorological barracks. All buildings were covered with snow. And time is a drop in the bucket. We urgently need to look for material for the flooring of the future Arctic town.

“As soon as we landed, we began to dig up these sheds, dismantling them in order to make flooring from the surviving boards. We warmed ourselves in the barracks. We worked from seven in the morning until two in the morning in the icy wind. On the third day we began assembling the mobile tent. This is a smart home developed by Travel Lab. It was equipped with satellite Internet, a kitchen hood, and sockets that can be controlled from a computer. I was responsible for ventilation: my system creates an inflow and outflow of air, unlike an air conditioner, which circulates air in a circle,” explains Nikolai Belkov, a student at College of Hospitality and Management No. 23.

Before traveling to the Arctic, students studied the mobile town in Moscow, checked the drawings, and made adjustments. On site, they first had to test the radar, which should detect the approach of polar bears at a distance of one and a half kilometers.

“And indeed, the technology spotted the predator several times. We were convinced of this when he came closer and the dogs of our border guard neighbors began to bark,” Nikolai Belkov laughs. However, the animal would still not be able to enter the camp territory: the guys installed an electric fence that repels wild animals with a current discharge of 12 thousand volts.

In addition, Moscow Professionals tested a solar battery. As planned, it will replace a diesel generator and will save the environment. Although the sky was overcast, the experiment was a success. After all, it’s a polar day in the Arctic now, the sun is always high and shining intensely—the expedition members even got tanned. “True, it was hard to sleep because of the endless day. Dusk fell only for a couple of hours,” admits a interlocutor.

When leaving, the young people dismantled the camp and left everything for the next polar explorers. This is the idea: a tent and fence can be easily set up in a couple of hours anywhere in the world without harming the environment. Already in September 2024, the design will be tested by environmental volunteers who will come to work at Cape Chelyuskin.

“In the Great Arctic Expedition, the guys turned into real travelers and learned to think. In my team, I handed out cards in the morning with philosophical questions, for example: “What would you do if there were 25 hours in a day?” And all day long everyone thought about their own question, and in the evening we discussed our ideas together and debated,” notes Matvey Shparo. In his opinion, such trips unite different people and the planet into a single ecosystem.

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Note; This information is raw content directly from the source of the information. This is exactly what the source states and does not reflect the position of MIL-OSI or its clients.

Please note; This information is raw content directly from the information source. It is accurate to what the source is stating and does not reflect the position of MIL-OSI or its clients.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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