This summer, a hovercraft will embark upon a research voyage from Svalbard to the North Pole. This will be the first and the northernmost polar expedition undertaken with such a vessel.
”Never before has there been a Norwegian scientific expedition so far north. Not even Nansen or Amundsen made it this far,” says senior geologist Harald Brekke in the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).
For four summers, the 12-metre long and 6-metre wide hovercraft Sabvabaa (Greenlandic for ”floats quickly over”) has acquired data in the areas north of the ice edge near Svalbard. Between July and September this year, the vessel will engage in activities such as mapping the geology in the submarine Lomonosov Ridge in the far north of the Arctic Ocean. This structure extends across the entire Arctic Ocean from Russia to Greenland and Canada, and was formed 65 million years ago.
While an icebreaker largely has to follow the channels in the ice, a hovercraft can move freely over the ice surface. This gives the researchers much greater freedom to explore the areas in the north.
The NPD is providing financial support for the expedition, while the University of Bergen and the independent research institute, the Nansen Centre, are contributing equipment and personnel. The expedition, christened ”Fram 2012”, will be led by Professor Yngve Kristoffersen.