The Sea Ice Automobile Expedition 2011 (SIAE-2011) is scheduled to set off on 25 February.
Between 25 February and 15 June, 2011, sponsored by the Russian Geographical Society and under the patronage of the Russian President’s Special Envoy for international cooperation in the Arctic and the Antarctic, the Society’s First Vice-President A. Chilingarov, the Sea Ice Automobile Expedition 2011 (SIAE-2011) will cross the Arctic Ocean. The team will go from Russia to Canada in two specially designed amphibious trucks Yemelia-3 and Yemelia-4, along the following route: Urengoy – Dudinka – Dikson – Sredny Island – Barneo Ice Station – the North Pole – Ward Hunt Island (Canada) – Resolute (Canada).
Specially designed for the harsh Arctic environment, amphibious truck Yemelia can negotiate ice hummocks, ice fields and thin ice of the Arctic Ocean. It’s a 6×6 all-wheel drive vehicle with Diesel engines and trailers. The six wheels are “shod” in special shell tires; the air pressure is just 0.005 atm. The laden mass is under 1.5 tonnes, while total displacement of all six shell tires is almost 5 tonnes. Accordingly, the truck’s body submerges just by ten centimetres. The vehicle can sail in open water at 2-3 km/h driven by the rotating wheels, despite the significant windage of the body. Each truck will be towing two single-axis trailers, each carrying a 200-litre fuel tank and six 100-litre plastic barrels with food and equipment. Since the engines, transmission and all electrical equipment are placed inside the waterproof truck body, Yemelia is perfectly capable of sailing in salt water. The vehicle has a spacious heated and insulated cabin – a reliable, long-term home for the polar travellers.
There are seven team members; five of them are professional mechanics and drivers. The expedition is headed by Vassily Yelagin; Afanasiy Makovnev, the prominent Russian expeditionary photographer and explorer, will act as deputy head.
This isn’t the first expedition of the kind; the Russian Arctic Research Centre sends out amphibious trucks expeditions every year.
In 2009 the expedition travelled from 12 March to 27 April, also in two vehicles: Yemelia-1 and Yemelia-2. On 20 March the team set off from the Sredny Island in Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, and 38 days later, having covered 2,033 kilometres across the ice hummocks and glades, had reached the North Pole on 26 April 2009. That time the main objective was to test the trucks in drifting ice environment, and reach the North Pole in automobiles.
According to the team leaders, until now vehicles like that were used exclusively for sports. However, they could be very useful to residents of Arctic regions, to rescue teams, the military and the scientists. Yemelia trucks with ultralow-pressure tires can serve as reliable and safe transport in tundra, moving along and across frozen rivers and lakes, sea ice and drifting ice floes in the ocean.
Photographs by Afanasiy Makovnev
Russian text composed by Yaroslav Nikitin
English text by Vsevolod Korolev