Allies in the Arctic

09/03/2007 The continental shelf around Norway and northern Russia is unique in the world, with favourable conditions for studying the development and motion of the geological plates.

text: Jan Stenløkk and Harald Brekke. foto: Jan Stenløkk

The photographs were taken during this year's field work on the Is Fjord in Svalbard

These factors include the great extent of area involved and the presence of several island groups along the outer margin where sedimentary rocks are exposed for easy mapping.

The NPD has collaborated for a number of years with Russian partners in charting the margins of the continental shelf in order to study the geology of these far northern areas.

Such cooperation forms the basis for a major three-year programme launched in 2006. This aims to map a geological cross-section from Svalbard via Franz Josef Land to Novaya Zemlya, and the waters in between.

The goal is to achieve a better understanding of geological developments in this region, with particular emphasis on its volcanic history and how it has risen.

Three partners
This project is primarily a collaboration between three partners –the NPD, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in Moscow and the All-Russia Research Institute for the Geology and Mineral Resources of the World Ocean (VNIIOkeangeologia) of St Petersburg.

It is associated with another programme financed by the Research Council of Norway, which began this autumn.

The partnership will eventually be expanded to include the universities of Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Norwegian Geological Survey.

In addition to acquiring new knowledge, this collaboration is very important in linking heavyweight centres of expertise in the two countries.

Geological and geophysical data have been collected from the Knipovich Ridge west of Spitsbergen this year by the Akademik Nikolai Strakhov research ship.

Owned by the RAS, this vessel sailed from Kaliningrad in mid-August and returned to Russia two months later. Data and samples are now being processed for further analysis.

Field work
As part of the project, the NPD and its Russian partners undertook a two-week geological and geophysical field trip during August at the mouth of the Is Fjord on Spitsbergen.

Seven Russian researchers from the RAS and VNIIOkeangeologia participated, along with geologists from the NPD and experts from the Sintef research foundation in Trondheim.

Geological studies on land were concentrated in the Festningen area between the Is Fjord radio station and the Russian settlement at Barentsburg.

Despite a great deal of bad weather and difficult field conditions, a number of samples were collected for subsequent analysis.

These are expected to reveal information about geochemistry, mineral composition, age, fossil content and direction of the Earth’s magnetic field in earlier eras.

Mapping will continue next year in Svalbard before moving on to Franz Josef Land in the Russian Barents Sea and across to the northern end of Novaya Zemlya.

Geological field work on land will supplement and bind together geophysical surveys at sea.

These archipelagos in the Barents Sea are important correl­ation points for underwater areas which cannot be directly observed or sampled.

Updated: 14/12/2009