To St. Petersburg for the Arctic

16.08.21 // St. Petersburg is often referred to as the 'gateway to the Arctic.' Historically, around the first half of the 18th century, the city was the starting point for Arctic expeditions. Today, Admiralty Shipyards are building ships and nuclear-powered icebreakers; educational institutions are training staff to work in the Arctic; scientists are processing field survey data, producing maps and weather forecasts.

New tours are expected in St. Petersburg in the near future. The St. Petersburg Arctic Affairs Committee is working with the Tourism Development Committee to develop a series of itineraries under the general title Arctic Petersburg. In February, the first excursion in the series, How the Arctic was Conquered, was presented. The 5.5 km journey runs across Vasilievsky Island and includes visits to seven sites.

The starting point of the route is the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. For more than 100 years, all polar expeditions have been planned here. Thanks to the work of scientists and polar explorers, the North Sea Route was laid, deposits of complex ores, gold and diamonds were discovered, and northern oil and gas deposits were explored.

After the institute, the tourist route continues to the Vilkitsky family burial ground. Father and son were both renowned hydrographers. Boris Vilnitsky discovered the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago.

Then we continue to the Museum of the Admiral Makarov State University of the Maritime and Inland Fleet, and the Mining University. The final stop of the route is the legendary Krasin icebreaker.

A unique museum-ship, the Arctic icebreaker, is docked at Lieutenant Schmidt embankment. It was built before the Revolution and, thanks to modernisation, served until 1989. The icebreaker plied the North Sea Route in convoys, took part in battles during World War II, circumnavigated the globe with military convoys and, since 1972, served as a research vessel.

The Krasin became world-famous for its participation in the heroic rescue operation of Umberto Nobile's expedition, who survived the crash of the Italia dirigible during his flight to the North Pole.

A monument to the famous Norwegian polar explorer Raoul Amundsen has been erected on the embankment, to the left of the icebreaker. He was the first man to reach the South Pole and visit both poles, and the airship expedition he organised was the first to fly over the North Pole. Amundsen's hydroplane crashed as he rushed to the rescue of his friend, Umberto Nobile.

After learning about the history of Arctic exploration, the next interesting route is Heroes of the Arctic Ice: Faces of the Russian Arctic.

The Arctic Committee plans to develop three more themed routes by September 2021, which will cover the exploits of the polar explorers in World War II, shipbuilding, and the famous northern expeditions that started in Kronstadt. For the time being, these tours only take place within the format of the St. Petersburg Kaleidoscope social project — free guided walking tours around the city with audio guidance. You can find the schedule and sign up on the website of the St. Petersburg Tourist Information Bureau.

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