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General: Russian sub reaches Arctic floor

Posted on 03.08.2007 - 18:00 EDT in GENERAL NEWS by Rons_ROV_Links

Russian sub reaches Arctic floor  A Russian mini-submarine has reached the seabed below the North Pole on a mission intended to strengthen Moscow's claims to the Arctic, reports say.

Explorers aboard the Mir-I plan to carry out tests and plant a capsule with a Russian flag 4,200m (14,000ft) below the pole.

A Russian official said the "risky and heroic" mission was comparable to "putting a flag on the Moon".

Melting polar ice has led to competing claims over access to Arctic resources.

Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic, thought to contain oil, gas and mineral reserves, has been challenged by other powers, including the US.

'Heroic mission'

Mir-I is one of two submarines travelling to the Arctic floor.

They were brought to the North Pole by the two ships in the Russian expedition - a nuclear-powered ice-breaker and a research vessel.

The expedition set off last week from the port of Murmansk and is looking for geological evidence to back up Moscow's claims to the resource-rich Arctic seabed.

Russian media reported last week that the ships were briefly tailed by foreign aircraft, but this claim was played down by the expedition leader.

The expedition is being led by two members of parliament - Arthur Chilingarov, a seasoned polar explorer, and fellow MP Vladimir Gruzdev.

The Itar-Tass news agency reported on Wednesday that the expedition's ships had arrived at the North Pole.

Scientists aboard the submarines plan to collect samples of Arctic flora and fauna and leave behind a titanium capsule containing a Russian flag.

The submarines' return from the seabed to the surface is regarded as the most dangerous part of the journey.

The vessels will have to navigate back to the exact point where they started from, or else risk being trapped beneath the Arctic ice.

"This is a risky and heroic mission," Sergei Balyasnikov, a spokesman for Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Institute, told the RIA-Novosti news agency.

"It's a very important move for Russia to demonstrate its potential in the Arctic," he said. "It's like putting a flag on the Moon."
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