FRANZ – JOSEPH LAND

29 Apr

William Speirs Bruce visited Franz-Joseph Land in 1896 as a member of the Jackson–Harmsworth Expedition (1894-97), eager to further his apprenticeship in the natural sciences within the icy environment of the Arctic.

Franz-Joseph Land is an archipelago of nearly 200 islands. At 80 -82 °N, it was and remains, ice bound for much of the year. The Franz-Joseph Expedition, which he joined, aimed to survey the Land and, if possible,find a way to the North Pole. This expedition became newsworthy, when Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen (who had not been heard of for three years and were assumed to have perished on their attempt to reach the North Pole),reached Franz -Joseph Land on their southern retreat, a month before Bruce arrived. Nansen was supportive to Bruce who always wanted to return to the icy archipelago and who was persistently concerned about ‘foreign’ interests in the Arctic Islands. He was dismayed at the Russian annexation of Franz Joseph Land in 1914. The Russian steamer ‘Gherta’ reached the archipelago on the 18th August and hoisted the Russian flag.

Bruce was prescient in sensing the huge potential of the Arctic Islands. The
Arctic is now thought to account for 13% of undiscovered oil, 30% of undiscovered natural gas and 20% of natural gas liquids – possibly one-quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas and worth in the region of $30 trillion (£21.1 trillion).

Russia has built bases on Franz Josef Land to the concern of the US and other nations.These bases can house about 150 people for up to 18 months and are equipped with every facility including, it is said, nuclear- ready warplanes. This reinforces both Russia’s defense capability, and her other interests in the region and could be considered a threat to Finland, Sweden, Norway and other countries interests in the Arctic region.

In 2015 Russia submitted a revised bid (the first turned down), to the United Nations for territories in the Arctic claiming over 463,000 square miles of Arctic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles from her shore. President Putin has visited the archipelago, again emphasising the need to protect Russia’s economic and security interests in the Arctic.Russia has an active Arctic Brigade.

According to some estimates, the Arctic summer ice cap will completely vanish by the year 2050. This will improve access to the Arctic resources, hence bringing more challenges.

Clearly the region is a political hot spot, demanding international statesmanship and co-operation, hopefully without confrontation.

Fridtjof Nansen said ‘The great thing is to move forwards responsibly, steered by the best knowledge we can gather’ Lets hope this happens.

Image Fox News

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One Response to “FRANZ – JOSEPH LAND”

  1. isobelpwilliams April 29, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    Image Fox News

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