Magellans of the XXI century: why geographic expeditions are conducted today

Environmental studies

At the end of 2015, an expedition headed by

environmentalist and TEDx speaker James Borrell,funded by the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers. The scientists' task was to measure changes in temperature and humidity caused by deforestation and understand how these processes affect endemic reptiles and amphibians. This goal, the study of the impact of human activity on the biosphere, is one of the key directions of modern expeditions.

Particularly close attention of ecologists is attractedfresh water bodies and coastal areas of the seas: in Russia, scientific groups regularly float along the Irtysh, Volga, Don, Ob ​​and other large rivers, on the banks of which a large number of cities and industrial enterprises are located. So, in July of this year, an expedition started along the upper reaches of the Volga, which is to determine the concentration of microplastics in the river and identify the main sources of pollution. The expedition was organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Tver Region and the non-profit foundation “Without rivers as without hands”, which last year initiated similar studies on the Don - this case was one of the first attempts in Russia to analyze fresh waters for microplastics.

Environmental monitoring also requires careful monitoring.the state of Lake Baikal: every year motor ships of the research fleet of the Limnological Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences go through its water area, which study, in particular, the influence of economic activities on the quality of water and representatives of the local fauna.

Anthropogenic factors are assessed not only inwithin the framework of the study of sea and fresh waters: for example, the analysis of the ecological situation has become one of the tasks of the integrated expedition of the Russian Geographical Society and the Expeditionary Center of the Ministry of Defense on the territory of the Kuril Islands, which is to last until 2025. The same goals were pursued by the participants of the large Norilsk expedition, which took place in July-August this year at the initiative of the Norilsk Nickel company on the Taimyr Peninsula. Scientists collected soil samples to determine the degree of concentration of metals in the soil, and also investigated the problem area around the damaged reservoir at CHP-3.

Searching for the South Pole

Environmental research is important, but notthe only goal of modern geographical expeditions. In the field, scientists observe tectonic processes, seismic activity, landscape transformations, and the behavior of animals and birds. The most popular destinations for such travel remain the Arctic and Antarctica - as two areas that have a huge impact on the climate of the entire globe. In addition, due to the lack of human settlements in these territories, the only ways to study them are expeditions and work at stations. Russia holds the lead in Arctic studies, since it has the longest border with the Arctic Ocean.

The purpose of the expedition may be detailedexploration of areas that for a long time remained poorly understood: in addition to the territories of the Arctic and Antarctic, these are remote islands, some volcanoes, the ocean floor and other hard-to-reach places.

However, more accurate data are often required andmore serious objects: this year the participants of the round-the-world oceanographic expedition of the Russian Navy, dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica and the 250th anniversary of the birth of Admiral Ivan Kruzenshtern, clarified the location of the Earth's South Pole. During the expedition, information on many islands and features of the coastline of Antarctica was specified - the latter was mapped in 1987 and did not correspond to the modern satellite image; in total, according to the results of the work carried out by scientists, it will be necessary to amend 14 sea charts.

Many people demand close attention today.rare species of animals. In 2019, an integrated expedition of the Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society set out to study local species in Franz Josef Land: researchers observed the structure of walrus rookeries, the behavior of polar bears, the formation of colonies of rare birds, and were developing new humane methods of protection from predators.

Climatic observations

There is another major block of geographicexpeditions related to global warming. Climate change is leading to melting ice and transforming landscapes, affecting ocean currents. Natural zones are shifting, animal populations are dying out and migrating. Ground displacement caused by the melting of permafrost leads to the destruction of buildings, roads, bridges, dam breakthroughs, and industrial accidents.

To minimize the consequences of all theseprocesses and formulate environmental measures, you need a careful study of the ongoing changes. Polar expeditions regularly observe the melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean and the degradation of permafrost. One of them, on the ship "Akademik Mstislav Keldysh", was launched at the end of July this year - its participants will explore the melting of permafrost and glaciers, analyze biogeochemical processes in waters and bottom sediments.

The climate change process has become one of the objectsstudy of the members of the big Norilsk expedition, which took place in July-August this year. It included scientists from 14 institutes of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, including geologists, zoologists, botanists, specialists in permafrost, micro- and hydrobiology, and petrochemistry. Scientists have collected more than 1.5 thousand samples of soil, water and bottom sediments, on the basis of which they will develop new principles of management in the Russian Arctic - they should help preserve its ecosystem in a changing climate.

Global Warming and Associated Displacementnatural zones leads to the migration of animals and birds, their extinction or a change in habits. To better track the behavior of the species of interest, scientists tag individual individuals with GPS sensors. By attaching collars with sensors to the necks of female polar bears, scientists tracked the processes that occur with the climate in the Arctic: in search of food, bears move after drifting ice - habitats of seals and walruses, their main food. Due to the rise in temperature in the region, the ice recedes further and further in summer, and in order not to die of hunger, the bears have to follow them. Attaching sensor collars to polar bears is a common practice. In particular, this is one of the tasks of the current Arctic expedition of Rosneft, whose participants will study the fauna of Franz Josef Land, the Kara and Barents seas.

Storms and bears: about conditions

“It is imperative that modern scientistscontinued to spend time in the field: sitting at a table thousands of miles away, it is difficult to understand what exactly is important to study and measure, "says ecologist James Borrell. It is difficult to argue with this statement: today there is no more effective method to investigate the state of the biosphere, climatic changes and the life of ecosystems than the personal presence of scientists in the area of ​​interest.

Group members usually work in hikingconditions: specialists live in tents, cook food on a fire or on gas burners, and sometimes they have to walk more than ten kilometers a day with a backpack on their backs. Expeditions often involve the risk of encountering wild animals or harsh weather conditions. It is no easier for participants in sea travel: there is always a risk of getting into a storm or being seasick, and at the landing site on Arctic expeditions, you often have to scare off polar bears - and so that the animals are not harmed.

The very scientific work of specialists is also in many waysassociated with manual labor: for example, when taking soil samples, it is impossible to allow impurities, including metal, to get into the samples - therefore, instead of iron shovels, scientists use wooden or plastic tools. Of course, field work today is much safer than a hundred years ago: scientists have modern equipment and technology, high-quality equipment and satellite phones to communicate with civilization. But one way or another, any serious expedition is an event that requires good preparation, including psychological: it is no coincidence that the organizers of the Russian Travel Geek scientific travel club conduct a strict selection of applicants for the participants of each expedition, where great attention is paid to the “adequacy” of the candidate.

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