The Protocol for preservation of the Antarctic’s environment, that came into force in 1999, applies the 50-year moratorium for works connected directly with searching for, exploring and mining of minerals, however does not forbid realization of scientific geological and geophysical investigations. Such investigations are intensively conducted by many states-participants of the Antarctic’s Agreement. In spite of significant reduction of the state financial support for research activity in Antarctic in the last years, it manages to assert the priority of Russia in geological study of the region and keep the positions, achieved by governmental geological companies and institutions (including SE PMGE) during nearly 50-year history of Russian (Soviet) geological and geophysical studies. Extensively this priority is determined by a wealth of experience of Ministry of Natural Resources of RF and by close economic-organizing relationship with Russian (former Soviet) Antarctic Expedition, under direction of which the national activity in region of the Antarctic’s Agreement is realized. Historically two main directions in activity were formed in accordance with the nature of the conducted research - geological and geophysical studies and air photography of the continent, and marine studies of marginal seas of Antarctic. In the last ten years new directions were formed - a geophysical studies of subglacial lake Vostok in Central Antarctic, as well as ecological and nature-conservative measures.
Marine seismic investigations
The marine seismic investigations of marginal seas of Antarctic occupy the important place in study of the structure of the ice continent.
For the first time the Antarctic geophysical party of PMGE has executed seismic work in Antarctic seas in the course of investigations of 26th Soviet Antarctic Expedition (1980-1981), and the works are thereafter conducted almost annually to present day (with the exclusions of 38th Soviet and 42nd Russian Antarctic expeditions).
The main methods commonly used in seismic research are the multichannel reflection and method of the refracted waves. These methods allow to define the main characteristics of the understudy environment, namely the thickness of sedimentary cover, the nature of the foundation and depths of its bedding, speed parameters of the layers; as a result of the mentioned works it is possible to draw a conclusion about minerals prospects of the region.
With time the vessels and the technology of the work were changed. The surveys in the course of 26th SAE – 36th SAE were conducted from rented vessels (M/V "Captain Markov", M/V "Vasiliy Fedoseev", M/V "Captain Myshevskiy", M/V "Captain Gotskiy", M/V "Vitus Bering", M/V "Vladimir Arseniev", M/V "Navarin"). The vessels were changed every year, the equipment for undertaking of seismic investigations was kept in 20 feet containers and was transported from one vessel to another. The primary task of expeditionary vessel was providing of the coast bases and stations by everything required, and seismic works were executed on the intervals between other works. Therefore the extents of investigations were very limited.
In 1991 PMGE became the owner of specially equipped vessel "Akademik Alexander Karpinsky". The extents of the studies have risen sharply.
The technical equipment was changed several times. The geophysicists used the digital complex SSC-3, Grad, NML-67 first, then the complex "Progress-2", ES-5017.02 (this equipment was kept in container on rented vessel). R/V "Akademik Alexander Karpinsky" was stationary equipped with complex GAK-120, NML. In 2002 the marine registration system MSX-6000 (produced by INPUT/OUTPUT Inc., USA) was installed on the vessel. The receiving devices (streamers) have been changed too. Since 2002 the digital streamer MSX6000М (INPUT/OUTPUT Inc.) is used. The old systems used magnetic tapes and tapes of EXABYTE streamer device for registration of digital information. At present the tapes of IBM 3590 Magstar Drive are used for data recording by MSX-6000 with further copying on CDs. The Russian made guns PI-1V and 6PI20 were used first as energy sources, but presently the shooting is realized by means of two arrays of the guns SG-IIB produced by INPUT/OUTPUT Inc.
For passed years the geological structure of many marginal seas of Antarctic, such as Weddell Sea, Commonwealth Sea, Riiser-Larsen Sea, Sea of Cosmonauts and Davis Sea, was studied.
The detailed information about marine seismic study of Antarctic is presented in databases "Antarctic" and "Antarctic-47".
The Station Vostok is a unique scientific intracontinental Russian station, located in the central part of East Antarctic near the Cold Pole of our planet (with the minimum temperature of -86.3° С) on the height of 3488 meters above sea level. Its coordinates are 78° 28’ S, 106° 48’ E. The nearest distance to the seacoast is 1260 km, to station Mirny - 1420 km, to South Pole - 1253 km. It is the zone of the development of extensive East-Antarctic glacial sheet with the thickness of approximately 3750 m, with the spreading speed of 3 m per year. This sheet contains 75% of whole Antarctic ice.
As a result of satellite altimetry data processing the suggestion about presence of enormous subglacial lake was reported at the beginning of 1990th. The lake has got the name "Lake Vostok". Its area is approximately 10000 sq. km with length of 240 km and width of 50 km. The thickness of the ice cover above the lake changes from 3700 meters up to 4200 meters. It averages 3750 meters near station Vostok. The maximum thickness of water layer is estimated as 700 meters.
The unique ultradeep ice borehole is located near Vostok. It was bored by Russian researchers up to depth 3523 meters. From 1995 PMGE conducts the systematic geophysical studies of this natural phenomenon. On the basis of seismic data received by PMGE the boring was stopped in 130 meters from the surface of the lake for development of the new perfect methods of the penetration to this unique water system.
The Arctic Ocean
The investigations of Amerasian and Eurasian basins of the Arctic Ocean are traditional for PMGE. They are being realized during 40 years in cooperation with VNIIOkeangeologiya and Russian Navy’s Department of Navigation and Oceanographic. They were carried out from drifting ice ("North Pole" stations) by airborne landing method (high latitude expeditions); the aerogeophysical and on-ice works were carried out also in the context of the programs "Transarctica" (1989-1992) and "Arctic-2000".
As a result of these activities the more accurate data on the Arctic Ocean were obtained; the new data have proved the continental nature of Earth crust of Lomonosov Ridge and Mendeleev Rising. These data allowed to submit a project of the Russian continental shelf limits in the Arctic Ocean to the UN Commission at the end of 2001, and to substantiate legally the extension of the Russian Shelf area for more than 1.2 millions square kilometers.
Archipelago Novaya Zemlya
The Federal State Enterprise "Polar Marine Geosurvey Expedition" has a constantly functioning base on Novaya Zemla in the settlement Belushiya Guba and a number of the field stationary subbases. They allow to realize the geological and prospecting activities in different parts of the archipelago.
Geological researches on Novaya Zemlya have a long history. The systematic investigations of the island territories began in 1977 and are going on at present. SE PMGE has been carrying out these works as a Head Enterprise of the former USSR Ministry of Geology and Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia. The Expedition has been realizing the complex geological and geophysical investigation of the archipelago.
In 1977-1991 PMGE made a geological survey in scale 1:200 000 covering almost all the territory of Novaya Zemlya islands. The survey was accompanied by the necessary complex of the prior aerogeophysical research. As a result five sets of Geological Map (Gosgeolkarta-200) were prepared for publication, and first and fifth sets were published to date. In 1999 on the base of the generalization of the data, accumulated by PMGE, a set of maps covering all territory of the archipelago were made, including: geological map and map of mineral resources (scale 1:500 000), geomorphological, tectonic and prospecting-metallogenic maps (scale 1: 1 000 000). In the period 1998-2002 in cooperation with Marine Arctic Geological Expedition (Murmansk) the new series of Gosgeolkarta-1000 sheets were prepared (and partially published), as well as the explanatory notes to them (sheets S-38-40; R-38-40; S-41-43).
PMGE realized the generalizations on geotectonic position of Vaygach - Novaya Zemlya region in the framing structures of the Barents, Pechora and Kara Seas. The most important metallogenic taxons of Paihoi - Novaya Zemlya mineragenic province (metallogenic areas, zones, junc-tions and ore fields) were discovered, investigated and delineated. PMGE determined the promising raw objects (deposits) of manganese, fluorite and rock crystal and the balance reserves of the deposits of argentiferous lead-zinc ores.
At present PMGE continues the research works in the perspective areas of the archipelago, carrying out the geological prospecting on the discovered deposits of lead, zinc, manganese. The Expedition works over closer definitions on some problems of the region geological structure and mineragenic potential in the limits of the general investigations.
The World Ocean
The Federal State Enterprise "Polar Marine Geosurvey Expedition" has been carrying out the geological and geophysical investigations on the areas of seas and in the World Ocean since 1969. By the present time more then 60 cruises has been realized on the following state programs of the World Ocean research:
- the world gravimetric survey (WGS);
- geological and geophysical researches on geotraverses;
- iron-manganese concretions (IMC);
- hydrothermal polymetallic sulphides (HPS).
The world gravimetric survey
It has been realized since 1978 to 1992 in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In the Pacific Ocean the survey covered the area of 22 millions square kilometers, in the Atlantic Ocean – about 38 millions square kilometers. The observations were maid mainly by the latitude profiles with the average distance between them approximately 100 km. By the results of the survey in the Pacific Ocean PMGE worked out the database on the magnetic medium and a package of gravimetric maps in scales 1:5 000 000 and 1:10 000 000, made the geological geophysical interpretation of the mate-rials. The work is being made on the generalization and systematization of WGS surveys in the At-lantic Ocean.
Geological and geophysical researches on geotraverses
The researches were carried out in the Atlantic Ocean on the Angola-Brasilian and Canary-Bahames geotraverses, in Antarctica – on geotraverses Antalith and Geomod. In the Arctic Ocean a geotraverse was made along the line North Pole – De Long islands.
These activities were relized by PMGE in 1984-1989 in the Pacific Ocean, mainly in the zone of fractures Clarion-Clipperton. On several experimental grounds during 6 cruises the IMC ore-deposits were delineated, the regularities of their localization were determined, as well as the ore composition. The engineering-geological properties of IMC and seafloor deposits were investi-gated. Large-volume samples were taken to study the possibilities of IMC processing, their total mass was approximately 350 tons.
Hydrothermal polymetallic sulfides
The processes of ore formation became the most popular subjects of the marine geological investigations in the World Ocean since the end of the seventies of 20th century when the first thermal sources in rift zones were discovered. Herewith from the very beginning of studies of modern oceanic hydrothermal mineralization it was understandable that with time these processes could be of interest in respect to the industrial development.
SE PMGE has studied the oceanic sulphide ores since 1985 on the East-Pacific Rise (EPR) and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR).
There were 5 cruises of R/V "Geolog Fersman" and R/V "Sevmorgeologiya" in the Pacific Ocean (EPR). The axial zone of EPR was investigated from 0°N to 13°N and from 21°S to 23°S. As a result of expeditions the hydrothermal polymetallic sulphides were discovered and sampled at locations near 21.5°S, 3°N, 5°N, 6°N, 8°N, 9°N and 10°N.
The research of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was carried out during nineteen cruises of R/V "Geolog Fersman", R/V "Sevmorgeologiya" and R/V "Professor Logachev". As a result the axial zone of MAR was investigated at locations near 6°N and from 12.5°N to 26°N. The main result of expeditions was discovering and sampling of new deposits and ore fields of HPS: deposit 24° 30’N, ore field 16° 38’N, ore field "Logachev-1", deposit "Logachev-2", ore field 13°N ("Ashadze"). These discoveries have Russian priority. The investigations allowed: to study the geological structure of the oceanic bottom and the hydrophysical and hydrochemical parameters of water column; to delineate the ore bodies; to evaluate the forecast resources of lode rock and useful components. The positioning of ROV and geological devices was provided by means of the system of bottom navigations (with accuracy of 15-20 meters).
Since 1993 SE PMGE co-operates with foreign organizations to carry out the joint projects of the World Ocean investigation (International Cooperation): with IFREMER (France) for study of oceanic ore genesis, with UNESCO/IOC in the context of international program "The Floating University (Teaching Through Research)". A series of joint cruises was made on board of PMGE’s vessels.
Archipelago Franz-Josef Land
From 1993 to 2001 the Federal State Enterprise "Polar Marine Geosurvey Expedition" realized the complex of geological and geophysical investigations with the aim of making the State Geological Map (scale 1:1 000 000) of the archipelago islands and adjoining shelf (sheets U-37-40; U-41-44). The complex included:
- aerogeophysical survey of scales 1: 500 000 – 1: 1 000 000 (magnetometry, gravimetry, radio location of glaciers);
- airborne geological routes on all islands of archipelago;
- marine complex of geological and geophysical activities on the archipelago shelf from board of the research vessels (seismoacoustics, echo sounding, seismic prospecting, seabed sampling – the impact pipes and dippers).
The main results of the realized works were:
- the sediments of Middle and Early Trias (characterized by fauna) were discovered on the Nothern group of archipelago islands (islands of Reiner, Goffman, Eve-Liv). Earlier the location of these sediments had been established only by parametric drilling holes (Naturskaya, Heiss, Severnaya) at the depths of 1.0 – 3.0 km;
- on the archipelago islands and shelf the magmatic trappean associations are widely spread represented by dikes, sills and stocks of gabbro and gabbro-diorite, necks of microdolerites and hyalobasalts, sheets of basalts and andesite-basalts, and by their tuffs and tuff-lavas;
- on the preliminary stage of investigations three volcano-plutonic associations may be distinguished; presumably they were formed in different thermodynamical condi-tions but of the general primary magma containing the olivinic tholeiite;
- the volcanic structures of strombolian type of Mesozoic age were discovered on islands Salsbury, Galle, Zigler;
- high bituminosity of all the types of the archipelago rocks and the intrusions of the liquid droplet of oil in the brecciated rocks along the zones of the deep breakes prove the good geological prospects of the region as for the hydrocarbon raw materials;
- for the search of rare earth elements the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic weathering crusts are of interest, the yttrium accumulation is related to their formation (with contents of 100-500 g/ton in some samples);
- geoecological sampling demonstrated the presence of Cs-137 in soils (up to 352 Bq/kg) and in mosses (up to 350 Bq/kg) on almost all the area of the archipelago.
As a result of Polar Expedition‘s ten years activities the geological structure of Franz-Josef Land for the first time was investigated in details and representative material was collected for the geological map (scale 1: 1 000 000). The set of maps Geolkarta-1000 includes:
- geological map of Pre-Quarternary formations;
- map of Quarternary formations;
- map of mineral resources and regularities of their distribution;
- lithologic map of the seafloor surface;
- maps and schemes in scale 1: 2 000 000 (geomorphological, tectonic, geoecological). Reference
The archipelago Spitsbergen is located in the northwest part of the Eurasia and represents the marginal uplift of the Barents-Kara plate. The presence of relatively distinct outcroppings and formations of different age determines the key role of Spitsbergen for understanding the history of the development of Arctic’s Atlantic sector.
Spitsbergen is one of the best studied region of the Arctic due to unflagging interest to sufficiently easy available archipelago and its special international status. It is a sort of scientific polygon, the nature and the mineral resources of which are studied by multiple specialists from different countries and organizations.
The Soviet Union was joined to Paris agreement on Spitsbergen in 1935. However before the beginning of the sixties the works, conducted by the Trust "Arktikugol", were concentrated on limited areas near the coal mines Barentsburg, Pyramid and Grumant and mainly were of applied importance. The Soviet regional geological and geophysical studies of Spitsbergen were started in 1962 by NIIGA (at present VNIIOkeangeologiya ). Nowadays the most part of investigations have been made by Polar Marine Geosurvey Expedition.
The main relationships of the geological structure of archipelago and the general estimation of its oil-and-gas potential, coal and metal resources were established for these years as a result of undertaking of complex geological and geophysical works, as well as of boring of three parametric wells by organizations of Ministry of Geology. In the 1980s and 1990s there were finished the generalized reports on geological structure and estimation of the hydrocarbon content prospects for archipelago Spitsbergen and adjacent shelf; on geology and minerageny of the Spitsbergen’s west coast. "The stratigraphic dictionary of Spitsbergen" and the publication "The Russian geological studies of Spitsbergen, 1962-1992" (the extended abstracts of the reports) were published in Russian and English. Also there were prepared the maps of pre-quaternary formations and quaternary deposits, the geomorphological map and the map of the Spitsbergen’s mineral deposits in the scale 1:1 000 000 (made with use of GIS ARC/VIEW 3.0 software), with text description and accompanying databases.
Within the framework of the State Norwegian Program the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) has carried out mean scaled geological mapping on Norwegian topographical bases with the following publishing of the geological maps in the scale 1:100 000. The geologists of the different countries have taken part in this program. The special agreement on participation in geological mapping of Spitsbergen was signed between NPI and State Enterprise "Sevmorgeologiya" in 1989 and was prolonged by SE PMGE in 1994 and 2001. During these years about 20 map sheets were prepared for publishing. The one third of these sheets was made with co-authorship of Russian geologists.
As a result of international co-operation within the framework of Swedish program "SwedArctic" (the Department of the Earth Sciences of the Uppsala University and the Museum of Natural History, Stockholm ) and with participation of NPI the knowledge about pre-Caledonian history of the archipelago has extended in many respects owing to the specialized stratigraphic and geochronological studies. For the first time the existence of Karelian and Grenvillian complexes was established in structure of the basement of Spitsbergen.
At present the single cause for Russian economical presence on archipelago is a development of coal-fields. The exploration of alternative raw materials is one of the most important tasks of the applied geological surveys. On the first stage of the regional investigations the some manifestations and mineralization zones of copper, iron, lead, zinc, rare and radioactive metals were discovered. In the 1980s the metallogeny was specially studied, mainly of the west coast of Spitsbergen. There were prepared the cadastres of ore occurrences and the scheme of metallogenic zonation, the maps of coal and bitumen manifestations in the scale 1:1 000 000, accompanied by scheme of the allocation of the ore mineralization points and manifestations of gems.
The deposits of barite, gypsum, phosphorites located close to Russian settlements are the most perspective. The probable reserves of barite come to 300 000 tons, of gypsum - 1100 million tons, of phosphorites - more than 60 million tons. Further exploring and possible production of these useful minerals will keep the infrastructure of settlements.
The existence of oil and gas was discovered on Spitsbergen during the coal-prospecting and parametric boring and operation of the mines. For the further estimation of the prospects of hydrocarbon raw materials it is necessary to undertake the complex of the preliminary works, including 3D seismic reflection, structural mapping of the regions, estimation of probable resources and selection of the test boreholes locations.
In accordance with Mines Charter of Spitsbergen, the discovered deposits of useful minerals are assigned to discoverer for 5 years. On the 1st of August, 1999 fifty areas are assigned to Russia on behalf of the Trust "Arktikugol": oil and gas - 19, coal - 26, the building materials - 2, barite - 2, gypsum - 1.
The future trends of mineral prospecting of archipelago (for oil and gas in the first place) are connected with study of the geological structure of adjoining shelf.