10

The season of 1983

THE EASTERN SECTION

Winter navigation caused a significant increase in turnover on the western section of the Northern Sea Route. This underlined its historical position of being the most important part of the route, as it had been almost continuously since Joseph Wiggins's first commercial operations in the last century. Other activities on the Northern Sea Route have always been much more limited. Transit voyages, which one would believe to be the most important activity, are relatively few, although some are made each year, especially since the first ULA freighters arrived in 1954. Less sturdy ships have been known to make the transit journey as well though, for instance the Neptun-class Vitya Sitnitsa did so in eight days in 1971. (Chubakov 1982:92-102). The commissioning of a new ULA class, the SA-15, has allowed a number of double voyages from the West to Vancouver and Japan, and vice versa. In 1984 four SA-15 bound for Pevek and Tiksi continued to Vancouver and returned to Murmansk by the Northern Sea Route (Ponomarev 1985a). These transit voyages were all cases in which shipping was preferred over other means of transport, for instance to get grain from Vancouver, and gas pipes from Japan for the Urengoy-Uzhgorod pipeline. Another of these few profitable cases was the transfer of barges and fishing boats, built in Europe and needed in the Far East. Once a year all ships of that type were gathered in one convoy and sent through the Northern Sea Route (Armstrong 1980:113). But on the whole it would seem that transit passages are not very important, although exact indications of how many goods are shipped in transit voyages are not available. This leaves about 30 to 35 per cent of the Northern Sea Route's turnover for the eastern section, a small amount for a large area.

Voyages in the east are mostly made to supply settlements on the East Siberian coast, but there is also a certain amount of timber export. Most supplies brought via the Northern Sea Route are destined for various mining enterprises, which produce valuable metals such as gold, silver and tin. Such metals can bear the tremendous cost of mining under Arctic conditions. Gold is mined on the Kolyma fields, diamond in Yakutiya, and tin at Yultin and Pevek. Most of these places rely on river shipping or winter roads which in turn rely on the Northern Sea Route, the Lena river shipping or the Magadan highway.

-139-

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The Soviet Arctic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Russian Policy in the Far North 1897-1917 6
  • 2 - Soviet Sovereignty in the Arctic and the Advent of Flying 1917-32 21
  • 3 - The Stalinization of Arctic Exploration 35
  • 4 - In Stalin's Time 1932-53 53
  • 5 - Arctic Policy During the Cold War 67
  • 6 - Historiography in the Cold War 84
  • 7 - The Age of the Nuclear Submarine 109
  • 8 - Arctic Shipping Since 1953 120
  • 9 - The Western Section: Winter Navigation 127
  • 10 - The Season of 1983 139
  • 11 - Arctic Studies Since 1953 152
  • Conclusion 170
  • Appendix 175
  • Glossary 179
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 222
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