Russian Arctic nature reserve registers record high number of visitors
The Russian Arctic National Park registered a record high number of visitors over the summer season in 2019. According to the park’s Director Alexander Kirilov, the park welcomed 1,306 visitors in 2019, against 1,079 a year earlier.
"The tourist season in 2019 is over at the national park," the director told TASS. "This year, we have registered the highest number of tourists who visited the Franz Josef Land Archipelago and the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago’s northern part - 1,306 guests."
From nuclear icebreakers to yachts
During the summer season, the 50 Let Pobedy nuclear-powered icebreaker made six return voyages Murmansk - North Pole; the Sea Spirit made three return voyages from Spitsbergen to Franz Josef Land, plus voyages on board the Bremen and Silver Explorer. Besides the big vessels, the park welcomed yachts the Lady Dana 44 and Begatela, and the Alter Ego and Apostle Andrey went to Novaya Zemlya.
Unlike on the mainland, the past season on Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land enjoyed true summer. "It has grown into a sign - if there’s no summer on the mainland, there’s true summer in the Arctic," the director said. "As for the ice, conditions were very good, the northern edge retreated high, above the Rudolf Island, and even the Graham-Bell "ice sack" disappeared by end of the season."
Tourists from 44 countries
Tourists from 44 countries visited the nature park in 2019. For the first time in the park’s history, most visitors "come from Russia - 262, China this time takes the second place - 255 guests," the director continued. "The US tourists - 193 guests - take the third line. This is not typical, as traditionally, we’ve registered many tourists from Germany and Switzerland. Usually, we have more guests from Germany, than from the US."
The biggest share of visitors is guests aged between 51 and 70 - 382, and 268 tourists were aged between 71 and 90.
Tourists traveled to Franz Josef Land’s 15 islands. "The 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker went along the Koldewey Strait, which normally sailors do not use, as an iceberg may block it," the park’s director continued. "But since the ice situation was favorable, the icebreaker could go there - the strait is very narrow, but very interesting, rocks there go up, they are ice-topped and give beautiful reflections in quiet waters. The icebreaker was going at a low speed, so that tourists could take pictures of those scenic views."
Visitors could see bowhead whales and minke whales, Atlantic walruses, and 87 polar bears. "There were 62 occasions the tourists met polar bears - several times those were two-three predators. The bears were in good conditions, they were not starving," he added.
Plans for future
In 2020, the nature reserve will regulate the tourist flow. "We shall pick different islands for different cruises, so that one island did not receive too many visitors in limited time," the director said. "When 100-120 people go ashore at a time every week, the pressure is too high, even stones in the Arctic cannot stand it."
Over coming years, the park may build decks and stone paths to minimize the impact on the environment.
The Russian Arctic National Park is Russia’s northernmost and biggest nature reserve (8.8 million hectares), which unites the Franz Josef Land Archipelago and the northern part of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago.