The vessel, named Sabvabaa, will map the geology of the subsea Lomonosov Ridge in the far north of the Arctic Ocean, formed 65 million years ago, that extends from Russia to Greenland and Canada as part of the Fram 2012 mission.
The hovercraft will acquire seismic data and take geological samples from the seabed of the structure, which it is believed still contains rocks that formerly existed in the prospective Barents Sea before erosion took place, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).
”If we are to understand what was once there, we have to know as much as possible. Geological samples from the Lomonosov Ridge can therefore tell us what happened in the Barents Sea,” said NPD senior geologist Harald Brekke.
The ridge divides the two main deep-water basins of the Arctic Ocean, the Amerasia and Eurasia basins.
He said it is the most northerly scientific expedition ever carried out by Norway, going even further than the country’s famous polar explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen.
The NPD-funded expedition, from July to September, is deploying a hovercraft to save on fuel compared with an icebreaking vessel, which typically costs Nkr500,000 a day to run.
A hovercraft’s running costs are around a tenth of that figure and it consumes as much diesel over five months as an ice-breaker would in a day.