World Federation of Science Journalists

Amundsen - Tatiana Pichugina

Tatiana Pichugina
Science journalist, Vokrug sveta

Science editor of the monthly magazine "Vokrug sveta"
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my personal web-page
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September 25, 2008

Russian newspaper "Troitsky variant", article about the Amundsen on page 6 and an interview with the WFSJ's director Mr. Jean-Marc Fleury.
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September 12, 2008

Presentation in Russian about the Amundsen trip:
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June 5th, 2008

Today I am leaving North Territories for Winnipeg. Seating in the Inuvik airport café it's time to summarize my impressions of the week aboard the icebreaker. The most striking news for me was the reality of Arctic warming, strange as it could sound. Like many people around the globe I've heard about this phenomenon before and I am pretty well aware of the climate change. As a science reporter I covered this topic many times and followed the news in this field of science and policy. But all this was bookish knowledge like many other knowledge I had and used in my life. For example I can write about space biological experiments or an underwater oil platform although I have never seen any. The same was with the climate change problem before this expedition. But after I spent a week in the Arctic ice it became something real for me.

I was told that Arctic ice had dramatic changes in recent times, that it was warming up much quicker then other regions, that probably in 2007 years the critic point for Arctic region was passed after that its changes became irreversible, that we had never seen the same Arctic again, that IPCC experts used old models for their reports and that changes should be more dramatic. If honestly I became nervous - it is a little comfort to know that you live at the beginning of the global catastrophe and that you will see its consequences with your own eyes. As I understand we can do nothing to stop ice melting, this process is beyond our power already. It is still a tiny chance to diminish the atmosphere warming a little bit and to give our biosphere some time to adapt with new habitat. In my opinion we should take this chance. Reducing greenhouse emissions is expensive but surviving the catastrophe would be many times more expensive.

June 4th, 2008

a bucket with students and scientific equipment goes down to the iceThe CFL-project is the biggest scientific project ever launched in Canada, it is also the biggest and the most expensive in all activities under International Polar Year. It is a shame that I didn't hear about anything similar launched in Russia during IPY. The last year expedition to North pole and the flag raising organized by Arthur Chilingarov is not counted. However, it got big international coverage it had more to do with sport and politics then with science. But come back to the Amundsen.

The biggest scientific project set on the hottest planetary problem that humanity faced ever - climate change. Everybody expects to find the icebreaker heavily packed with famous academics and senior researches trying to solve the mystery of dramatic Arctic ice melting. Nothing like that at all. What I see is a big modern laboratory for students from around the world where they could do all experiments by themselves. Per about 40 students there are 4-5 senior scientists including the chief Dave Barber whose supremacy is shown only during short evening meetings. And in my opinion, this is one of the most important features of the expedition. Self-organizing mass of students look at the Amundsen as if it is their own habitat. Every one of them knows what task to perform, everyone is on the right place and in time. From 9 a.m. until 19.30 like red bees they seat on the ice collecting great number of samples and later analyzing some of them in labs aboard. Moreover, some people make seawater temperature measurements all day long, every 3 ours, day and night. No one is afraid of cold: plus 2 C - is it really a cold? "You'd see how I did it under minus 50 C " says Rod drilling a wide hole for sediment collectors and drawing ice crumbs by bare hands. The team of scientists is rotating every month as well as the ship crew but it always consists mostly from students. Let's count for an expedition year we have about 480 students being aboard the Amundsen. Most of the data obtained in the expedition will be used for their Ms and PhD projects. Thanks to CFL-project all they get precious Arctic experience and have the possibility to work for the actual problem of nowadays. In other words, right now on the Amundsen a whole generation of new researches is going to form.

June 3rd, 2008

Canada is really big and cold country like Russia in many ways. No wonder it took me 2.5 days to reach the ship. All my previous field experiences were based on land and this is my first visit on an icebreaker and the Arctic ice. It strikes me by its power and whiteness that can do you blind. In sunny days, it is not possible to look at the ice without protective glasses. I enjoy everything here: to be at the bow and look how the ship is breaking the ice, how the crew is working, how well the ship is equipped, how young and lively scientists are, and the food. Especially the food.

I tried several things here for the first time, for example artichokes. Yes, I never eat artichokes and what? In Russia, we do not use this vegetable in our cuisine. You can't find artichokes in our shops, once I have seen it in a Metro supermarket around 20 euro per 2 artichokes. I am not used to eat  lion de bois and mussels for diner as well. Not if I live on mostly potato or bread at home, Russian cuisine is very different and testy (borsch, pirozki, kvas), but I just didn't expect to find here, on the lost-in-the-ice icebreaker such exquisite service. It reminds me of images from XIX century French books. Isn't it because the Amundsen, all crew and our cook Jean Marc Couillard are from Quebec city? The city that is in a way much more french than Paris itself.

June 2nd 2008

This expedition is a unique opportunity for me in several ways: first of all it gives me the possibility to participate in research directly connected to the climate change problem; second: to travel - I am an editor and everybody knows that editors don't travel they seat in the office all day long and edit others people articles and because of that editors become bad and dull. It is exactly my case when I am in the office and edit others' people articles. But once I am free from my duties I am a nice and flexible person. This time I managed to cut this bad karma of mine thanks to the World federation of science journalists and its competition.

Waiting for my turn to the Amundsen I have read my colleagues' blogs and dispatches posted by scientists on the CFL websites. Every research, experiment is so well documented, no tiny detail escaped from their eyes. After them it is not easy to write something scientifically new in my blog and I will not even try to do it. Instead I put some of my personal impressions inspired by field life ... maybe too personal.

Some people on the Amundsen asked me if I have a scientific background? Because without it it's not easy to understand what is going on on the ship, what for are all these activities. In 1991 I graduated from the Geological department of the Moscow State University. The fact was that this year the last thing Russia needed was geologists, especially inexperienced geologists that we were. Almost all my fellows looked for another profession, they became accountants, computer designers, lawyers and what not, a few went abroad to Australia, Germany, Canada, less then a few stayed in science. Soon I changed my career too and chose a job where my scientific background would be useful science journalism. I gained a lot from this choice as my nearest future showed.

Application essay

Why I should win this competition

Let me introduce myself. I am a full-stuff science journalist with 10-years of experience. I focus mainly on Earth sciences. In Russia there are just several journalists with geology background and one of them is me. I constantly follow the news about Arctic region study. After many years of break Polar research in Russia is at the centre of attention again. The first signs were the launch of the drift station SP-32 in 2002. That time I came to the Sent-Petersburg Institute of Arctic and Antarctic Research to interview station's science manager V. Sokolov. In 2004 I work for "Rumbler TV" (kind of Discovery channel) as a science editor of the Polar ring project organized by the famous explorer Vladimir Chukov. He planned to cross with his team the Arctic Ocean by 4-weels vehicle. Though he failed, it was unforgettable experience for all us. During this 8-months project, I made acquaintances with many polar scientists that did climate study like I. Melnikov, A. Tishkov. Now I work in the magazine "Vokrug sveta" (that means "Around the world" in English). It is the biggest science-popular magazine in Russia with 250,000 circulation. Its impact on the audience in Russia and abroad (especially young active people) is very impressive. Climate change and others Arctic region problems are my favorite topics. Recently I made a feature about oil and gas on north shelf. We plan also features on the International Polar Year and the Arctic Ocean structure, as well as global worming again. Our magazine was one of the sponsors of Russian expedition to the North pole and Mirs' diving in July-August 2007.

Participation in IPY-CFL expedition, aboard on the Amundsen, to Banks Island is a unique opportunity to know about Canadian Arctic Climate Study first hand. The Circumpolar Flaw Lead (CFL) launched by Canadian scientists is important project that links with the worming signs on Russian territory. For example, the Great Siberian polynya became bigger in recent years. As far as I know there is collaboration with Russian researches and students on the project - it will be great to meet them as well as to see one of International Schools on Board. I have never been in an icebreaker before and I am eager to take part in the expedition. I am sure it will be very fruitful for my professional experience and my future material about Arctic region, it helps me to find new topics and to make new contacts with researches and colleagues.