"There is a principle that the Arctic should be kept clean," said Kim Holmén, international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute. "One takes their junk home. In this case, those who are responsible for the plane and the flight must take action."
On April 4 of last year, a Russian Antonov-74 plane made a hard landing on the ice near the Barneo ice camp about 100 kilometers from the North Pole. The main wheels broke and part of the fuselage was destroyed. Neither the crew nor the tourists on board were injured, but the plane was left standing useless on the ice.
A week later, Margarita Tertitskaya at the company Polar Expedition told Svalbardposten the plane was in OK condition and was awaiting pilots who would fly it to Moscow.
As of June last year, the aircraft was still standing on the ice and Tertitskaya said the company was considering using an icebreaker to remove the wreckage.
Nineteen tons of wreckage
The plane is most likely still there, whether or not the ice is cracking up, and at least some of the wreckage may have sunk to the sea bottom. Knowledgable sources also told Svalbardposten parts have been removed and transported home. The Antonov-74 machine is built in the Ukraine and is owned by a Russian company. At the moment, Ukrainian parts are unobtainable in Russia, hence the scavenging of items from the wrecked plane.
Holmén said he believes it's problematic that, at 28 meters long and 19 tons in weight, the wreckage of the plane remains on the ice.
A matter of principle
"In general, the rules are that owner must take responsibility," Holmén said. "That includes, among other things, shipwrecks along the Norwegian coast. We do not know what the plane contains in terms the fuel, oil, hydraulic fluids and the like. There is a potential of pollution, but mostly it's a matter of principle because such things cannot happen again."
"There is a principle that the Arctic should be kept clean," said Kim Holmén. FOTO: Eirik Palm
The aircraft is in international waters and there's no national legislation regarding such wreckage. Therefore, the polluters in this case can't be accused on breaking a specific law. That means that, without action, the plane will follow the ice's movements and sink in Framstredet.
"No one wants such debris in the ocean and here the owner must take responsibility," Holmén said.
'Does not matter'
The crash site is beyond the jurisdiction of The Governor of Svalbard, so there is little that can be done, said Knut Fossum, head of the governor's environmental department.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also isn't getting involved since Norway has no authority in the North Pole area.
The Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment is generally of the opinion that polluters should clean up after themselves.
"But Norway has no role in the possible removal of the aircraft," said Tore Ising, the department's director.
Translated by Mark Sabbatini