Monday, December 24, 2007
Russia's Polar Nights
Photographer Simon Roberts has been exploring Russia's Kola peninsula, in winter a region shrouded in darkness nearly 24 hours a day, a phenomenon known as Polyarnye Nochi (Polar Nights). (Photo: Mid-afternoon in a residential area of Murmansk.)
Throughout December until mid-January, during the period of polar nights, the sun remains below the horizon and there is only a faint glow of light visible around midday.
One third of Russia’s population live and work in these inhospitable climatic conditions. In Murmansk temperatures in winter average -20C.
An abandoned ship in the Barents Sea. Russia has twice as much territory above the Arctic Circle as Canada, 10 times as much as Alaska, and 15 times as much as Norway, Sweden, and Finland combined.
A man pulls a child on a sledge past the statue of a soldier, known as Alyosha, built on a hill overlooking Murmansk to commemorate the Defenders of the Arctic during World War II.
Lenin is a constant presence in most Russian towns, usually presiding over Ploschad Lenina (Lenin Square). In granite, marble, bronze or silver, he comes with a range of personas. In Apatity he stands with his hands in coat pocket, covered with a sprinkling of snow.
The Severonikel factory stands on the outskirts of the town of Monchegorsk. Since the fall of Soviet Union, the main clients of the plant are now subcontractors for US and Japanese auto manufacturers, who use its products to manufacture catalytic converters.
While statistics vary wildly, it is certain that many nuclear-powered submarines, loaded with radioactive materials, are languishing in the Barents Sea outside Murmansk.
The road leading to the nearby military ports of Severomorsk, Severodvinsk and Borisglebsk outside Murmansk are closed not just to foreigners, but to non-personnel Russians as well. They are home to the Russia's Northern Fleet.
The city of Monchegorsk grew up around its nickel plant, built in 1938. The city became one of the most badly polluted areas in Russia during the 1980s thanks to emissions of zinc, copper, mercury and other metals from the plant.