Russian Yemelya vehicles to attempt Arctic crossing via North Pole

Posted: Feb 15, 2013 12:49 pm EST

(Newsdesk) "Miracles do happen sometimes, and it was one of that sort," said the Russian MLAE-2013 team when landing in the polar darkness, lit only by the crescent moon, several stars and the lights of Sredniy Island's 3 km long runway.

In 2009 two amphibious vehicles of MLAE-2009, Yemelya-1 and Yemelya-2, reached the Geographic North Pole (90°N) after traversing 2033 km from Sredniy Island in the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago.

This year Yemelya-3 and Yemelya-4 will be used by the Marine Live-ice Automobile Expedition-2013 to attempt to go beyond the North Pole to Resolute Bay, Canada.

The 2013 team is Elagin Vasily (leader, vehicle designer and builder), Makovnev Afanasy (deputy leader), Vankov Andrey (driver-mechanic), Obikhod Vladimir (driver-mechanic), Shkrabkin Alexey (driver-mechanic), Kozlov Nikolai (doctor), and Isaev Sergey (driver-mechanic).

They have left Moscow on February 9th by train after which they took a plane and helicopter to the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago, where they keep their two semi-amphibious cars.

At Sredniy Island the vehicle engines will be checked thoroughly and if all goes well their journey across the frozen Arctic Ocean should start by the end of February.

Blessing by Father Georgiy

In the latest update on February 13th they got the 5 am. plane on a "very long charter flight by twin engine Antonov-26 from Vorkuta to Norilsk and then to Sredniy Island on the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago."

"While the plane stood still on the runway of Norilsk airport (Alykell) Father Georgiy, the head of Taymyr eparchy, came on board to give us his blessings," said the Russians.

Passport control on the Antonov

With no border post at their departure point on Sredniy Island, right there in the plane the team's passports were stamped and customs declarations were filled in. "Russian border was officially crossed." reported the men.

"Immediately after that the plane was airborne again and three hours later in the polar darkness, lit only by the crescent moon, several stars and runway lights we landed on 3000 meter long airstrip of Sredniy Island. Miracles do happen sometime, and it was one of that sort."


In the video below, made after the 2009 record breaking journey, Vasily Elagin, designer and builder of the Yemelya vehicles, said the only type of vehicle able to reach the North Pole are one with low-pressure tires. This tire pressure can be as low has 0.7 bar.

Vasily says the crew members have to be good mechanics and good climbers (they do a lot of rope work). He also tells about falling into the water, polar bear encounters, the condition of the sea ice and the live water movements, ice drift, and travelling sometimes at 1 km per hour, with an average of 8km/h. He also explains why they left the 2009 cars, Yemelya-1 and Yemelya-2, at the North Pole.

Video below: MLAE-2011 Crossing The Kara Sea By Car

Previous expedition MLAE-2009 (Courtesy of the website: In 2009 Marine Live-ice Automobile Expedition successfully traversed 2033 kilometers of the Arctic waters and ice between Ostrov Sredniy island of Severnaya Zemlya archipelago and The North Pole. The route took 38 days between 20th of March and the 26th of April 2009.

The expedition was carried out under the patronage of Russian President's Special Representative for The International Cooperation in The Arctic and The Antarctic A.N. Chilingradov. The support and safety monitoring of the expedition and the crew was provided by the aviation department of Federal Security Bureau. Expedition was headed by the decorated Master of Sport V.I. Yelagin. Expeditionary crew consisted of seven people. Vehicles used to traverse the ice and water en-route were two custom designed and built vehicles "Yemelya-1" and "Yemelya-2" with three axels and 6x6 wheel drive equipped with diesel engines, low pressure tires and cargo trailers.

Yemelya is an amphibious vehicle designed for transportation over ice floes and thin ice of the Arctic Ocean. Its six wheels are dressed with special low pressure tires inflated to the mere 0,7 bar. The gross vehicle weight is under 1,5 tons while the total water displacement of the six inflated tires constitutes 4 tons resulting in the very shallow draft of the vehicle body in water - just 10 centimeters.

Despite the large profile and windage characteristics of vehicle’s body, its spinning wheels are capable of propelling at the speed of 2-3 km/h on the open water. The vehicle tows three single-axel trailers each loaded with a pair of 200 L fuel barrels and six 130 L plastic containers for food and gear.

Read more Yemelya specifications here.

[Ed side-note: The cars driven by Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear team reached the 1996 position of the Magnetic North Pole (78° 35'42N, 104° 11'54.00"W)

Related / Previous

Yemelya cars reached the North Pole in 2009

Arctic 2011: Heads up - Vladimir Chukov leading a North Pole crossing from Sredniy Island to Ward Hunt Island

Polar wrap-up: No Polar cars reached North Pole;

Yemelya cars MLAE 2013 website

ExWeb interview with Jason De Carteret: record drive to the South Pole

ExWeb interview with Aron Reynisson (part 1), “It is by no means easy to drive to the South Pole”

ExWeb interview with Aron Reynisson (final): “We literarily tear the vehicles apart and rebuild them with components proven to tolerate the cold climate.”

ExplorersWeb Expedition List

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Yemelya-3 and Yemelya-4 awaiting the crew in the polar night at Sredniy Island. (archive image).
courtesy MLAE, SOURCE
The cars pull 600 kg trailers with fuel, gear and food (archive image).
courtesy MLAE, SOURCE
Three archive images. Front walker testing the strength of the ice.
courtesy MLAE, SOURCE
The 1500 kg vehicles' tire pressure go as low has 0.7 bar. The spinning wheels are capable of propelling at the speed of 2-3 km/h on the open water.
courtesy MLAE, SOURCE

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