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Wisdom of the ocean

Mikhail USTINOV
News Analys

In 2019 the “Comprehensible Science” was released as a joint TV project by the United Shipbuilding Corporation and Kaliningrad State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company in support of the Year of Science announced in the Corporation 

The series of eight short-length scientific and educational films, in plain language goes about shipbuilding and new marine technologies, history of seafaring, evolvement of the Russian fleet, environmental issues and yet unsolved mysteries of the World Ocean, as well as about its decisive influence on our whole planet. The mission of the Comprehensible Science was to remind that in our turbulent 21st century, i.e., in the era of electric vehicles, social networks, high-speed Internet and a chain of political and economic crises, significance of the seas is growing continuously. Success of the film has proved that marine and shipbuilding topics are still of wide public interest and concern.

Each episode of the documentary mini-series is dedicated to a certain topic one way or another related to the World Ocean. With every new issue those short stories, like puzzle, were falling into place to give a full picture of the one of fundamental, oldest and most knowledge-intensive industries in Russia. 

Thus, the first film is a kind of introductory lesson on the history of the shipbuilding industry, major physical principles that allow large-tonnage giants remain afloat, and also on the main treasury of the planet: the World Ocean. The second film allows to look into the heart of a ship: its power unit, and to learn how the invention of the engine influenced the development of mankind. The third and the fourth episodes go about uncountable resources hidden in the depths of waters of the World Ocean, and about its major environmental problems. The fifth episode goes about industrial fashion and ship design: how they were changing with time and what the vessel of tomorrow will look like. The sixth episode is dedicated to the Russian Arctic and coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet. The seventh episode dwells on relationships between the Man and the ocean from antiquity through to the present days. The final episode narrates on the evolvement of Russia as a great maritime power and on the development of the national school of shipbuilding. 

Experts of the documentary project, alongside with shipbuilders, were well-known scientists, renowned explorers and cultural professionals. The experts talked about breakthrough technologies and their vision of the fleet of the future, drew unexpected comparisons, described little-known and intriguing facts on the World Ocean, vessel designs and history of shipbuilding, gave simple answers to most critical ecological problems and shared their own experience of sea voyages. Amongst the film protagonists there are traveler Fyodor Konyukhov, President of the Kurchatov Institute Scientific Research Center Mikhail Kovalchuk, TV presenter Valdis Pelsh, Director of the World Ocean Museum Svetlana Sivkova, writer Tatyana Ustinova, playwright Yevgeny Grishkovets, President of the United Shipbuilding Company Alexei Rakhmanov, and many others. 

MARITIME TECHNOLOGIES, DESIGN AND LAYOUT OF THE FLEET OF THE FUTURE

Alexei Rakhmanov, President, United Shipbuilding Corporation

When the mankind was yet mastering seafaring, first vessels were built of materials provided by nature. Their motion was ensured by what we call today renewable sources of energy, i.e., the wind that filled the sails.  

As it is well known, science is progressing in upward spiral order. Today we once again discuss a return to nature-like technologies and renewable sources of energy. I do not exclude that we will start using sailboats again. A vessel sailing down the wind can generate a lot of energy. We only have to learn how to catch and save it effectively. As of today, the presence of the crew onboard is required rather for safety than for technology reasons. Unmanned navigation in future will unfix all established notions of what an up-to-date vessel is and what it should look like. I can foresee dramatic design changes in the styling of ships.     

Valentin Yudashkin, Fashion Designer, People’s Artist of Russia

New boats, yachts, cruise ships are filled with sensation of comfort, so that in an illimitable ocean one can feel the warmth of their home-fire. Fashion is changeable for clothing, architecture and interiors. And it is amazingly exactly represented by ships, since a comfort and soothing home atmosphere is created onboard.  

Fyodor Konyukhov,Traveler, Artist

Engineers design the bottom part of my boats. I create the upper part, both as an artist and as an experienced traveler. There are a lot of particulars: if the boat capsizes, it is supposed to reset to normal position all by itself. Besides, the boat is to withstand the most serious attacks of the elements. We prepare my expeditions for a long time: five to ten or even fifteen years. During the preparation, we take into account the strength of waves, we study winds and currents.

THE MAN AND THE OCEAN

Mikhail Flint, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Head of Plankton Ecology Laboratory, the P.P. Shirshov Oceanology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The ocean exhibits a unique property not only to provide for the existence of our planet, but also to magically attract people. Explorers who made great geographic discoveries had started on their trips not only in search of gold or spices. Fascination of the ocean and its influence on humans are enormous. This influence hides deep sensation of mystery, while mystery always attracts explorers. 

Konstantin Mogilevsky,Executive Director, the History of Motherland Foundation

Russian history is a history of movement towards the sea. Russia emerged and evolved alongside river banks, but its interests as the ones of a future maritime power were formulated from the very beginning: just look at Prince Oleg’s campaign against Tsargrad (Constantinople). After having gained an access to the sea, Russia developed the necessity to conquer those seas.

Today we can see that Russian shipbuilders are overcoming all the recent negative tendencies. The Russian fleet once again, like during the time of Peter the Great, meets all up-to-date technical requirements, and, being a result of the efforts of the state-run institutions, reflects the most modern development level of industry, science and technology.

Svetlana Sivkova, Director of the World Ocean Museum

Our country has only fifteen memorial museum ships. Six of them are in the World Ocean Museum. The cause of preservation of ships is the most favorite and interesting work of ours. I like the following phrase and, and I like to often repeat it: “The one who builds ships, can make everything”.  This is because ships are living beings, they have their souls and we know how to treat them and how to preserve them.

Yevgeny Grishkovets, Writer, Playwright

I am confident that the ocean, the shoreless vastness, is the place hostile for humans. For the first time I saw the ocean when I was 18 and was conscripted into the Navy Pacific Fleet. I vividly remember the sensation that, for the first time in my life, I left the continent on which I was born. At that moment I felt a sort of devastating orphanhood. Presence in a huge water vastness is unnatural and difficult for humans. 

Fyodor Konyukhov, Traveler, Artist

In the ocean, one always looks at the endless sky and starts thinking about this world. According to the Holy Scripture, Our Lord created both water, earth and air, and all of them belong to the Man. If there exists the ocean, the Man must live, explore it, preserve it and be part of it. It is our place of living; we must swim in it and dip into it. No matter how huge the ship is: it can be 200 meters, can have a crew of 1,000 people, you see only this endless vastness around yourself, and that vastness attracts you, appeals to you, and creates absolute impression that you are off-world.  

Alexander Ponomaryov, Artist

Each artist sees the sea differently. This is the beauty of art, it allows to see the whole in particulars. Seas painted by Aivazovsky, Turner of Bogolyubov are different, but they are all one and the same environment. My ocean is not just a water entity, it is rather somewhat like the Ocean from the film Solaris by Tarkovsky, creating new images and perceptions, something fantastic, unconceivable and extramundane. This is the ocean I have been traveling along for 30 years.     

ECOLOGY AND RESOURCES OF THE WORLD OCEAN

Mikhail Flint, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Head of Plankton Ecology Laboratory,  the P.P. Shirshov Oceanology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences 

Much ado about the issue of trash in the ocean started two years ago when a US shipmaster allegedly discovered a whole island of plastics of the size of France in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For many years we have been able to monitor the ocean from satellites. However, there is not a single satellite image of that island. Recently, it has been announced that there is a lot of microplastics in the Arctic. I have been working in that region for the last 12 years. We have literally filtered the whole Arctic with the use of luminescent microscopy, filtration, special chemicals: we could not find even traces of plastics. 

This does not mean that the problem does not exist. It does indeed, and it is the most critical one. But I tend to believe that all that is happening now is a very serious warning of possible danger.

Currently, electronic industry is being intensively developed, and it requires special mineral resources. Onshore, the amount of such resources is close to depletion. However, at the bottom of the ocean there are really cyclopean reserves of minerals. Deposits of ores containing cobalt and nickel are assessed to be around 35 billion tons, while sulfides, around 7 billion tons. Moreover, recoverability rate of the elements in question from those ores is sometimes many times higher than onshore.    

We are facing a problem with antibiotics: new active substances are to be discovered. Where can they be found? Evidently, in places that have been evolutionarily isolated from humans, first of all, in coral reefs. Their ecosystem is indeed a communal kitchen in an overpopulated shared apartment where everyone is at war with each other. Abundance of biologically active substances, antibiotics and toxins concentrated in such ecosystems is enormous and distant from humans.   

In late 1980-s, Russian scientists investigated hydrothermal vent ecosystems. One would ask: who needs that? This is a negligible fraction of the ocean. However, the phenomenon itself is exceptional, and people have studied it. After all these years it appeared that exactly those areas contain huge deposits of sulfide polymetallic ores. Immediately there emerged applied value of such studies, since the International Seabed Authority would not issue an exploration license without prior environmental studies. Now Russia is working at a mid-ocean ridge drawing on environmental works from 30 years back.  

Mikhail Kovalchuk, President of the Kurchatov Institute Scientific Research Center

Today Germany is developing alternative energy generation at full speed. What will this result in? Windmills are being installed, with rotation frequency being in the order of hertzes. This is the frequency at which infrasound is generated. And infrasound is a weapon, while one can say that it is environmentally safe. In Denmark, all the seashore is covered with hundreds of windmills. Now, let us take a look at how weather is formed on the continent. Winds come from the sea: the Gulfstream warms up the air, air masses move over the planet and change weather. Nowadays cyclones are very deep, they come to a standstill at one place. As a result, at one side of the front it rains continuously, while at the other side there is unbearable heat and drought. Can this be a result of the installation of windmills? Aerial currents come from the sea, but windmills take all their energy, and the air masses do not reach inland. This problem has not been investigated yet. 

DEVELOPMENT OF THE NORTH

Tatyana Ustinova, Writer, TV Presenter

For the Extreme North, navigation is the only means of communication with the Mainland. One cannot get there by land. Opening of navigation season is the start of life, and close of navigation brings life to a standstill. When the last ship is leaving the Gulf of Anadyr, it sounds blast, and the whole town gets out to say farewell. Ships here are the vase of life: they deliver equipment, fuel and food. 

No one can imagine in what world they live in, until they get to the North. There, having found yourself one-on-one with the planet, you start to better understand the idea of the one who has created all this. The grandeur of the world at the Magadan mountain pass bearing a poetical name of Gavryusha greets you as nowhere else.  

Valdis Pelsh,TV Presenter

If we talk about the Arctic Ocean, I believe that the future lies with mobile polar stations that can conduct research in a required area and then change their location to a new one. Therefore, perhaps, in a few years from now we will see each other on board of one of such mobile polar stations that will seriously enhance capabilities of our scientists in the Arctic.  

Viktor Boyarsky,Director, the Russian State Arctic and Antarctic Museum

Our ancestors, the Pomors who used to inhabit the Arkhangelsk Region, were pioneers of ice seafaring. No one had gone ice seafaring before them. They worked their way to the Novaya Zemlya and Vaigach Islands, to the East Arctic, with specially stitch-built wooden boats. They did not use nails and metals, since wood boards had to be flexible for navigation through ice. Artifacts are a most significant component of Russian security in the Arctic. Those are our evidentiary basis to prove that those lands have belonged to Russia from time immemorial. We have published a large-scale map of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, and it has literally no space for new references: it is full of winter cabin sites, encampments and burial grounds. When foreigners saw that map at one of the international exhibitions, they kept asking: “Are these all recent?..” And when they learned that the artifacts dated back to the 15th century, they got amazed and exclaimed: “The land is fully developed!”. They had had an impression that all the archipelagos were bare land.

Mikhail Kovalchuk, President of the Kurchatov Institute Scientific Research Center

The fundamentals of shipbuilding are the material, ship’s hull that is submerged in water all the time. Icebreakers are a separate topic; there exist young ice and old ice, both being different in composition and corrosivity. The icebreaker hull is susceptible, first, to huge mechanic abrasion, and second, to galvanic corrosion that literally eats off the metal.  

Nuclear power generation has no alternative in the Arctic, since only nuclear-powered icebreakers have unlimited margin of power and motion. When the Americans created their nuclear bomb, they dropped it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while our country, having engineered nuclear weapons, five years later launched the world first nuclear power station. In 1959 the first civilian nuclear-powered ship was launched: the Lenin icebreaker. Therefore, Russia is the pioneer of nuclear power industry and nuclear-powered fleet.

As of today, we are the only country in the world that has nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet and vast experience of operating it. The power plant is the heart of the nuclear-powered ship, the most technologically advanced area of shipbuilding. We have fostered a whole galaxy of shipbuilders that know how to work with nuclear power plants and possess unique competences that no one else in the world has. 

Alexei Rakhmanov,President, United Shipbuilding Corporation

The Academician Lomonosov floating nuclear heat and power plant that we have built is the world first floating heat and power station. No one in the world had built anything similar before. Besides that, this is the world first power station engineered according to shipbuilding technologies, it has also become the northernmost nuclear power station on the planet.    

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