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    ST.PETERSBURG, 7 March, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Anna Novak) -- The polar explorers from the floating Arctic research station North Pole-32 (SP-32) have safely arrived in St.Petersburg.

    The SP-32 chief Vladimir Koshelev told journalists that the explorers had successfully completed their program of Arctic research.

    "We have carried out the scheduled program of research in full volume and managed to keep all our scientific equipment undamaged. We have brought the results of our research with us. The main task of our expedition - to resume operation of drift-ice research stations in the Arctic - has been successfully accomplished," Vladimir Koshelev said.

    According to him, what happened at the station on 3 March was basically a standard occurrence. "Basically, it was a standard occurrence, but the ice shift proved to be exceptionally big and powerful that day. A quickly growing wall of ice swiftly destroyed the station's housing and service facilities - the community room, caboose, and diesel power station," Koshelev said. He pointed out that the station ceased to exist within a short interval of 15-20 minutes. The wall of ice towered as high as 5 to 12 meters.

    According to Koshelev, the ice floe beneath the station collapsed when the researchers were packing their equipment and making due preparations for safe mooring of an ice-breaker scheduled to pick them up off ice on the 20th of March, the official date for the station's evacuation. "We managed to get across to the other part of the floe when the wall of ice hit the station," Koshelev said.

    The rescue operation to evacuate the polar scientists in emergency was conducted by personnel of the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Monitoring of Environment (Rosgidromet) as well as by rescue teams of the Emergencies Ministry.

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