BBC - Future - Why Russia is sending robotic submarines to the Arctic

The Arctic: the smallest of Earth’s five oceans, with icy waters and dagger-like winds, is home to some of the most unforgiving conditions on the planet.

But far below the skin of sea ice that waxes and wanes with the seasons, this inhospitable ocean is hiding a treasure trove of natural resources – one that’s largely untapped by mankind.

The Arctic Ocean is estimated to hold billions of barrels of oil, and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas – accounting for 16-26% of the Earth’s undiscovered reserves. And there’s a superpower scrambling to beat all others in the race to exploit this chilly mother lode of polar resources: Russia.

Decades after the Soviet Union fell, Russia embarked on a mission to drill deep into the Arctic seabed, sending a fleet of underwater robots and unmanned submarines into the Earth’s harshest waters.

And now, after years of drilling in the area, the country – which saw oil and natural gas account for 68% of its exports in 2013 – plans to use never-before-seen technology to take its mission to the next level.

Russia already extracts around 5.5 million tons of oil annually from its only operating oil field in the Arctic, but much of the sea is covered by a thick sheet of ice year-round, making exploitation by surface vessels impossible. Enter Russia’s Project Iceberg: an ambitious plan to use extreme technology for equally extreme conditions. We talked to experts who shone a light on Russia’s designs on the Arctic.

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The race for the Arctic’s precious re....

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