of data array
Section data Publications


A.P.Alexeev (Northwestern Branch of the Inter-Department
Ichthyological Commission, St.-Petersburg, Russia),
A.V.Semenov (Murmansk Area Department of Hydrometeorology
and Environment Monitoring (MADHEM) Russia),
V.A.Borovkov, V.V.Tereshchenko, V.N.Shleinik
Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries
and Oceanography (PINRO, Murmansk, Russia)


In August 1895, at the VI International Geographical Congress in London, Professor Otto Pettersson (Sweden) suggested a project of international cooperation in the field of investigation of the sea. The necessity of pooling the scientific efforts from European fishing countries was caused by a fear for the fortune of fisheries in connection with overfishing in the North Sea. This idea found support at the Geographical Congress and there was expressed a will to broaden a cooperation between different states in studying the biological resources of the Baltic and North Seas, as well as of the North Atlantic. To meet the challenges of scientific cooperation, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea was founded in June 1899 at the Conference taking place in Stockholm (Sweden), the major tasks of which were the study of marine fisheries and the protection of biological resources from injurious exploitation.

As far as the environment of habitat specifies the existence of marine organisms, it was important to arrange a comprehensive study of oceanographic processes occurring in the sea using unified methods and equipment necessary for observations. To provide compatibility of results from the observations, and to estimate seasonal and interannual variability in oceanographic properties, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea suggested that the measurements should be done at standard depths and standard sections. It was recommended that the standard section in the Barents Sea should occupy the site along the meridian 3330'E from the Kola Bay northward to 75N.

The section runs across the warm waters of the North Cape Current system and the low salinity Murman Coastal Current waters. Depth in the section varies from 150 to 350 m with an average of 250 m (Fig.1).

Figure 1. The position of the Kola Section in the Barents Sea (above) and bottom topography along the section (below)

Initial stage of the investigations

According to the decisions adopted at the Conference in Stockholm, hydrographic and biological observations were first undertaken from onboard the steamship "Andrey Pervozvanny" by Russia along the Kola Section from the Murman coast to 7300'N in May 1900 (the weather conditions and problems with a winch prevented conducting the investigations to 7500'N). The expedition was led by N.M. Knipovich (Fig.2).

Figure 2. Nikolai Knipovich, initiator of Russian fisheries research

The steamship "Andrey Pervozvanny" (Fig.3) was built in Germany in 1899 specially for research and fishing. The steamship was well equipped with research equipment and devices produced in Russia, England, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Thus, protected deep-sea reversing thermometers manufactured by Negretti and Zambra with a Mill's frame were used for measuring water temperature, with an accuracy of measurements being 0.1C. Water samples were taken using Pettersson bottles and a canvas bucket from the surface. However, the Pettersson bottle, in its initial design, was very often locked at incorrect depths and due to that the salinity measurements during the expeditions of 1900 were rejected. However, later in 1901 the Pettersson bottle was improved, and a more sensitive thermometer began to be used, which was inserted into the bottle after its lifting from its sampling depth. This resulted in the increase of accuracy of temperature measurements to 0.03 C. Salinity has been measured by the methods of Knudsen since the summer of 1901.

In 1900-1901, a method for conducting hydrographic observations over the Kola Section was exercised onboard the ship "Andrey Pervozvanny". First of all, technical possibilities of the ship allowed investigations to be carried out along the Section during all seasons of year and at a considerable distance from the coast. A way to position the ship - when the bow is directed into the waves - allowed oceanographic observations to be performed even during "fresh" weather and with high waves.

Based on the data gathered on water temperature/salinity, N. M. Knipovich in autumn 1901 drew an approximate chart of currents and isolated several warm streams in the Kola Section, the position of which, in his opinion, was determined by the bottom topography. A strong warm current, noted by Knipovich (1902), "brings an enormous amount of heat into the Barents Sea and by the end of the year these strong masses of the heat are observed at depths, that make the climate milder". For the first time a conclusion was drawn on a relationship between distribution, migration of commercial fish in the Barents Sea and warm currents.

Figure 3. Steamship "Andrey Pervozvanny", the first research fishing vessel in the world (built in 1899)

In 1902-1906, the investigations along the Kola Section were continued during expeditions onboard the ship "Andrey Pervozvanny" under the leadership of L.L.Breitfus (1915). Very often operations were dependent on technical conditions of the ship and oceanographic equipment. Besides, from time to time the ship had to perform other tasks of the Murmansk Research and Fisheries Expedition. Frequently the weather and ice conditions in the northern part of the Section prevented research work during cold seasons. These circumstances and difficulties were pointed out in the paper by N.M. Knipovich presented at the II International Conference on challenges of marine research, in Christiania (present-day Oslo), in May 1901 (Knipowitsch, 1901).

Unfortunately, from 1907 the oceanographic and biological observations along the Kola Section were terminated and the Murmansk Research and Fisheries Expedition itself was liquidated in 1908.

The investigations undertaken during the 1920s and 1930's

The World War I and Revolution in Russia led to a long break in oceanographic observations in the Section. It was the year 1921 when the Scientific Council of the Murmansk Biological Station of Leningrad Society of Scientists (the Chief of the Station was G.A.Kluge) suggested that the observations in the Section should be restarted realising its importance not only for elucidating the matters pertaining to oceanography and biology of the Barents Sea, but also for problems related to general climatology of the entire North (Deryugin, 1924).

The Scientific Council of the Station, having insufficient funds to implement this thorough scientific investigation, addressed the Scientific Council of the North Research and Fisheries Expedition of the All-Russian Council of Economy, which promised to support a special group formed at the Murmansk Biological Station. In spring 1921 this group was given the vessel "Sokolitsa", onboard which (after a prolonged break) observations in the Section were continued in late May. The observations were done to 7230'N, but the operations were interrupted by a heavy storm and the vessel had to return to Alexandrovsk (present-day Polyarny).

Figure 4. Research vessel "Persey" (started research in 1923)

In August 1921, to investigate the Section a military trawler (of 500-t displacement), under the command of captain V.N. Grinfeld, was provided. There was a winch for shooting a sounding lead (Klausen) and Pettersson-Nansen bottles on the port side and a winch for shooting a pelagic trawl on the starboard side.

During the period 1922-1927 the investigations in the Kola Section were occasionally carried out by the Murmansk Biological Station. Since 1928 regular observations along the section have been started onboard the vessels of the Marine Navigation Institute, first reorganised (1929) into the State Oceanographic Institute, and then (1934) into PINRO. From 1928 to 1941, regular oceanographic observations, allowing seasonal and interannual variations in major oceanographic parameters to be examined, were carried out onboard the vessels "Nikolay Knipovich", "Issledovatel" and "Persey" (Fig.4) - the flagship of the PINRO research fleet. In 1930, N.N.Zubov suggested that the data on oceanographic observations averaged by layer and site of the Section should be used as integral properties of water status (Zubov, 1930). This suggestion has found a wide application and with some improvements is still used today. In particular, using this method a long-term series of monthly-temperature data for 0-200 m layer was formed that is most frequently used by oceanographers and marine biologists.

During the period from 1900 to June 1941 (the Section was occupied by R/V "Nikolay Knipovich" for the last time before the war from 30 May to 1 June), oceanographic and biological observations were carried out along the Kola Section, by different Russian marine organisations, 147 times. Germany (1913, 1926 and 1927) and Norway performed the observations over the Section (July 1927) (Fig.5).

Figure 5. Participation of Russian institutions and European countries in the observations along the Kola Section from 1900 to 1998

Post-war stage of investigations

After a termination of military actions PINRO got a motor-vessel "Kashalot" and in May 1945 the observations along the Section continued. PINRO's vessels - "Saratov", "Persey-2", "A. Otkupshchikov", "Topseda" and "Tunets" performed further observations along the Kola Section (during the 1940s and 1950s).

Figure 6. Research vessel "F.Nansen" (built in 1987)

In 1954, at the meeting of the Bureau of Basin Section of the Northern Seas of the Oceanographic Commission at the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences, the Kola Section among the other sections in the north-European basin seas was set to be a standard (No. 6) and extended to 7700'N. Since 1955 the Murmansk Area Department of Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (MADHEM) with its vessels "Polyarnik" and "Aisberg" had been involved in oceanographic work. In 1961 one more important step was taken in providing the regular and comprehensive oceanographic observations along this section. By order of the Central Hydrometeorology Service, the Kola Section was included into a number of oceanographic sections specially allocated for observations over the centennial run of elements of oceanographic regime in the seas and received the name "centennial". Later on (1976) responsibility for doing this "centennial" section along the Kola meridian was placed on MADHEM. The section with a 450-mile extent included 19 stations at which a wide range of observations (including temperature and salinity of water, its colour and transparency, dissolved oxygen, index for hydrogen, nitrite nitrogen, ammonium nitrogen, phosphorus, silicon, alkalinity and contaminants: mineral oil, chlororganic pesticides and detergents) were carried out by MADHEM and PINRO vessels. The observations were done at standard depths; water samples for contaminants were taken at 0, 10, 50 and 100 m and in a near-bottom layer.

An introduction of the reequipped R/V "Artemida" into exploitation in late 1985 and research vessels of "Atlantic-833" type (1987) (Fig.6), equipped with sounding devices allowing continuous information about the vertical distribution of oceanographic parameters to be obtained, became a new stage in the development of oceanographic investigations conducted by PINRO.

The newest stage commenced in the first half of the 1990's, and is characterised by a reduction in the number and content of observations, connected with a continuing depression of the Russian economy. Once again, as in the 1930's, a major burden of responsibility for acquiring observations along the Section was placed on PINRO. To provide regular observations, with a reduction of research cruises, the Polar Institute has undertaken the unordinary measure of carrying out the oceanographic works using equipped fishing vessels. Using such vessels nearly a half of the annual number of observations along the Section was carried out during the most recent three years.


Deryugin K.M. 1924. The Barents Sea along the Kola Section (3330'E). Trudy severnoi nauchno-promyslovoy ekspeditsii, 19: 1-102 (in Russian).

Knipovich N.M. 1902. Ekspeditsiya dlya nauchno-promyslovykh issledovaniy u beregov Murmana (Expedition for Research and Fisheries Investigations at the Murman Coast) (1898-1990), 1: 1-605 (in Russian).

Knipowitsch N. 1901. Uber die russischen Untersuchungen nach dem Programm der Conferenz in Stockholm. 2 Conf. Intern. Pour l'explor. de la mer. Suppl. 6. Bergen. 4 pp.

Breitfus L.L. 1915. Report of the cruise-leader. Trudy Murmanskoi nauchno-promyslovoy ekspeditsii 1906 goda (Papers of the Murmansk Research and Fisheries Expedition in 1906). Petrograd. 535 pp. (in Russian).

Zubov N.N. 1930. Average temperatures along the Kola Meridian section and ice coverage of the Barents Sea. Zapiski po gidrografii, 59: 66-71 (in Russian).