At the end of the earth, there’s a lonely weather station on the shores of the freezing Barents Sea. It is staffed by three people, each working a year-long work shift. They are waiting for a ship – their only connection to the mainland. Until it comes, they must try and stay sane.
As international interest in the Arctic grows, Russia is resuming development of Franz Josef Land, its polar territory 900 km from the North Pole. Take a look at the lives of the people laying the foundations for a new town here, while living next door to curious polar bears.
On the icy island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean, people are outnumbered by polar bears and snowmobiles are used rather than cars. In addition to the Norwegians who maintain nominal control of Spitsbergen, the island is home to the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, a "company town" that is run by Arktikugol, a Russian state coal mining company.
The reindeer herders of the Yamal tundra live in rawhide tents like their ancestors did hundreds of years ago and have hardly any contact with the outside world. However, when they urgently need medical treatment, they must rely on air rescue helicopters for their very survival.
Shoina is a village drowned up to the waist in sand. Its denizens are quite fatalistic about it, and their only means of protection is leaving their door open for the night, as they can never be sure if they can open it in the morning.
The drilling is done on the Polar Star rig, but gas testing continues. The drillers hold their breath as the well test burner nearly peters out, but the guttering flame finally bursts into a fiery fountain, showing that the drilling has been a success, and it’s time to go home.
The crew is rattled when the man-overboard siren sounds. Then, the first samples come in, revealing a potential disaster: water. If there is seawater in the gas, it means there might be a break in the line that could cause all the drilling equipment to collapse.
A key foreign part begins to leak, spewing caustic chemicals onto the crew working below, but the responsible contractors don’t know how to fix it. After a hard day, driller Sergey takes to the internet to find airbrush designs for his motorcycle back home.
Gale force winds arrive just as the crew is about to undertake a precision operation akin to threading a needle. Then, the crew is rattled when a sensor indicates that a deadly gas has been released. After a stressful day, the crew relaxes with a sauna and World of Tanks.
Tempers flare as Russian drillers and foreign specialists spar over how to lower a massive compressor into the borehole – and a woman putting her 2 cents in doesn’t help. Meanwhile, the rig’s doctor must treat a very unusual injury.
An urgent meeting is called when a half-million-dollar piece of equipment is found to be defective. Later, heavy rain soaks the drillers as they assemble the replacement and lower it. But will the new part be able to withstand the pressure test?
The rig has reached its new location and the drillers prepare to bore the pilot hole with a sharp tooth monster that can cut through 30 metres of seabed per hour. When finally assembled, observers anxiously watch via an underwater camera as the drilling chisel is lowered to the sea floor.
The drillers have readied the Polar Star for its move in just three days, and now it’s up to the seamen to pull 120 tons of anchor and get the rig to its new site. Strong cross-winds, currents, and bad weather hamper the operation and precious days are lost.