Discover Russia’s Wild Arctic on Nat Geo’s First Voyage to a Once-Forbidden Frontier

The vast, frozen deserts of the Arctic remain one of the world’s last unexplored frontiers. In this unique glimpse into life in the polar region, National Geographic explorer-in-residence Enric Sala leads a team of divers, oceanographers, and biologists through the northern Russian outpost of Franz Josef Land. Documented by photographers and deep-sea remote sensing technology, Russia’s Wild Arctic takes us inside a part of the world that few people have ever seen on National Geographic Pristine Seas’ first Arctic voyage.

The team’s researchers are trying to learn more about animals and natural processes that have remained out of reach due to the extreme environment of the Arctic. Some of these projects, like photographing a polar bear, have immediate results. Others, like tagging auks—small sea birds that live in the Arctic—with tracking devices, will only yield discoveries about these creatures in the years to come.

Many of the team members’ work address the question of climate change. In the ice-bound polar regions, warming has immediate effects on permafrost, glaciers, and sea ice, which form the foundations of ecosystems that Arctic animals depend on. Climate change impacts the physical environment, and its influence then works its way up the food chain, throwing delicate ecological systems into chaos. The poles are changing rapidly, and scientists are hurrying to study them while they still have the chance.

Photo of a group of walruses.
These walruses gather on the beach in Franz Josef Land, a momentary safe haven from hungry polar bears (Photograph by NG Studios / Enric Sala).

Even so, the Russian government as well as these scientists is working hard to preserve Franz Josef Land. It’s the home of many unique and beloved species: beyond the polar bear, the Russian Arctic is the habitat of walruses, bowhead whales, Greenland sharks, and ringed seals, all of which were encountered by the National Geographic team during their expedition.

The future of these Arctic animals is in question now, and the sooner we get to know them, the better a chance we have to save them. Join our team of researchers and explorers as they race to puzzle out the impacts of a rapidly changing Arctic on Behind Russia’s Frozen Curtain, this Sunday September 20 at 9/8c. only on NatGeoWILD.