The flagship of Russia's polar fleet has docked in Germany before beginning its long journey to the South Pole.
Vital supplies are being loaded aboard The Academic Fyodorov in the port of Bremerhaven.
The ship is embarking on a seven-month mission to explore the Antarctic and to survey the region's potential for oil and gas.
The ship's captain, Mikhail Koloshin, says the expedition will be very different from the Arctic mission this summer.
"There are two main reasons for the trip: to open research stations and to carry out scientific research. Compared to the Arctic, this journey will be slower and more relaxed," he said.
Earlier this year a team of polar explorers planted a Russian flag on the seabed four kilometres beneath the North Pole.
The symbolic gesture, greeted with pride at home, was regarded with suspicion abroad. It brought to the fore questions about how countries can make claims on territory.
The triumph of the Arctic adventure has raised expectations for the latest trip. Scientists believe the Antarctic could be rich in energy supplies like oil and gas.
Expedition chief Viktor Venderovich says that although the Antarctic's treasures remain locked beneath the ice cap for now, that could soon change.
"Right now we?re not looking to extract oil or gas from the Antarctic, but in the future I?m sure it will happen and there will be laws to control it," Venderovich said.
Great Britain, Chile and Argentina are already showing an interest in the mission. So it seems very likely that Russian movements in the Antarctic will be closely monitored. ( RT )