The North Pole became accessible to ordinary tourists in 1991 through the use of nuclear-powered icebreakers operated by the Murmansk Shipping Company, with representatives of the
Russian Academy of Sciences on board. Since then, up to four annual voyages have made this the ultimate adventure cruise.
In August 1997, the nuclear-powered icebreaker Sovietsky Soyuz was at the Pole with nearly 100 tourists. The captain, with representatives of the three companies that operate the expeditions, entertained about a dozen officials at dinner in his cabin. About halfway through the occasion a discussion ensued considering future Arctic Ocean explorations, specifically that no one had ever been to the real North Pole. Several explorers had gone to 90 degrees North (or very close) since Robert Peary in 1909. But they were traversing frozen water above the geographic Pole; the actual Pole is more than two miles below, on the floor of the Arctic Ocean.