A Lifelong Journey

Yuri Senkevich
Yuri Senkevich

In May 1969, a papyrus sailing craft ‘Ra’ headed by Norwegian traveler Thor Heyerdahl set out from Morocco. The vessel was modeled after ancient Egyptian sailing vessels. The crew of seven people, including Russian researcher, doctor, TV presenter Yuri Senkevich, set out to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly after the start, the boat began to sink, and the crew had to be evacuated. But a year later, in May 1970, the expedition set out in "RA-II". The boat safely reached Barbados, proving that early sailors could have sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

Yuri Senkevich was born on March 4, 1937 in Bayan-Tumen (Mongolia) in the family of a military doctor. In 1960 he graduated from the Kirov Military Medical Academy in Leningrad and received an assignment as a military doctor. Two years later he was transferred to Moscow Institute of Aviation and Cosmic Medicine of the Ministry of Defense. He headed the specialized center of medical and biological training of cosmonauts.

The famous expedition on boat "RA-II" was one of the numerous research missions in which Yuri Senkevich took part. Thus, in 1966-1967 he participated in the 12th Soviet Antarctic expedition at Vostok station. The main goal of Yuri Senkevich's work was to research human behavior in extreme conditions. Materials collected in this expedition were the basis for his Candidate's thesis.


Thor Heyerdahl (in the center) with the crew of the RA craft. Yuri Senkevich is on your extreme left
Thor Heyerdahl (in the center) with the crew of the RA craft. Yuri Senkevich is on your extreme left

In the late 1970s, Yuri Senkevich traveled on a reed boat "Tigris" built after Sumerian ships. The expedition took place in the Indian Ocean under the leadership of Thor Heyerdahl. The vessel was seaworthy and demonstrated that ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Indus valley and Egypt could have used such boats to trade and migrate.

Later, Yuri Senkevich participated in various expeditions and visited more than 100 countries.

In 1973, the researcher began his career as a host of the "Travelers' Club", a TV show. Foreign members of expeditions in "RA" and "RA-II", Tour Heyerdal and Carlo Mauri, the traveler and writer Fyodor Konyukhov and even the famous explorer of the world ocean Jacques-Yves Cousteau participated in his show. The show was awarded "TEFI", a prize of Russian Academy of Television. And Yuri Senkevich is in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest serving TV host. 

Yuri Senkevich was also known as a public figure: he was President of the Association of Travelers of Russia, member of the Union of Journalists of Russia, academician of the Russian Television Academy. 

Senkevich devoted his life to research and travel; he did a lot to promote geography in our country. He died in 2003 of heart failure. He is buried at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

In 2015, the Russian Geographical Society established a gold medal named after Yuri Senkevich that is awarded to journalists for great contributions to the promotion of national geography and related sciences.

April 27, 2018 General Director of VGTRK Oleg Dobrodeyev was awarded the Senkevich gold medal for his great contribution to the implementation of media projects of the Russian Geographical Society. The show "In the world of animals" was also awarded the gold medal for the contribution to the popularization of the natural heritage. The award was given to TV presenter Nikolai Drozdov.