The Arctic Expedition of the RGS and the Northern Fleet is Completed

Фото: Леонид Круглов

The third season of the Complex Expedition of the Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society to study the islands of the Arctic archipelagos has ended. As in previous years, it was held within the framework of a joint historical and cultural project of the Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society "The main face of Russia. History, events, people".

The expedition of the 2020 season started on August 5 in Severomorsk and followed the path of Vladimir Rusanov’s disappeared "Hercules", through the wintering grounds of the missing Baron von Toll and other polar expeditions. During the voyage, the participants covered more than eleven thousand nautical miles, made 33 landings, found 125 unique artifacts. For the first time in the history of Arctic expeditions, the expedition went around Severnaya Zemlya archipelago from the north.

The expedition included two teams of scientists and a media group of the Russian Geographical Society - a total of 16 people. The voyage of the first team on the “Ilya Muromets” icebreaker was unprecedented in terms of duration and volume of research. They covered the waters of eight seas, as well as Severnaya Zemlya, Taimyr, Novosibirsk Islands, Wrangel Island. The expedition members were looking for traces of the pioneers in order to write new facts in their biographies and, more importantly, to preserve the history of the Arctic exploration, to remind everyone of the names of the first polar explorers.

"For the Russian Geographical Society, such expeditions are of a strategic nature. At a time when almost the entire planet has been explored, the Arctic can surprise and bring many discoveries. This is not only about the ‘traces’ of polar explorers of the past, but also about new geographical discoveries. The ice is melting; the region is becoming unrecognizable. For Russia, as the country with the longest Arctic borders, it is extremely important to know the consequences of this.

Thanks to our partner - the Northern Fleet - with whom we conduct expeditions to the Arctic archipelagos. Their experience and our scientists together produce excellent results. It seems to me that our symbiosis has been particularly successful because our goals are similar. Since 2018, the center of the Russian Geographical Society has even been operating at the base of the Northern Fleet," commented on the results of the expedition, Sergey Korlykhanov, Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Geographical Society.

According to the chief scientist of the Complex Expedition of the Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society to the Arctic archipelagos, Colonel Sergei Churkin, the level of fulfillment of the tasks assigned to the expedition is quite high. The work plan for the Western and Eastern Taimyr and nearby islands has been completed. The scientific group discovered traces of the expedition of Vladimir Rusanov (1910). Vladimir Rusanov was the first among polar explorers to make a land journey across Novaya Zemlya, discover coal on the archipelago. Then, in 1912, he sailed to the east on the schooner “Hercules” and disappeared near the Mikhailov Peninsula (Taimyr).


Ледокол "Илья Муромец" Фото: Леонид Круглов

During the Complex Expedition, the coordinates of the artillery batteries on the coast of the Kara Sea were clarified. A number of important historical artifacts of the 17th century have been discovered in the Simsa Bay of the Laptev Sea. Among the finds are ancient coins, bells, glass beads, pectoral crosses. They testify to the early development of the Northeast Passage by the Pomors.

The members of the expedition reached the New Siberian Islands and landed in Nerpalakh Bay - at the wintering site of the Russian polar expedition of Baron Eduard von Toll, which in 1900-1902, on the schooner “Zarya”, went to look for Sannikov Land. They managed to inspect the grave of the expedition medical assistant Hermann Walter, the bathhouse and the empty food storage of Baron von Toll, dug in the permafrost. Geologists, who were part of the expeditionary team, performed a number of studies on the coast of Kotelny Island and in the area of ​​Nerpalakh Bay.

The expedition examined the remains of several ships that perished in the Kara Sea in the 20th century. One of the ships was discovered in the Yenisei Gulf and may presumably be the legendary “Vaygach” icebreaker, which came upon an underwater rock and sank in 1918. Work on "Vaygach" will continue at the scientific archives. In the future, scientists expect to return to the Yenisei Gulf.


Фото: Леонид Круглов

In the Chukchi Sea, the members of the Complex Expedition of the Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society examined the Soviet steamer “Chelyuskin”, crushed by ice and lost in 1934. The researchers, using a multibeam echo sounder, conducted a three-dimensional acoustic survey of the sunken object. For the first time, it was possible to film the “Chelyuskin” steamer using the unmanned underwater vehicle “Marlin-350”. Photo and video frames of rare quality were obtained – the current is very powerful and the water is muddy in the area where the remains of the ship are located (not far from the Bering Strait).

Discoveries in seismology were made. For example, scientists first explored the underground part of Wrangel Island - its depths and plate displacement. In recent weeks, the participants of the expedition supposedly discovered a new island and strait near Komsomolets Island in the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago. There is reason to believe that as a result of ice melting, the Labyrinth Bay turned into a strait, a new island was formed. However, the expeditionary party failed to land on it - a prerequisite for confirming the discovery. This will be done in the future.

During the expedition, special attention was paid to studying the factors of global warming, as well as the habitats of marine animals. Zoologists have collected information on the life and behavior of Arctic inhabitants: belugas, pusas, seals, polar bears and other animals. In the Chukchi Sea near the village of Vankarem, a giant walrus rookery was observed - almost 40 thousand specimens.

"Close cooperation of the Northern Fleet and the scientific community in the course of expeditionary activities helps to expand the capabilities of our country to explore and preserve the unique Arctic nature, accumulate new knowledge about the Arctic territories,"  said the commander of the Northern Fleet, Hero of Russia, Vice Admiral Alexander Moiseev.

We would like to remind you, that the second team of the expedition, working on the MB-12 seagoing tug, carried out a study of Novaya Zemlya and returned to Murmansk on August 30.


Фото: Леонид Круглов

The Expedition of 2020 is the third Complex Expedition of the Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society "Arctic Archipelagoes". In 2018, the servicemen of the fleet and scientific groups of the Russian Geographical Society explored Novaya Zemlya, in 2019 - the islands of Franz Josef Land. This year's expedition is dedicated to several dates at once: the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the 175th anniversary of the Russian Geographical Society, the 110th anniversary of the Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition, the 120th anniversary of the Russian polar expedition, and the 145th birthday anniversary of Vladimir Rusanov.