Columbus from Sevastopol

I.D. Papanin and A.F. Treshnikov in Przhevalsk at the opening of the monument to N.M. Przhevalsky
I.D. Papanin and A.F. Treshnikov in Przhevalsk at the opening of the monument to N.M. Przhevalsky

120th anniversary of birth of Ivan Papanin.

Ivan Papanin was a №1 polar explorer, head of the first in the world drifting station "North Pole", head of the Northern Sea Route, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Rear Admiral and Doctor of Geographical Sciences - in the Soviet Union he was a national hero. A cape on the Taimyr Peninsula, mountains in Antarctica and s seamount in the Pacific Ocean were named after Papanin. He was an honorary citizen of four cities - Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Sevastopol and Lipetsk and of the whole region - Yaroslavskaya Oblast. Streets in a number of cities were named in his honor. In 1979 he was awarded the Grand Gold Medal of the Geographical Society of the USSR.

This legendary man was born in Sevastopol on November 14, 1894. He was a son of a Navy sailor. Papanin was the oldest of 8 children in the family. So after four years he had to leave school which he graduated with honors and start working for a factory. Tenacity, perseverance, determination and courage - these four words characterize Papanin. And these qualities helped him to get skills, serve in the Navy, fight in the Civil War, work and build a radio station in remote Yakut taiga. "The construction of the station - that’s when the North story of my life began"- Mr. Papanin later wrote in his book "Ice and Fire" (1977).

Subsequently the future polar explorer took part in "Malygin" icebreaker expedition which went to Franz Josef Land to meet with the German airship "Graf Zeppelin". Papanin supervised the post office on the ship, where he met the chief scientist of the expedition, Professor Vladimir Vize, who gave 37-year-old Papanin advice to become the head of the polar station in Tikhaya Bay in Franz Josef Land. Papanin returned there a year later. "For most of the members of our team the work in Franz Josef Land was the first polar experience. So it was for me ... "- recalled Papanin.


The famous quarter
The famous quarter

Papanin became widely known in 1937, when he became the head of an expedition to the North Pole. Literally the whole country participated in the preparation of the drift: special sledge weighing 20 kg was produced at a factory in Leningrad, sturdy warm tent installed on a lightweight aluminum frame - in Moscow, the special Institute developed and cooked food for polar explorers for a period of a year and a half. This food supply weighed five tons. 

Among the explorers were: hydrobiologist Petr Shirshov, radioman Ernst Krenkel (both of them participated in the expedition on the steam vessel "Alexander Sibiryakov" and the icebreaker "Chelyuskin") and meteorologist and geophysics Yevgeny Fyodorov. During 247 days four brave members of North Pole - 1 were drifting on an ice floe and observing the Earth's magnetic field and processes in the atmosphere and hydrosphere of the Arctic Ocean.

For their hard work in harsh Arctic conditions all members of the expedition received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and scientific degrees. Papanin became a Doctor of Geographical Sciences.

In late 1939 - early 1940, Mr. Papanin organized an expedition to rescue the icebreaker "Georgy Sedov". For this he received his second star of Hero of the Soviet Union.

During WW II the famous polar explorer was head of the Northern Sea Route and the representative of the State Defence Committee responsible for all transportation by the Northern Sea Route. In 1941-1952 he was a member of the Central Revision Commission of the Communist Party. He organized reception and transportation of goods from England and America to the front, and received the rank of rear admiral for this.

In 1948-1951 he was the deputy director of Institute for Oceanology of the USSR Academy of Sciences and from 1951 until his death in 1986 he was the Head of the Academy's Department of Maritime Expeditions. In 1956-1972 he was also the director of the Institute for the Biology of Inland Waters (Bilogii Vnutrennikh Vod).


Papanin at a meeting of the Geographical Society of the USSR
Papanin at a meeting of the Geographical Society of the USSR

Papanin did a lot for Moscow branch of the Geographical Society of the USSR. He was heading the branch for several decades. During these years Moscow branch was the largest social organization uniting a couple of thousand scientists and travelers.

The Russian Geographical Society will always remember Ivan Papanin and numerous visitors of St. Petersburg headquarters can see his name on the memorial tablet each time they come up to the historic grandstand. The famous polar explorer wrote about his work in the Society in his memoirs, "I put a lot of effort into the Society, and in return it gave me the friendship of prominent geographers of our country. The work brought me this great satisfaction which public work always brings to a person."

Photos provided by the Scientific Archives of the Russian Geographical Society.