There are fewer and fewer places like Tanurer on our planet. So many military antiques in the open air – it is a rarity.
For example, the island of Bolshoy Tyuters – I had to visit it twice as part of the expedition “Gogland”. 200 units were subsequently taken to the mainland and replenished various Russian museums, including Patriot Park. I saw miraculously preserved wartime artillery batteries in polar Norway during the RGS’s expedition – here you can see how we walked around the Norwegian Arctic.
In Chukotka, my main focus was finding planes. I wanted to participate both as a "detective" and as a filmmaker – to make a film about how two dozen enthusiasts are looking for planes that disappeared during the war on the ALSIB Air Route. But getting to Tanyurer – the "war reserve" in Chukotka – was not something I could miss.
It is worth saying that Tanyurer Airfield was a spare one, but this does not mean that it was not busy or deprived in terms of the amount of equipment or completeness of infrastructure. Everything was on par with the other facilities of the ALSIB: a meteorological office, a canteen, quarters, garages, equipment, trucks, etc. and 400 permanent staff.
The golden age of Tanyurer was during the war years. But with the end of the Great Patriotic War, its life did not end. The airfield was not closed, but, on the contrary, the staff of military personnel was increased. Another war had begun – the Cold War. Tanyurer received the status of a settlement and even appeared on the map, existing until the end of the 1960s. Then came the era of supersonic aviation and ballistic missiles – the number of residents decreased to one meteorologist.
The airfield was built on an island, at the mouth of the Tanyurer River at its confluence with the Anadyr. All necessary supplies were brought along the river on barges. Only while the ice situation allowed it. And it was really necessary to bring equipment here.
Tanurer, while technically being an island, is, in actuality, a large swamp, like the rest of the "territory". To build the runway, it was necessary to move 59,000 cubic meters of soil in the remote tundra – this is about 6,000 KAMAZ trucks, but they were not available then. There were "Polutorkas", "Stalinetses", and American "Studebakers".
Now everything is overgrown with dense bushes, concealing the scope of this once grandiose structure. And the remaining American equipment is not so easy to find. The distances are serious – no legs will be enough.
Specifically for reconnaissance purposes, everything necessary for setting up the camp of the RGS’s expedition and transport – two ATVs and a swamp buggy – was delivered here by the Mi-26 transport. However, we quickly realized that it is better to move around the area on the swamp buggy – it does not sink, unlike the ATV. And as it turned out later, only the swamp buggy was able to pull everything found by the expedition to a relatively dry place.
The first thing we came across were parts of a twin-engine aircraft, an A-20 “Boston” bomber, which apparently crashed during landing. Its wreckage turned out to be scattered for hundreds of meters, and one of the engines almost drowned in the swamp – we had to hook a cable and pull it out with the swamp buggy.
What everyone took for a "Studebaker" turned out to be a very rare REO 29-XS aircraft tractor. The head of the RGS’s expedition Oleg Podkletnov suggested that this might be the only surviving copy in the world. The vehicle has been produced since 1942 as a tractor unit, an airfield fuel supply vehicle, and a repair and evacuation vehicle. The power of the “Hercules” gasoline engine is 180 hp, the wheel arrangement is 6x6. In these places, it had a chance to survive. But the vehicle is quite rare, and spare parts were probably scarce – there was no donor for it.
Usually, various types of attachments were installed on such tractors. In this case, it turned out to be an absolutely irreplaceable device in the local climate – a snow plow that made its way from Minnesota to Chukotka.
In two weeks, a dozen interesting items were found, which we managed to win back from nature, load into the helicopter with the most cargo capacity in the world, the Mi-26, and send them to the mainland. Including by using the lifting sling.
One of the tasks of the RGS’s expedition was literally to save unique technical specimens from oblivion. Some of them will be restored, and some samples will be exhibited in the form in which they were found.
In terms of the degree of complexity, effort, and volume of flying bloodsuckers, this operation was comparable to what the builders of Tanyurer experienced. The participants of the expedition of the Russian Geographical Society and the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation were able to do it. There was no doubt about it!
To be continued.