In Memory of Famous Polar Explorer Mikhail Somov

Mikhail Mikhailovich Somov
Mikhail Mikhailovich Somov

April 7 is the 110th anniversary of birth of Mikhail Somov, the famous researcher whose name is etched in gold in the history of the Arctic development. He was a talented scientist and enthusiastic researcher, a member of the Russian Society, and a Hero of the Soviet Union. Somov scouted the Arctic ice, headed the first Soviet Antarctic expedition, and studied the depths of the Arctic Ocean. The scientist devoted his life to science and his motherland.

Mikhail Somov studied shipbuilding at Far Eastern Institute, and then graduated from Moscow Hydrometeorological Institute and became an oceanologist.

In the summer of 1938, Somov went to the Arctic for the first time and participated in ice flights to record ice movement. The methodology that he suggested to forecast ice movement ensured the success of most expeditions along the Northern Sea Route.

During the Great Patriotic War, Somov set our ships on right course in the ice. Working for the White Sea Flotilla, he took part in several ice missions, and later, working for Glavsevmorput, he helped to route ships in the Arctic. 


Photo by Nikolay Gernet
Photo by Nikolay Gernet

In August 1942, Mikhail Mikhailovich participated in the defense of the northern most settlement of Dixon, where a significant research station was located, and its seizure would have allowed the Germans to gain access to the Northern Sea Route.

He was awarded the following medals: "For the Defense of the Soviet Arctic", "For the victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945", the Orders of the Red Star and Red Banner of Labor.

During 5 post-war years, Somov studied the bottom of the Arctic Ocean and made a number of important geographical discoveries. Together with a team of researchers, he discovered a powerful underwater ridge, named after Lomonosov.

In 1950-1951, Mikhail Somov headed a drift-ice station North Pole-2. North Pole-2 became the second Soviet manned drifting station after the Papanin’s one (launched in 1937).

In 1955-1957, he became the commander of the first Soviet Antarctic Expedition and founded three research stations, including the Mirny and Pionerskaya stations. In 1962–1964 he headed the 8th and 9th Antarctic expeditions. 

Mikhail Somov authored a great number of scientific studies and monographs. His merits are honored not only in our Russia, but also abroad. Thus, he was given a Vega medal by Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography (1957).

He died in Leningrad in 1973. The tombstone on his grave is made from stones brought from the Antarctic continent.


Photo from
Photo from

The sea off the coast of Antarctica and glacier were named after him, as well as a research ship.