Дата публикации: 10 сентября 2018
Автор(ы): Ya. RENKAS
Публикатор: Шамолдин Алексей Аркадьевич
Номер публикации: №1536578711

Ya. RENKAS, (c)

by Yaroslav RENKAS, Cand. Sc. (Hist.)

The very cold region of the world around the north pole - Arctic - has been an object of constant, and often tragic, attraction for adventurers and explorers over the centuries. Many spent the best years of their lives in arctic studies, and one of such "fanatics" in this country was Georgy Ushakov (1901 -1963), Dr. Sc. (Geogr.). Forthe centenary of his birthday a St. Petersburg publishing house (SPb.: GIDROMETEOISDAT.-2001, 600 pp.) brought out a new edition of his fascinating memoirs entitled: "Island of Blizzards. Along the Unthrodden Coast".

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The first part of the memoirs of Dr. Ushakov describes Ms studies and explorations of the Wrangel Island, and he begins by acquainting the reader with his predecessors - the men who had discovered this bit of dry land, lost in the midst of Arctic snow and ice.

... On March 9, 1823, Russian explorer, Navy lieutenant Ferdinand Wrangel, was having a dinner in a smoke-filled tent on Cape Shelagsky. He was entertaining a native chieftain, asking him whether or not there was some dry land to the north of the Chukotka shores. The chieftain - of the Kamakai tribe - told his friendly host that on bright summer days "between the capes of Ezrri (Shelagsky) and Ir-Kaipio (Schmidt) one can see, from a cliff near the estuary of a river, snowcapped mountains towering in the north beyond the horizon; but one can not see them in winter. In former years herds of deer came from the ice-covered sea- probably from those shores - but being hunted down by the Chukchis and packs of hungry wolves, the deer appear no more."

These were the first bits of information about the mysterious island-later named in his honor - obtained by Ferdinand Wrangel, future Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and one of the founding fathers of the Russian Geographical Society. As fate would have it, however, the explorer himself was never able to set foot on, or even see with his own eyes the mysterious Arctic land: his heroic attempts to reach it across ice in a sledge from Cape Yakan ended in failure. But the explorer never doubted the island's existence and even mapped out its outlines with mountains to the north of Cape Yakan - something that was of practical assistance to future explorers.

On August 17, 1849, Captain Kellet, who was searching for traces of the expedition of the English arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin, which perished in 1847, saw from board his Herald dry land in the north-west as had been out-

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lined by Dr. Wrangel. And although he had never really reached the island, it was marked as Kellet Land on a map published in London in 1853. And in 1867 Captain T. Long (US) saw from board of Ms NIEL whaler the same island but from the direction of its southern shore. The American identified the outline of the island as that originally drawn by the Russian explorer and restored justice by calling it the Land of Wrangel.

Later still, on October 27, 1879, Lieutenant G. De-Long, the captain of the JANNETTE, also saw the island as marked on the map. His ship was drifting in the ice to the north of the land which proved that it was really an island. It was 58 years after an attempt of our compatriots to reach the mysterious land from the direction of Cape Yakan that the first American ships reached its shores. The crew of one of them remained there for 19 days during which three parties of researchers carried out independent investigations, producing an approximate map of the island, a collection of its flora and fauna and rock samples.

And it was only in 1911 that the Russian icebreaker VAIGACH under the command of Captain Boris Vilkitsky reached the island. A landing party set foot on the south-western shore where researchers conducted magnetic measurements, established the astronomical coordinates and improved to a considerable extent the topographical map available at that time. The expedition studies continued for 5 years after which the Russian government issued a special note to the foreign powers concerned, asserting its rights to a number of newly discovered lands located to the north of our Arctic coast, including the Wrangel Island. The Russian note aroused no controversies...

Later on, however, there were repeated attempts by foreign powers to change the status of the island and the only way to put an end to these disputes was to establish there permanent Russian settlements. This mission was

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entrusted to Georgy Ushakov who arrived on the island in 1926 with a party of 50 Eskimos from Chukotka (a permanent settlement was established there in 1936).

For three long years the scientist stood at the head of that small party of pioneer settlers, going with them through thick and thin. They had to endure bitter frosts and snowstorms, lack of food and health problems, not to mention all sorts of unexpected perils, trials and tribulations. The pioneer islanders were practically cut off from the mainland, any regular visits by ships or aircraft being simply out of the question. Even regular radio communications often seemed a luxury.

The popular term "polyamik" - Soviet jargon for polar explorer - was only coming into vogue. And, as the author of the book points out, the first Arctic "colony" lived up to the expectations of its founders, developing into a firmly established Russian settlement with all the expenses involved being covered by the sales of skins of polar foxes and bears and the tusks of walruses and mammoths.

While reading even the brief log entries left by Georgy Ushakov one can't help being impressed with the amount of time and attention he had to spend on administrative duties. But he never gave up his studies, come what may In a letter addressed in 1927 to the Main Hydrographic Directorate and the Polar Commission of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Ushakov reported the discovery of three low-lying pebble islands off the northern cost and stretching in the longitudinal direction. Regular meteorological observations were also started there for the first time. But the main achievement of the scientist was the compilation of a detailed map of the island, showing all of its orographic* details, including the position

Map of Severnaya Zemlya on the basis of data of the Ushakov expedition of 1930-1932.

* Orography - branch of physical geography which treats of mountains and mountain systems.

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and height of mountain chains, river valleys and watersheds. Apart from all that the first "governor of the island" amassed all sorts of collections (geological and of the flora and fauna) and some fascinating facts about the life and traditions of the Eskimos.

In his book Ushakov offers a detailed description of this unique comer of virgin nature located on the north-eastern edge of Russia's arctic coast, at the juncture of the Eastern-Siberian and Chukchi seas. The 180th meridian splits the island into two almost equal parts, one of which being located in the Western and the other in the Eastern hemispheres. In summer time, when the sun never sets over the island, it is blanketed in fog, and during the long polar night this piece of land is swept with blizzards.

The geological history of the island is quite unusual. Originally it belonged to Beringia - a vast stretch of dry land which linked in the distant past Asia and America (it is believed to be the focal point of the formation of arctic fauna and flora). Glaciers never covered the whole surface of the island at one and the same time which accounts for many traces of the original nature being preserved to this day. Some 50 thousand years ago part of the ancient continent was cut off from the mainland by the sea.

The Wrangel Island harbors plenty of birds and in late summer there appear in its coastal waters large herds of walruses. In some years up to 10 thousand of these animals make breeding-grounds, or rookeries, on the shore - the biggest colonies of this kind in the world. The island is also the biggest "maternity home" of polar bears within the confines of the Arctic Ocean.

In his book Georgy Ushakov sums up his feelings about the three- year wintering on the island in one sentence: "I have fallen in love with the Arctic forever." And after a brief interval, in 1930 he travels at the head of yet another expedition - this time to the archipelago ofNovaya Zemlya on the border of the Kara and the Laptev seas.

The book under review offers the reader a detailed history of its discovery In early September of 1913 two research ships - the Taimyr and Vaigach - of the Russian Hydrographic Expedition made an attempt to circumnavigate ice fields to the north of Cape Chelyuskin. The vessels, under the command of Captain Vilkitsky who was mentioned earlier, suddenly entered a stretch of water which led them to an unknown land. The first to sight it was Lieutenant Nikolai Yevgenov on the Vaigach.

The discovery of the Novaya Zemlya was the last major event of this kind of the 20th century And it should be pointed out that Ushakov started preparations for its studies back on the Wrangel Island. To begin with, he studied in detail all the available data concerning the newly discovered archipelago and then formulated a daring, and also simple program of studies of his own. This provided for determining the configuration of Sevemaya Zemlya, drawing its topographical map, analysis of its geological structure, gathering of data on its flora and fauna and on the ice regime of the surrounding seas. The expedition also had to carry out a cycle of meteorological observations, measure earth magnetism, describe aurora borealis and do many other studies.

The author of the book describes in dramatic details the studies conducted by the team of four Russian polar explorers: G. Ushakov, N. Urvantsev, V Khodov and S. Zhuravlyov In 1930-1932 they practically rediscovered and described in tiny details the Sevemaya Zemlya - the four bigger and smaller islands with a total area of 37 ths km 2 . This enabled the scientists to draw up a detailed map of the archipelago which made it possible in the years to come to carry out non-stop navigation along the Northeastern Passage.

The expedition was marked by yet another important event - the opening on October 1, 1930 of the first weather station in the Arctic. The four members of the expedition used the new station for regular weather observations, launches of weather balloons, measurements of atmospheric electricity and earth magnetism. The station staff initiated studies of aurora borealis and permafrost. Summing it up, it is fair to say that research pioneered by the team of Georgy Ushakov and studies conducted under his direction on the Wrangel Island have received all due recognition and acclaim in the history of the opening up of Russia's Far North.


Опубликовано на Порталусе 10 сентября 2018 года

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