Expedition Diaries 2017

July 15. Day 8

July 15. Day 8

I have a toy of a kitten. Its name is Jad. It is grey and with stripes. It reminds me my cat Keks (cake) that has stayed at home. Hope it misses me or just sometimes thinks about me. My Keks is a very popular in the National Park “Russian Arctic”. At the moment here are two people in Tikhaya Bay whom he would like to bite- Nikolaj Gernet and Andrej Kunnikov. Andrej said that they had just thought of Keks the day before. Jad is a great polar explorer who has been on 25 islands of FJL archipelago in 2013. After that expedition I had lost him and found just several days before the expedition 2017. I could hardly do not take it.

The most faultily expedition

I would like to tell you once more about Sedov expedition and his personality. He was an extraordinary and charismatic person. The idea was already faulty as well as preparing. The captain gave up the idea of expedition. However it is fantastically that that expedition suffered minimal losses. George Sedov achieved his purpose: his heroic act won him all-soviet, all-Russian and worldwide glory.

The stories of Evgeniy Ermolov about all these polar and historic events were fabulous. He described it as if he saw it himself. Pinegin made a film 1 hour and 40 minutes duration which was a longest at that time. The duration of average film was about 7 or 10 minutes. Sedov wrote his wife that the best letters would be his diaries, for benefits she should ask the navy office.

That expedition was very risky and the vessel could easily suffer shipwreck. Despite the unequipped vessel and unprepared plan of the arctic expedition the explorers continued their way and researched the Novaya Zemlya. Many of them became very famous researches in different fields, e.g. Vise and Ushakov. The place where has buried Sedov remains still unknown nowadays. Some people propose that his grave is situated on the Cape Auk of the Rudolf Island. His commanders were Linnik and Pystoshnij. After the investigation it was concluded that they had buried his commander.

The curious fact that polar explorers found 3 little polar bears on Novaya Zemlya Island, gave them names and even tried to use them in dog sledges. Their names were Ldinka, Toros and Vasja. They also reached the Novaya Zemlya Island with members of the epedition and then Arkhangelsk.

Around the Hooker Island

It was impossible to have landing in Tikhaja Bay because of storm and we went around Hooker Island. The weather was brilliant: the glare of the sun turned water and icebergs into turquois blue. Especially, the most amazing are icebergs. However it is better to keep away from the icebergs.

About 11 o`clock we approached the Royal Society Island which was named after British analog of academy science. Different names are connected with the FJL: Austrian, British and Italian as well Russian.

There are names of different captains, vessels, researches, sponsors of the expedition, villages as well as names of hospitals on the FJL.  

Not far from the Hooker Island there is Died Seal Island. It was opened by Jakson and the name was given by Vise that had found there a dead seal.  There is also a number of interesting islands names, e.g. Zub (a tooth), Kaplya (a drop) or Cape Kluv (a nib)

Islands of FJL look similar because they have the same origin. They are low-level with flat tops. Today we have amazing sky so that each top has an oval cloud. It looks like there is a shining unidentified flying object above each mountain. That type of clouds is called lens-shaped clouds.

About the Tikhaya Bay

I wanted to sleep after dinner but all my plans were destroyed by Evgenij Ermolov. I didn`t want to eat that delicious cakes which we used to have each afternoon. However, the informative lecture about Tikhaya Bay together with a small piece of unbelievable cake was a perfect pair.

Short overview.

There are 22 unique buildings in the Tikhaya Bay mainly 30s years of construction which were built under the Ivan Papanin command. There still remains an astronomical cross from times of Sedov discoveries where Nikolay Pinegin carved that there was expedition of Sedov. In 1926 the USSR issued an ordinance of National Union Commissioner on the Arctic Territories according which the FJL was the part of Soviet Union. At that time wasn`t paid much attention to it. People became interested in the Artic only after disappearance of the airship Umberto Nobile. He planned to conquer the North Pole. In 1929 Norwegians also intended to organize  a traders settlement. However, the vessel from Arkhangelsk was more lucky than the one from Tromso and reached the FJL first. Vladimir Vize was on the board of the vessel from Arkhangelsk “George Sedov” and suggested the place where could be built a polar station.

7 people stayed for the first wintering in Tikhaya Bay. They became prototypes of characters of well-known movie called “Seven of the brave”. In those times, polar explorers were as famous as cosmonauts in 1960s. Just take a look at the pictures of famous radio-operator Krenkel. In the 1930s, while wintering in Tikhaya Bay, he managed to contact the American Antarctic expedition by radio, setting a world record.

One more famous person of the Tikhaya Bay was Ivan Papanin - soviet chekist (security officer). Before going to Arctic, he had been working on the Crimea peninsula. He came to FJL for the first time on icebreaker “Malygin” which should have met the airship “Earl Tseppelyn” in the Tikhaya Bay. It was a joint Soviet-German expedition. Scientists were doing air photography of the nearby territories along the route Berlin-Leningrad-Arkhangelsk-Novaya Zemlya-Franz Josef Land-Severnaya Zemlya and back. Soviet Union didn’t receive results of this shooting, there were many different excuses.

Tikhaya Bay was the center of almost all events which happened on FJL archipelago in the XX century until 1950s. In 1937, it was one of the bases of floating station NP-1 (North Pole-1). This station provided radio connection for transarctic flights from the USSR to America. It was Sigismund Levanevsky’s idea, who vanished during one of such flights. His colleagues, Gromov and Chkalov, successfully finished their flights. There were rescue operations to find Levanevsky’s body, two airplanes even crushed on FJL (Tikhaya Bay and Rudolph island) during them.  Luckily, with no victims. One more crashed in Arkhangelsk, there were 8 victims including a famous pilot Mikhail Babushkin. If we reach Rudolph Island then I promise to write about these planes with more details. 

11 children were born in Tikhaya Bay, as I remember correctly. First girl was born in 1936. Her name was chosen by the whole station’s team. She became Severina (from the Russian word for north). Her brother got unusual name Rodvark, which literally means “born in the Arctic”.

Of dispute consequences and climate change

When it was about 4 pm we stopped near Alger Island, close to the base where Ziegler camp was situated. It is the ruins of the joint base of American-Norwegian expedition 1901 leaded by E. Baldwin. Millionaire William Ziegler was the main sponsor of the expedition. In those times, everyone wanted to reach North Pole, FJL was considered as its bridgehead. Ziegler was very generous and gave a lot of money for organizing this expedition, but it was not successful and no one reached North Pole this time. American and Norwegian members of expedition disputed a lot. Ziegler though didn’t give up his idea and in 1903 he sponsored another expedition under the management of Anthony Phiala. He was a photographer in Baldwin’s expedition. Some stuff from their expedition remains in Alger Island, for example bricks with “stern” inscription.

Though Baldwin’s expedition was not successful, they left many traces which can now be seen. Nowadays Ziegler camp is under a threat of destruction due to climate change in the Arctic. It is situated on a sandy seashore and sea is gradually eroding it. At the end of ХХ century FJL water area was covered with ice even in summer and the coast was frozen, but during the last 15-20 years ice started melting during the summer period. It’s good for our expedition for sure, but sandy shores suffer. Steep coasts suffer from abrasion — waves and surf destroy solids. There is almost no ice, water is at the very edge of the shore.

In 2013 the distance from water to buildings was about 14-15 meters, in 2016 it was only 7. In August, it is planned to conduct rescue works and archaeological excavation on Alger Island. According to National park experts it was estimated and found out that the shore can’t be fortified. There are two variants what to do next: remove all the buildings deep to the island or evacuate them. The second variant is more likely to be chosen.

Russell Alger was by the way American Minister of War.

Being a shadow, garden and uncatchable white gull

The northernmost archaeological works in the world will take place on Alger Island and “Molchanov” has brought all necessary equipment for them, vital for living there. I can’t imagine how it is possible to live there for several weeks. Today the sun was shining, but it’s not always like this. Moreover, vegetation is very poor here. And also, polar bears live on this island. A huntsman, Igor Matskevich, saw their footprints.

Cargo, was of a very big amount and had to be placed not within the territory of the sea coast, so it took a long time. I managed to look around the seashore, see old ruins and observe the fieldworks conducted by researchers. Then I decided to go back to the vessel.

There is almost no vegetation here, only tiny mosses and some resistant flowers which Irina Pokrovskaya and Ingo Weiss managed to find. These plants look like a small copy of a real ones.

Soil researchers tool samples of sand and soils, they had to dig deep, where permafrost begins (about 40 cm). I helped them to take pictures of the soil incision.

Dmitry Kovalev and Jesus Reina saw the white gull and mention about it.

— We didn’t take a picture of it, — told me Dmitry. We were working at this time.

— I thought it was a tern, — Jesus was upset.

Today I understood that gumboots aren’t get wet, but it is very cold to wear them for a long time. Even warm socks won’t help. After unsuccessful efforts to warm myself up I decided to go back to “Molchanov”.

Lenticular clouds gathered above the mountains, near their peaks. Thanks to them, mountains reminded many expedition members of the volcanoes who watched them from the porthole. 


July 15. Day 8
July 15. Day 8
July 15. Day 8
July 15. Day 8
July 15. Day 8
July 15. Day 8
July 15. Day 8
July 15. Day 8
July 15. Day 8

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Updated 12.07.2017