Russia’s 1912 Arctic expeditions
Russia’s 1912 Arctic expeditions. In the summer of 1912, a total of three expeditions set out from Arkhangelsk and Saint-Petersburg to explore the uncharted expanse of the Arctic. The year 1913 was when the Romanov dynasty was planning the celebration of their 300th anniversary. Many cherished the hope that the occasion would be marked by new geographical discoveries.
Brusilov Expedition. Resigned lieutenant and participant of the Arctic Ocean exploration (1910-1911) onboard icebreakers Taimyr and Vaigach, Georgy Brusilov designed his Arctic expedition to go all the way along the Northern Sea Route aboard Saint Anna. Shortly after the departure, on 28 July 1912, doubts had arisen among the crew as to the success of the expedition and some disembarked. Near the coast of Yamal, Saint Anna found itself trapped by moving ice to continue its voyage driven by wind and currents until its food supplies were almost exhausted by early 1914. Some of the crew left the schooner to walk to Novaya Zemlya where they were spotted by the Saint Martyr Phocus ship near Cape Flora, while the fate of those who stayed and Brusilov himself is not known.
Sedov Expedition. Georgy Sedov, who led the expedition aboard Saint Martyr Phocus, was a naval officer and hydrographer. Born into a fisherman’s family, he dreamed of distant seas and long voyages as a boy. His Arctic expedition was designed as Russia’s first to reach the North Pole. Hastily organized, with the money raised through private donations, Sedov-led expedition set out on 14 August 1912 from Arkhangelsk to be forced to stop for the winter as early as September. In June 1913, a part of the crew returned to Arkhangelsk with the materials collected to raise more support from donors. The crew spent the winter of 1914 near Franz Joseph Land. In February 1914, Sedov, affected by a disease, attempted walking to the North Pole to attain his goal but died on the way. On its return voyage, the schooner fell short of fire wood. Running on furniture and even planking as fire wood, the crew, however, managed to make their way home.
Rusanov Expedition. Of all the 1912 Arctic expeditions, the one led by Rusanov was the only one that had received decent state funding. A Sorbonne graduate majoring in geology, Vladimir Rusanov was a polar explorer and traveller with previous experience in French-led expedition bound for Novaya Zemlya. He had led a number of Russian voyages of Arctic exploration, one being to Spitsbergen, also known among Pomors as Grumant Island, aboard the high-maneuverability, motor-driven ketch Hercules, to which Rusanov was appointed, informally, by the Ministry of Interior. That expedition had surveyed Spitsbergen for coal deposits, installed location monuments, collected zoological, botanical and palaeontological samples, and conducted a series of oceanological studies. To ensure that the samples and collected data reach home, Rusanov arranged for some of its crew to return aboard a Norwegian ship, while he himself chose to head north-westwards off Novaya Zemlya and further eastwards to Lonely Island, New Siberian Islands, and Wrangler Island. Whether he did so arbitrarily or with the permission he might have received from the authorities, is unknown, but his plan was to either pass through the Northern Sea Route or reach the mouth of the Yenisei. Aware of his plan were the captain, Alexander Kuchin, and his French fiancée, Juliette Jean-Sessin, who served as a geologist and ship’s doctor. The last time people heard from the Hercules was in August 1912. The fate of the ship and its crew is unknown. Their traces were found in the 1930s on the coast of Taimyr.