While carrying out oceanographic work in the Laptev Sea (above Siberia) in 1937, the Soviet icebreaking steamers Sedov, Sadko, and Malygin were trapped in the ice for the winter. In August 1938, the icebreaker Yermak got through to the ships (at that point drifting at latitude 83°N) and helped the Sadko and Malygin out of the ice to open sea.
Unfortunately, the Sedov's steering mechanism was seriously damaged, with her rudder broken in two, as well as the sternpost supporting it. It was decided that she would be converted into a drifting research platform and a crew of 15 was put together, made up of additions and replacements from the Sadko and Yermak. Ample stores and supplies were transferred to the Sedov and she drifted alone into the darkness of the Arctic night.
In mid-October, the sun peaked over the horizon for the last time as the Sedov drifted north of the 84th parallel--it would be four and a half months before its rays again tinted the sky.
Oddly, there was only one man aboard with scientific training, and he was actually a student at that: hydrographer V.K. Buynitskiy. There was also little in the way of equipment, being only the instruments Buynitskiy brought with from the Sadko. However, a full scientific program was organized, with Buynitskiy handling the more complicated observations: astronomical, magnetic and gravity measurements. The others were trained in meteorological observations, measuring ice thickness and taking soundings. If the ship was not crushed by the ice, there would a rich harvest of scientific data when it eventually reached home.
Particularly notable is the fact that the Sedov crossed the course of Nansen's Fram several times (1893-96 Norwegian expedition to explore the central Arctic Ocean). This would allow for the comparison of a wide range of data. For example, the greatest depth measured by Nansen was 3,850 meters, whereas at 5,180 meters, bottom was still not reached on the Sedov's men.
The furthest north reached by the ship was 86º 39' 30" N and 48º 22' E, or just 230 from the North Pole. Altogether Sedov drifted over the top of the world for an amazing 3,800 miles in 812 days. She eventually came out into the Greenland Sea in January 1940. Along with the ice drift station NP-1 and later drift stations, the Sedov Expedition mirrored the Soviet space efforts to set endurance records in later decades.
Each crewman was made a Hero of the Soviet Union and awarded the Gold Star Medal. The award was especially well earned when one considers the men who endured the long drift were neither selected or trained for such an arduous mission. The medal pictured was issued on Feb. 3, 1940, to First Officer Dmitry Trofimov. On the same day, the ship was awarded the Order of Lenin, one of the very few Soviet civilian vessels that would ever receive such an honor. In 1966, the Sedov became part of the Arctic Exploration Museum at Archangel.
Glenn M. Stein, FRGS
Atlantic Crossroads Inc. (Gold Star Medal images)
The Russians in the Arctic, by Terence Armstrong (1958)
Twenty-seven Months in the Drifting Ship 'Georgiy Sedov', by M.B. Cherninko and L.B. Khvat (1940)
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Friday, 04 May 2007 01:34
800 Days Across the Top of the World: The Sedov Expedition (1937-40)Written by Glenn Stein
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Comment Link Tuesday, 30 November 1999 00:00 posted by Thomas G. Schroeder
Keep up the good work.
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