Investment Portal of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

Ten brave men

190th anniversary of the first hydrographic expedition to the Novaya Zemlya archipelago

13 august 2022

13.08.2022 // On 13 August 1832, a karbass named after Novaya Zemlya, commanded by Pyotr Pakhtusov, set sail from Arkhangelsk to the shores of this archipelago. This expedition not only charted the outlines of the South Island of the archipelago for the first time but also gathered the first scientific information on the nature and climate of Novaya Zemlya.

The idea of an expedition to Novaya Zemlya was nurtured for several years by the young sailor Pyotr Pakhtusov. The bold idea was supported by Arkhangelsk merchants, who were more interested in exploring the sea route from Arkhangelsk to the mouth of the Yenisei. They gave money to build two ships and Pakhtusov began preparations for the expedition.

Lieutenant Vasily Krotov was the captain of the schooner Yenisei, which sailed across the Kara Sea to the mouth of the river after which the ship was named. He was not destined to return from his voyage: the schooner wrecked near the western entrance to the Matochkin Shar and the entire crew perished.

Pyotr Pakhtusov led the single-masted karbass Novaya Zemlya, less than 13 m long — something one would be afraid to set out on even a boat trip along the coast, let alone into the Arctic Ocean. Despite the worst of the storm, after 10 days the 10-man team reached their destination and began a hydrographic survey of the southern coast of the archipelago, moving eastwards. In 19 days, they managed to explore 35 versts. The weather was getting worse and worse, the short Arctic summer was running out. The ice had repeatedly mauled the karbass, threatening to crush its sides, and on 28 September, the expedition decided to halt for the winter. Luckily, a dilapidated hut in Kamenka Bay, abandoned about 75 years ago, has been found and repaired.


The team had to live in the middle of the night, hunting deer and polar foxes for food and fighting off polar bears along the way. The hydrographic survey did not start until 20 April 1833. And on 24 June, Pakhtusov, accompanied by two sailors, set sail along the eastern coast of South Island. Within two weeks, they had explored over 130 versts and made the first accurate descriptions of the coast.

After returning to the winter hut and resting for a couple of days, the captain set off on a new trip — this time along the coast of the Kara Sea to the north. This is how Litke, Galla, Schubert, Brandt and Klokov bays appeared on the map. Even though ice had already begun to appear, due to which, for example, Litke Bay had to stand for 18 days waiting for passage, Pakhtusov still described the entire east coast of the South Island of Novaya Zemlya from Kara Gates to the Matochkin Shar bay.

The captain realised they would not survive a second winter in a row. Pakhtusov, therefore, decided to complete the expedition and sent the karbass south on 19 August 1833. Having reached the mouth of the Pechora, the sailors reached Arkhangelsk on reindeer, where it was discovered that they had long been presumed dead.

Pakhtusov took the material he collected to St. Petersburg. They have convinced everyone: the legendary East Coast of Novaya Zemlya is within reach. For the first time, the entire east coast of the South Island was mapped, the shores were described and the depths of bays and inlets were measured, and the first observations of currents, straits and tides were made. The development of the North Sea Route was also helped by Pakhtusov's discovery of coal deposits on the archipelago and his proposal to exploit them.

Read more 'We Did It!' The feat of completing a voyage through the North Sea Route in a single season was first accomplished 90 years ago by the Sibiryakov steamship


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