The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

2016 Edition
| Editors: Igor S. Zonn, Andrey G. Kostianoy, Aleksandr V. Semenov

East Siberian Sea, History of Exploration

Reference work entry

East Siberian Sea, History of Exploration – the East Arctic Shelf of E.S.S. was discovered in the seventeenth century by I. Rebrov and E. Buze, Russian sailors, who sailed their koches through the Dmitry Laptev Strait in 1638. In 1648, Semyon Dezhnev, Fedot Popov, and others navigated from the mouth of the Kolyma eastward to the Bering Strait and farther along the Anadyr River. In the eighteenth century, the first works describing coastlines and islands were done, and maps were drawn. A very substantial investigation was carried out by the participants of the Great Northern Expedition; D. Laptev and his fellows (1735–1742); then N. Shalaurov (1761–1764); the geodesist S. Andreev (1763–1764); I. Leontyev, I. Lysov, and A. Pushkarev (1769–1771); and J. Billings and G. Sarychev (1786–1792). Other expeditions, by P.F. Anjou (1822) and F.P. Wrangel (1820–1824), made more accurate descriptions of the coasts.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Russian seamen and hydrographers had not yet surveyed the Siberian coast from the embouchure of the Kolyma River to Kolyuchinskya Bay. In 1800, the merchant Yakov Sannikov discovered Stolbovoy Island and in 1806 Faddeevsky Island. In 1806, New Siberia Island was discovered, in 1809 – Belkovsky Island. Due to active reclamation of the northern shores of Siberia, their precise description was vital. In 1808–1811, an expedition led by M.M. Gedenschtrom together with Yakov Sannikov was the first to chart the New Siberian Islands and the Lyakhovsky Islands and the Siberian coast from the Lena River to Chaunskaya Bay and determine the winter fast ice boundary in the E.S.S. In 1821–1824, an expedition composed of two teams – the Ust-Yanskiy (Ust-Yana) team under Lieutenant P.F. Anjou with navigators I.A. Berezhnykh and P.I. Ilyin and the Kolymskiy (Kolyma) team under Lieutenant F.P. Wrangel with the warrant officer F.F. Matyushkin and the navigator P.T. Kozmin – surveyed the coastline from the Olenyok River to Kolyuchinskaya Bay including the New Siberian Islands and the Medvezhyi Islands. The expedition was traveling by dog sleds in winter and by boats and horses in summer. The Ust-Yanskiy team operated from 1821 till 1823. The team described the coast of Siberia from the Olenyok River to the Indigirka River and all islands of the New Siberian Archipelago, determined about 100 astronomical positions lying to the north of 70° N, took 40 measurements of magnetic declination and inclination, and made regular meteorological observations.

In 1821–1824, the Kolymsky team described the coastline from the Indigirka River to Kolyuchinskaya Bay, the Medvezhyi Islands, Ayon Island, and the Lena River over 320 km from its mouth. F.P. Wrangel paid thorough attention to search for islands that, as G.A. Sarychev told, hypothetically existed. To prove this thesis, they undertook four journeys covering 270 km over the ice to the north and northeast of the Medvezhyi Islands. During these expeditions Wrangel watched ice and made its first scientific description.

In the twentieth century, maps were further refined using astronomical data in the works by K. Vollosovich (1909) and G. Sedov (1909) during the Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition on the ships “Taymyr” and “Vaygach” (1911–1914). 1911 saw the first occasional voyages of steam boats from Vladivostok to Kolyma.

The E.S.S. belongs to the least explored seas of the Russian Arctic Region with its environmental conditions extremely hard for navigation and hydrographic operations, mostly due to harsh climatic and ice conditions. Except for Chaunskaya Bay that is jutted far into the continent, all open sea areas were blank for a long time. The expedition led by A. Nordenskiöld on the “Vega” in 1878 took the first zoological samples. After that, in 1901 and 1902, the Russian Polar Expedition under E. Toll made their studies at sea on the schooner “Zarya.” In 1908, G.Y. Sedov led an expedition and conducted a sketch survey of the Kolyma River. The first nonscheduled steamship journeys from Vladivostok to Kolyma started in 1911. The Hydrographic Expedition of the Arctic Ocean on the ships “Taymyr” and “Vaygach” took place in 1911–1914 and a Norwegian voyage on the ship “Maud” in 1924–1925. During the latter one, H. Sverdrup obtained valuable data researching the dynamics of the E.S.S., its meteorological and aerometeorological modes, and Earth’s magnetism. F. Malmgren’s observations of the polar ice aligned his name with those of outstanding glaciologists.

In 1921, N.I. Evgenov accomplished a 2-year hydrographic reconnaissance of the Lena River Delta and proposed a project for coastal traffic management between the Lena and Kolyma Rivers and Yakutia resupply from Vladivostok by sea.

To develop navigation in the E.S.S., it was necessary to set up weather stations on its coasts that had never been there prior to the Soviet times. The first weather station of the E.S.S. was constructed on the southeastern coast of Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1928. In the Soviet period, systematic expansion into the regions of the Extreme North and the Northern Sea Route included the East Siberian Sea and rivers running into it. In 1931, an Aeroflot expedition explored the stretch of the coastline from Cape Dezhnev to the mouth of the Kolyma River, and the next year an expedition aboard the motor boat “Pioner” surveyed the embouchure of the rivers Chukochya, Alazeya, and Indigirka and bays Khromskaya and Omulyakhskaya. The expedition organized by the Chief Directorate of the Northern Sea Route on the icebreaker “Krasin” set several stations in the De Long Strait and north of Wrangel Island. The Yakut expedition on the ship “Polyarnaya Zvezda” took some samples in the Dmitry Laptev Strait in 1927. After the icebreakers “Sibiryakov” (1932) and “Chelyuskin” (1933) had passed through the Northern Sea Route, steam vessels plied the East Siberian Sea on a yearly schedule, and a number of voyages were taken: on the icebreakers “Krasin” (1935), “G. Sedov” (1937), “Malygin” (1939–1940), and “Severny Polyus” (1946). In 1937, expeditions on steam icebreakers “G. Sedov” and “Malygin” conducted research in the Laptev Sea and in the area of the New Siberian Shoal of the E.S.S. and on the continental slope of the polar basin north of New Siberian Islands picked around 40 stations in the west of the E.S.S. In 1937–1938, a third high-latitude expedition on the icebreaker “Sadko” was undertaken. The voyage by the Chief Directorate of the Northern Sea Route on the icebreaker “Severny Polyus” took 23 samples, 5 of them were the first quantitative samples grabbed from the bed.

In postwar years (after 1945), icebreakers bore their share in the Arctic research like before. The East Oceanographic Expedition on the icebreaker “Severny Polyus” that set out from Vladivostok in July 1946 was the first major sea mission. In August the icebreaker reached 73°44′N, the record latitude for free-floating vessels in the Chukchi Sea. Through comprehensive studies, the expedition improved bathymetric maps of the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas, determined circulatory water motion in the east of the E.S.S. that affects the movement of the Ayon Ice Massif, and proved Atlantic water intrusion into the East Siberian and Chukchi Seas. An aerostat was employed for meteorological observations in the Arctic environment for the first time.

In 1973, a diving expedition by the Zoological Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences explored the eastern part of the Laptev Sea as well as the western part of the E.S.S. near the New Siberian Islands with eight diving sections in the shallow water. In 1977 and 1980, a team of specialists from the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Academy of Sciences of the USSR, on drifting stations North Pole-23 and North Pole-22, took around 30 trawling samples in the northeast of the sea, by the New Siberian Shoal. The next expedition under the Zoological Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, in 1980, conducted a detailed exploration of Chaunskaya Bay projected deep into the continent using 12 sections. In 1989, a Zoological Institute expedition on the ship “Dmitry Laptev” grabbed 12 quantitative samples from the bed in the section area from Cape Billings, in the east of the E.S.S. The entire history of research numbers a little more than 200 samplings in the open part of the E.S.S., the overwhelming majority of which were trawled. New qualitative and especially quantitative samplings over the vast area from the west to the east of the sea collected by the Marine Research Laboratory of Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, in 2004, onboard the “Ivan Kireev” during the high-latitude expedition of Pacific Oceanographic Institute, allowed to get an insight into the distribution of benthos communities in the regions explored.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016