The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

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

Andreev Land

Reference work entry

Andreev Land – a hypothetical island, a phantom island. Was named after the sergeant of geodesy Stepan Andreev who commanded the expeditions of 1793 and 1764 aimed at exploration of the group of the Medvezhyi Islands. It is presumably laid at the distance of 580 km to the northeast of the Medvezhyi Islands. The Medvezhyi Islands (5 islands in total) are situated opposite the Kolyma River mouth. They were first mentioned by Mikhailo Nasedkin. In 1702 he performed a passage from the Kolyma mouth to the Indigirka mouth. He told that he saw some islands on his way. On the map of the northeast of Siberia brought to St. Petersburg in 1726 by the Yakut Cossack Afanasiy Shestakov, there was painted Kopay Island (one of the Medvezhyi Islands) and around 2 days distance from it to the north – a big land. The head of Okhotsk and Kamchatka districts colonel Fedor Plenisner sent two squadrons to explore the islands to the north of the Kolyma mouth. The first was commanded by Cossack Nikolay Daurkin and headed for the Chukchi Peninsula, the second under the command of Sergeant Stepan Andreev – for the Medvezhyi Islands (they were named after the expedition returned). Andreev set off northward on March 4, 1763, from the Nizhnekolymskaya fortress in dog sledges. In April 22, having passed from the Krestovaya River to the Medvezhyi Islands by ice, he visited the five islands of the archipelago and in May 2 returned to the mainland as he had run out of food for dogs. Andreev presented the full report about the circumstances of his travel to Plenisner on May 6, 1763, and attached his diary. In it Andreev vaguely mentions that he had seen something from the fifth Menvezhiy Island (Chetyrekhstolbovy) “to the south or how they name it here to the midnight.” The expedition report was published.

On March 16, 1764, a new expedition under the command of Andreev was launched. The participant set off in dog sledges from Nizhnekolymsk and in April 10 reached the first of the Medvezhyi Islands (Krestovsky) and soon Chetyrekhstolbovy Island. In April 16 Andreev set off to the northeast by sea. In April 22 after about 580 km way away from the fifth Medvezhyi Island, the expedition discovered a large low island (about 100 km) stretching from east to west. Having approached the island but not reached it they saw fresh sledge traces leading to the north. One of the participants fell ill and the expedition turned back. It returned to Nizhnekolymsk on May 8. On 22 September 1794 Andreev presented his report and diary to Plenisner. This expedition report was not published.

All these circumstances caused the appearance of a legend about the AL which had been presumably seen by him to the north of the Medvezhyi Islands. To create detailed description of the AL, I. Leontiev, I. Lysov, and A. Pushkarev organized a special expedition. It started in Tobolsk and headed toward the mouth of the Kolyma and further to the Medvezhyi Islands and the AL. It worked for 3 years, from 1769 to 1771, but never discovered the AL. There is no information on the reasons, as in 1787 most of the archives vanished in a huge fire in Tobolsk.

In May 1810, M. M. Hedenstrom searching for AL moved by ice to the northeast from Bolshoy Baraniy Kamen about 170 km. His further advancement was prevented by a wide ice hole. In 1820 an expedition of lieutenant F. P. Wrangel set off from St. Petersburg “to make a survey of the shores from the Kolyma River mouth eastwards to Cape Shelagskiy and from it northwards to the uninhabited land which, according to the Chukchi people, is not far from there.” Having moved 170 km further to the north from the Medvezhyi Islands and 270 km to the northeast of it, Wrangel did not find any signs of the AL and questioned Andreev’s trustworthiness.

The possible reason is that the report and the diary of Andreev’s expedition of 1764 had not been published and thus remained unknown to the researchers of the later times who based their conclusions only on the published report of 1763. In his reports and the diary of 1763, Andreev did not mention a land seen by him from the Medvezhyi Islands. He mentioned this only on April 22, 1764, in the journal of his second trip, when he moved at least 570 km from the Medvezhyi Island (and not 270 km).

In Soviet times the scientists made several attempts to find the AL with the help of sea and airships. After some unsuccessful attempts, it was suggested that the AL had existed but had been composed of permafrost soil and fossil ice. So it might have melted just like Vasilyevsky Island and half of Semenovsky Island (of the New Siberian group of islands) in the Laptev Sea.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016