The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

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

Pronchishchev, Vasili Vasilyevich (1702–1736)

Reference work entry

Pronchishchev, Vasili Vasilyevich (1702–1736) – a Russian Navy officer, Arctic explorer, lieutenant, member of the Great Northern Expedition, and explorer of the Laptev Sea and the eastern coast of Taymyr. In 1716, he entered the Moscow School of Mathematical and Navigational Sciences; in 1717, he was transferred to the Naval Academy in St. Petersburg. He served in the Baltic Fleet (1718–1724), participated in the Caspian campaign of Peter I in Persia (1722–1723), and worked as a member of the commission for certification of Navy officers. In 1733, he was appointed head of the 3rd detachment of the Great Northern (Second Kamchatka) Expedition to the shores of the Arctic Ocean with the assignment to describe the mouth of the Lena River to the mouth of the Yenisei. In the summer of 1735, P. went down the Lena on the sloop “Yakutsk” (navigated by S. I. Chelyuskin), entered the sea via the Bykovskaya anabranch, doubled the Lena Delta, and stopped for winter at the mouth of the Olenyok River. In 11 months, the detachment continued their trip. In the mouth of the Anabar River they stopped, and surveyor N. Chekin examined the river upstream within a week. By mid-August, “Yakutsk” entered the bay, which is named in 1913 by the expedition of B. A. Vilkitsky after Maria Pronchishcheva (her right name was Tatiana), and examined it. On August 17, the expedition discovered Peter Islands (the name was given by Kh. P. Laptev). They reached the eastern coast of the Taymyr Peninsula and went north up to 77°29′N. From the ship, they noticed few more islands 1.2 miles off the shore (Komsomolskaya Pravda Islands). By noon, August 19, heavy ice blocked the way, and in the middle of Vilkitsky Strait (near the parallel of 77°55′N as it was found out lately), the squad turned back. On the way back on board of “Yakutsk,” P. died of scurvy (the true cause of his death – fat embolism syndrome due to open hip fracture – became known recently). Navigator S. I. Chelyuskin, who took command of the detachment, brought the boat to the winter base and buried his commander at the mouth of Olenyok River. P.’s wife Tatiana, accompanying her husband in the expedition, survived him for 13 days and was buried next to him in the mouth of the Olenyok at Cape Tumul. The expedition of P. made the first instrumental survey of the Lena riverbed from the east coast of Taymyr. The Pronchishchev expedition was the first, which prepared an accurate map of the Lena riverbed from Yakutsk to the mouth and a map of the coast of the Laptev Sea from the Lena Delta to the Faddey Bay. The total length of the coastline described by P. was about 500 km. The Island of Preobrazheniya, three groups of islands of Peter, Faddey, and Samuila (now the Komsomolskaya Pravda Islands), and others were discovered by them.

In 1999, the historical and archaeological expedition “Arctic Search” (headed by S. M. Epishkin) performed the exhumation and reburial of the Pronchishchevs; in the course of this work, their faces were reconstructed, and portraits are painted, and it was found that P. did not died of scurvy as it was believed for a long time, but from an open fracture of the tibia.

The name of P. was given to a cape, a lake, a river, a part of the east coast of the Taymyr Peninsula and a ridge (range of mountains) between the mouths of the Anabar and the Olenyok Rivers in the 1930s, the schooner “V. Pronchishchev,” and the icebreaker-tug “Vasili Pronchishchev” (1961).

Pronchishchev, Vasili Vasilyevich (1702–1736) and his wife Tatiana (1710–1736) (Source:

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