The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

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

Russian Polar Expedition (1900–1903)

Reference work entry

Russian Polar Expedition (1900–1903) – was led by Baron E.V. Toll on the steam barquentine “Zarya.” The expedition was commissioned by the Academy of Sciences; the officers and sailors were detached by the Naval Department. The expedition primarily aimed to find the legendary Sannikov Land. The crew included Lieutenant N.N. Kolomeitsev (commander of the ship until February 1901), Lieutenant F.A. Matisen (commander since February 1901), and Lieutenant A.V. Kolchak (head of the hydrological team) and zoologist A.A. Byalynitskiy-Birulya, magnetologist F.G. Seeberg, and physician and zoologist H.E. Walter; the supported team of sailors was headed by boatswain N.A. Begichev. Temporary members were geologist K.A. Vollosovich and political exiles V.N. Katin-Yartsev, M.I. Brusnev, and P.V. Olenin. The expedition left St. Petersburg on June 21 (9), 1900; they left Alexandrovsk-on-Murman on July 31, crossed the Yugorsky Strait on August 7, and stopped for wintering near the south coast of Taymyr on October 1.

The crew conducted a comprehensive study of waters, ice, the coast (including mapping), geology, and flora and fauna and carried out magnetic measurements. The crew also undertook long dogsled rides up to the Chelyuskin Peninsula (E.V. Toll and A.V. Kolchak, May 1901). The well-coordinated teamwork was complicated by the conflict between E.V. Toll, pursuing only scientific objectives (frequently going against the interests of the ship navigation in the ice), and N.N. Kolomeitsev, who (according to A.V. Kolchak) “looked at any work not directly related to the ship like on a necessary evil.” As a result, E.V. Toll sent N.N. Kolomeitsev away. The shortage of officers (and coal) weakened the chances of the expedition. The navigation of 1901 was short (August 25–September 24). The ship nevertheless reached a specified location. However, the expedition did not find the Sannikov Land.

E.V. Toll continued to believe in its existence and decided, leaving the “Zarya” (which was wintering off the coast of the Kotelny Island), to move with three companions on the ice to the Bennett Island hoping to see the coveted land from its top. The group reached the island, but because of the ice conditions could not return to the “Zarya.” E.V. Toll and his companions perished. The “Zarya” broken by ice burning the last coal reached the Tiksi Bay on September 12, where it was abandoned by the crew. In August 1903, the rescue team (A.V. Kolchak, N.A. Begichev, and five more people) found on the Bennett Island a hut clogged with ice and the last letter of E.V. Toll to the President of the Academy of Sciences and 8 lb of geological samples in boxes on the shore. The results of the expedition research were published in 1902–1915 in the Izvestia and the “Bulletin of the Academy of Science.”

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