The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

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

Sannikov Land

Reference work entry

Sannikov Land – a phantom island in the Arctic Ocean to the north of the New Siberian Islands that was first seen in 1811 from Kotelny Island by a Yakut tradesman and a hunter Y. Sannikov. According to him there were “high stone mountains” rising in the north over the sea. In 1822 the Russian Navy lieutenant P. F. Anjou tried to find the S. L. searching for thousands of sq. miles in different directions, but he found nothing. In 1902 Baron E. V. Toll with his companions tried to find this land, but died. In 1937 the Soviet icebreakers “Joseph Stalin” and “Yermak” were searching for S. L., in 1937–1938 – the icebreakers “Sadko” and “G. Sedov.” They proved that S. L. does not exist. Its existence was not confirmed by the arctic aviation trips either. In due course of the ship’s documents recorded, the existence of Makarov Land, Bradley Land, Gillis Land, Kenan Land, Harris Land, Tak-Puk Land, and others turned out to be disappearing lands.

It was S. L. that the Arctic expeditions of Baron E. V. Toll aimed at. He was sure that there used to be Arctida, a northern polar continent, the coast of which, in his opinion, Y. Sannikov observed.

In 1893 E. V. Toll saw a stripe of mountains in the horizon as well and decided that it was S. L. In the same year, F. Nansen navigated on his ship “Fram” past the New Siberian Islands and reached the altitude 79°N, but he found no traces of S. L.

Observations over migratory birds, namely, polar geese and others, gave food to another testimonials for the existence of vast lands in the north. In spring the birds left further to the north and in autumn they returned with young ones. As the birds could not live in an ice desert, it was suggested that S. L., lying in the north, was rich and fertile and that it was there when the birds would migrate. Finding arguments for and against S. L’s existence was linked with significant difficulties. The New Siberian Islands lie close to the edge of the permanent northern ice cap: even in warm years, the ocean around the islands was prepared for navigation only 2–3 months a year, in late summer and early autumn. In cold years the islands can be frozen all through the summer. The hypothetical new land at the distance of several 100 km from the New Siberian Islands could be frozen constantly during several dozens of years.

Some scientists believe that S. L., just like many arctic islands, including the majority of the New Siberian Islands, was not formed from rock, but from the so-called fossil ice (permafrost), covered with a layer of soil. In due course, the ice would melt and S. L. disappeared like some other islands, formed by fossil ice: Mercury, Diomede, Vasilyevskiy, and Semenovsky Islands. The name “S. L.” was first used by the academic secretary of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society A. V. Grigoriev. In 1926 the Academician V. A. Obruchev published a sci-fi novel Sannikov Land. In 1944 he requested to observe all the remaining white spots from the planes, but nothing was found. In 1973 there appeared a Soviet famous screen adaptation of V. A. Obruchev’s novel with the same name.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016