The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

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

Toll, Eduard Vasilyevich (1858–1902)

Reference work entry

Toll, Eduard Vasilyevich (1858–1902) – was a geologist and polar explorer, a baron of Baltic German origin. T. was born in Reval (Tallinn) and a magister of geology (1889). He graduated from the University of Dorpat (1882, the faculty of zoology), where he later worked as a zoologist. In 1884 T. was invited to St. Petersburg, to the Mineralogical Museum. He explored northeastern Siberia (from the low reaches of the Yenisei to the Yana-Indigirka Lowland) and adjacent islands in 1885–1886 under the command of A.A. Bunge and in 1893–1894 as the head of the expedition of the Academy of Science. T. made vast collections and drew first route geological maps of many areas he visited. He was the first to explore the geology of the New Siberian Islands. In the north of Siberia and on the adjacent islands, he discovered moraines and boulder rocks, which were evidences of ancient (Pleistocene age) land glaciation. T. was right to determine Taymyr as its center. T. gave scientific explanation to a number of objects; particularly, he proved that the “Wooden Mountains,” one of the miracles of the New Siberian Islands, on the New Siberia Island, are not the logs cast by sea, but an opened Miocene forest, which grew in place of the Arctic desert 25 million years ago. T. brought up a question (still unanswered) on the reasons of the drastic climate change. T. concluded that mammoths and rhinoceros of the beginning of the Holocene (40,000 years ago) sank; T. made a correct assumption that the vast land plot (“The Mammoth Mainland”), where they lived, went underwater at the time, and animals became extinct after most of their pastures disappeared. T. explained the sinking of land by deflection of the Earth’s crust (now the rise of the ocean level as a result of ice melting is seen as the main reason). T. stressed the geological similarity of the New Siberian Islands and the mainland, on which basis he predicted with certainty the existence of the land yet undiscovered, known as the Sannikov Land at the time (it was allegedly seen in 1811 by Y. Sannikov). To discover and explore this land, T. arranged and headed the Russian Polar Expedition on the ship “Zarya” in 1900. Emperor Nikolay I granted 240,000 roubles for it. Prominent scientists took part in the expedition: land surveyor and meteorologist F.A. Matisen, topographer A.V. Kolchak, zoologist A.A. Byalynitskiy-Birulya, and astronomer F.G. Seeberg. Two winterings off the Kotelny Island brought significant scientific results; however, there arose a conflict between T., who regarded the ship only as a means of the team’s transportation, and captain N.N. Kolomeitsev, who considered the undamaged condition of “Zarya” an affair of honor. T. sent N.N. Kolomeitsev away already during the first wintering, which reduced the effectiveness of the works. In spring 1902 T. realized that “Zarya” could not navigate to the Sannikov Land and decided to reach it without the ship. He took two dog sleds and two boats and food enough for 3 months, and together with three members of his team – F. Seeberg, manufacturers V. Gorokhov and N. Dyakonov, and dog drivers – he headed down the route the Kotelny Island, the Faddeyevsky Island, the New Siberia Island, and the Bennett Island. “Zarya” was to pick up T.’s group in the end of summer, but was unable to do that due to complicated ice situation. The expedition members returned to St. Petersburg on the steamer “Lena.” In January 1903 a search group headed by A.V. Kolchak tried to find T. The expedition found T.’s camp, his collections, and documents on the Bennett Island. One of the notes said that T. and his companions went south. However, they were never found. Valuable and extensive materials of T.’s expedition were studied by a special commission of St. Petersburg Academy of Science in 1900–1919. T.’s work “Navigation onboard ‘Zarya’ Ship” was published in 1909 by the widow of the scientist. T. was awarded the Przhevalsky big Silver Medal by the Russian Geographical Society and the Norwegian order for his dedicated and courageous assistance to F. Nansen’s expedition.

The author of the books The Description of Geology of the New Siberian Islands and Principal Objectives of the Arctic Land Investigation, Physics and Mathematics Department, West Empire Academy of Sciences, 1899, Volume IX, № 1; Navigation onboard “Zarya” Ship, Moscow, 1959 (incomplete and occasionally incorrect translation of T.’s diary written in the German language).

Mountains on Novaya Zemlya and the Bennett Island, the bay in the northwest of Taymyr, the cape on the Tsirkul Island, and a plateau on the Kotelny Island are named after T..

Toll E.V. (Source:

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