The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

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

Ushakov, Georgy Alexeyevich (1901–1963)

Reference work entry

Ushakov, Georgy Alexeyevich (1901–1963) – a Russian explorer of the Eastern Arctic, geologist, Doctor of Geographical Sciences, and son of an Amur Cossack. U. did not receive any systematic secondary education. In his adolescent years, he joined the expedition exploring the Ussuri Taiga headed by V. K. Arsenyev. In 1926–1929, during his 3-year stay on Wrangel Island, U. was the first one to conduct systematic research of that island, to draw up its detailed map, and to collect valuable information on its climate, on the ice regime of the waters surrounding Wrangel Island as well as invaluable ethnographic materials and geological and mineralogical collections. U. founded and headed the first settlement on Wrangel Island inhabited by the Chukchi, the Eskimos, and the Russians. Upon his return to the continent, U. developed a plan of exploring the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago which had previously been mapped with a dotted line as an unexplored land. The Severnaya Zemlya expedition headed by G. Ushakov in 1930–1932 is considered to be one of the milestone events for the Geography of the twentieth century. Joined by Nikolay Urvantsev, a prominent geologist, and Sergey Zhuravlyov, a knowledgeable traveler and a professional hunter, U. covered over 7,000 km and mapped over 37,000 km2 of the ice-clad Archipelago.

Though suffering from the hardships of their expedition and severe climate conditions, making their way on foot and on dog-drawn sledges, U. and his companions have mapped the shores of all the major Severnaya Zemlya islands. The contact with the mainland was maintained by radio communication operator V.V. Khodov. In the wintertime the expedition members succeeded in hunting polar bears and marine mammals, which enabled them to cover some of the costs of the expedition. Sledge dogs proved to be invaluable in this Arctic expedition. U. and his companions even made special “shoes” for the dogs so that they should not hurt their paws against the sharp-edged ice and when needed would even draw the heavily loaded sledge themselves. As a result, U.’s expedition has explored the surface topography and the geological structure features of the Archipelago, has made its first, very precise, map, and has made invaluable collections of mineral, plant, and animal species of the area. In 1934 U., being a plenipotentiary of the Government Committee, was in charge of the rescue operation of the “Chelyuskin” ship crew. In 1935 U. (who was at the time the Deputy Head of Chief Directorate of the Northern Sea Route) led the first Soviet high-latitude expedition on the icebreaker called “Sadko,” after a hero of the Russian lore. The expedition has explored a huge “blank spot” in the northern Kara Sea and has discovered the Arctic branch of the North Atlantic Current as well as the last piece of undiscovered territory in the Russian Arctic – Ushakov Island, named after Ushakov. “Sadko” has reached the latitude of 82°41′N which is a record for the ship of this type and class. In 1935–1941 U. was the Publishing Editor of “Soviet Arctic” Magazine and simultaneously (in 1936–1939) worked at the Chief Directorate of Hydrometeorological Service of the USSR. Between 1940 and 1955, U. worked in the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

U. has written numerous research works and over twenty popular science books, which were reedited several times, including: “The Isle of Shallow Waters. Treading the untrodden land” (1990). Ushakov died in Moscow, but was buried, according to his will, on Domashniy Island – the first base of his expedition to the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago.

Besides Ushakov Island in the Kara Sea, a settlement, a spit, and a cape on Wrangel Island, a river on October Revolution Island, and two ocean ships have been named after Georgy Ushakov.

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