The Eastern Arctic Seas Encyclopedia

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

Begichev (Bigichev), Nikifor Alekseevich (1874–1927)

Reference work entry

Begichev (Bigichev), Nikifor Alekseevich (1874–1927) – a navy sailor, an Arctic explorer, and twice honored with Lomonosov Gold Medal. In 1895, he was recruited to the Navy and in 1897–1900 navigated on a training steam-sailing ship as a seaman and boatswain’s mate in the Atlantic Ocean, twice from Kronstadt to the Antilles.

As part of the crew of E.V. Toll’s expedition (1900–1902) being a boatswain, he participated in a high-latitude expedition in the Arctic Ocean aimed at studying the New Siberian Islands; on the steam-sailing schooner, “Zarya” reached Bennett Island (the De Long group of islands, the East Siberian Sea). During the expedition, Baron E. Toll and three of his companions from sledge and paddling group vanished forever, but B. and most of the crew returned to the mainland. In spring 1903, he was searching for E.V. Toll dog-sledged from the mouth of the Yana River to Kotelny Island and in August reached Bennett Island on a whale boat and found the winter quarters of the deceased members of the expedition. In this campaign, B. rescued the head of the searching party A.V. Kolchak, who fell through the ice.

In 1904, he participated in the defense of Port Arthur on the torpedo boat “Besshumny” and was interned to Qingdao Port with all the crew.

Starting with summer 1906, B. hunted for fur-bearing animals in Taymyr. At the entrance to the Khatanga Bay, where the maps showed a peninsula, he discovered an island (Bolshoy Begichev) in 1908 having circled it. To the west of it, he discovered another island (Maly Begichev) for the second time after Kh.P. Laptev. In 1915, he navigated from Lake Pyasino to the north, topped the western part of the Byrranga Mountains (the Begichev Ridge), and discovered three small rivers while in charge of a brigade for rescuing the crew parts that had stayed for winter in the ice on board the steam vessels “Taymyr” and “Vaygach.” Near the shores of the Kara Sea, he found a group of 52 seamen from the “Taymyr” and “Vaygach” that had covered almost 320 km and escorted them out to the Yenisei mouth. In the summer of 1921 near the Taymyr Peninsula, he found three fire pits and different objects of expedition outfits and clothing on the southern coast of the Mikhailov Peninsula (130 km to the north of the Pyasina mouth) in course of a search operation for two lost Norwegians from the ship “Maud” whom R. Amundsen had ordered to send some letters. (Half a century later, that was established to be a stop of the crashed expedition of V.A. Rusanov).

In 1922 as a member of a geological team of N.N. Urvantsev, B. studied the Pyasina River, covering 850 km in a boat along the river and about 500 km on foot along the shore of the Kara Sea. To the west of its mouth on the shore of the Pyasina Bay, he found two big packages with documents of R. Amundsen’s expedition, miscellaneous papers, and petty objects including a watch and a wedding ring. Still further to the west, close to Dikson settlement, he found a human skeleton. These were the remains of one of the two deceased messengers of R. Amundsen (later B. was awarded a gold watch by the Kingdom of Norway). In the summer of 1926, B. navigated down the Pyasina to its mouth with a cooperative craft society, where he died.

In 1964, Dikson settlement saw the unveiling of a monument to N.A. Begichev under which his remains were reinterred.

B. gave his name to two islands (Bolshoy and Maliy Begichev) in the southwestern part of the Laptev Sea, a ridge stretching from the mouth of the Pyasina to the northeast up to the upper Tarea River.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016