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Author(s) of the publication: Vyacheslav MARKIN, Svetlana KHORKINA

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A hundred years ago Norway broke its ties with Sweden which had been established in 1814. And Russia was the first country which formally recognized the independence of the new state and established diplomatic relations with it on October 30, 1905.

Pages. 51


Over the centuries the two countries maintained neighborly relations in the western Polar regions. Geographically, Russia is "facing" the North with a broad facade stretching over nearly half of the Arctic; and the smaller Norway has there a "wedge" of territory stretching for 2 thous. km. It is "topped" with the Spitsbergen Archipelago (Norwegian-Svalbard). Boats of the Vikings possibly reached its shores, but no material traces of these visits have yet been found. At the same time one comes across ruins of early Russian settlements on the shores of these islands, dating back to the 17th and even 16th centuries*. The Russian coast-dwellers, "pomors", and also mariners were the first to open up the archipelago, called Grumant, which was believed to be the "brink" of Greenland. At the same time Norwegian whalers and hunters of seals were traditionally prominent on the Barents Sea. This being so, the mariners and seafarers of the two countries must have often "shaken hands" on the Arctic sealanes.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries heroic voyages of Norwegian explorers of the Arctic brought international recognition to their homeland. Achievements of these explorers stimulated the progress of its science, especially oceanography, geophysics, glaciology and polar biology. Its explorers provided tangible contributions to developing and improving methods of polar studies, such as choosing the best expedition equipment and provisions. In Russia there were similar projects in store which made cooperation with Norway especially important. This included purchasing ships for voyages in the Arctic, and ships built in Russia usually visited the seaports of Bergen and Tromse for getting additional equipment and coal before their arctic voyages.

The Norwegian school of Polar explorations was founded by Fridjof Nansen (1861 - 1930). The young zoologist from Bergen with five compatriots crossed on skis Greenland for the first time in history in 1888. Our outstanding climatologist A. Voyeykov analyzed the results of their meteorological observations and drew up conclusions about the climate of the iceshield - the biggest in the Northern Hemisphere. And Nansen was already planning a new expedition. He wanted to verify in practice a hypothesis of his compatriot Henric Mohn that a permanent strong oceanic current carries sea ice from the Arctic Ocean across the North Pole to the shores of Greenland.

The Norwegian explorer decided that the sea current can be taken advantage of by attaching the ship of the expedition to the drifting ice. He ordered a ship with a hull of a special egg-like shape which could save it during ice compressions by pushing it up onto the ice surface. This shipbuilding technique was known to the early Russian "pomors" and was later broadly applied by the builders of Norwegian fishing and whaling boats for the Arctic seas. His ship was called FRAM ("Forward"). Nansen wanted to cruise along the coast of Siberia to the Bering Strait and then move as far as possible to the North, "freeze" into icefield and keep on drifting while conducting a broad program of meteorological and oceanographic observations. He also planned to reach the North Pole and discovered some unknown lands.


See: V. Starkov, "Glimpses of Pomorye Sailboats", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2000. - Ed.

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In 1890 at the International Geological Congress in Jena (Germany) he became acquainted with the Russian explorer of Siberia, Baron Edoard Toll (1858 - 1902) who was planning future polar expeditions. During his expedition in 1886 he saw on the horizon the outline of an unknown island which he called the Land of Sannikov* and he was eager to reach that mysterious land. The two young explorers (one - 29 an the other 32 years of age) were eagerly discussing their plans and problems. Nansen explained to Dr. Toll the details of his plan and secured his understanding and support. The Russian suggested to begin the drift not from the Bering Strait, but from the north-eastern corner of the Laptev Sea. He believed that there was a Lena Strait floating to the North and, using it, it would be possible to shorten the route of the expedition.

Naturally enough, Nansen wanted to have maps of the coast. And he received them from the Russian Imperial Geographical Society and the Main Hydrographical Directorate through the Swedish-Norwegian envoy in St. Petersburg Reiternsheld. The envoy also sent the plan of Nansen's expedition to the Russian Admiral Stepan Makarov** who endorsed it and sent to the Norwegian explorer data on water temperature in the Bering Strait and the adjacent region of the Arctic Ocean.

Toll also received from Nansen a request for a team of good draught dogs from Siberia. In reply the Baron decided to send the dogs to the village of Khabarovo on the shore of the Kara Sea along the route of the FRAM. He signed a contract with a resident of Tobolsk, Alexander Trontheim who bought a team of 33 dogs. Toll also decided to buy a team of East-Siberian Eskimo dogs which was delivered to the estuary of the Olenek River by a Russified Norwegian J. Torgensen. Nansen was able to pick up the dogs in Khabarov, but failed to pass by Olenek, which he later regretted. He also failed to take advantage of the stores of food (depots) on the Novosiberian Islands built for him by Toll with the help of the Siberian industrialists Alexander Sibiryakov and Yakov Sannikov.

In the early 1893, at the request of the Swedish-Norwegian government, the Russian Foreign Ministry supplied Nansen with an Open Letter of Recommen-


See: V. Glushkov, "Sannikov Land: Fact or Fiction?", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2004. - Ed.

** See: S. Epishkin, "Naval Commander and Explorer", Science in Russia, No. 1, 1996. - Ed.

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dation, and the Ministry of the Interior informed the Siberian authorities - from Arkhangelsk to the Primorye region - about the forthcoming expedition. When there were no news regular about the expedition, inquiries about it were sent to St. Petersburg and then reprinted in the Norwegian media. One of the central newspapers of that time "Russkiye Vedomosti" (Russian news) carried regular articles about the expedition by a prominent geographer Dimitry Anuchin - Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy. The British journal NATURE carried news about the expedition with commentaries by Prince Pyotr Kropotkin* - a prominent geographer and political emigre who had earlier meeting with Nansen in Europe.

In the meantime the FRAM passed by the Cape Cheluskin - the northern tip of Asia where it marked with a salute the memory of the Russian pioneer-explorers of this region and then began drifting. As had been expected by the Norwegian explorer, the ice carried the "frozenin" vessel in the north-western direction - the North Pole. But by the end of the winter it became clear that the drift would pass more to the south. And then Nansen decided to leave the vessel and go on skis together with Lieutenant Ya. Yukhanses. They took with them a store of equipment and provisions and light "kayaks" boats loaded on two dog teams. But the explorers failed to reach the Pole because of a sea current which moved the ice to the south. They were forced to turn back and, after four months of risking their lives, they reached islands of the Land of Franz Joseph. They spent the winter on one of these islands and then traveled home together with the British expedition of Frederic Jackson whom they met by chance. A week later they were joined by the crew of the FRAM and Captain Otto Sverdrup (1854 - 1930).

When reports from Norway announced the safe return of the expedition, the Russian Geographical Society sent Dr. Toll with a message of congratulations to Nansen. He carried out his mission at a ceremony in Bergen on September 2, 1896. The heroic Norwegian explorer thanked Russian scientists for support for his expedition and praised their achievements in this field. For their assistance to the Norwegians E. Toll and A. Trontheim were decorated with orders of the Swedish-Norwegian kingdom.

The first article on the FRAM expedition was published by Pyotr Kropotkin in the journal of the British Association for the Promotion of Science in 1897. It said that the corner of a "shroud" which had been hiding the centuries the Arctic polar region, had been lifted by the Nansen-Sverdrup expedition. Thanks to the daring


See: V. Markin, "Prince Pyotr Kropotkin in Britain", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2003. - Ed.

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Norwegians the whole set of our hypothetical knowledge about these gloomy regions has been changed.

In 1898 Nansen came to St. Petersburg at an invitation of the Russian Geographical Society. The Russian government decorated him with the St. Stanislaw Order, First Class. The FRAM captain O. Sverdrup was decorated with the Order of St. Anna, Second Class. The Russian Geographical Society elected Nansen its Honorary Member. For his unprecedented heroic deed - equal to a whole epoch of studies of the Arctic Ocean - he was decorated with the top award - the St. Constantine Gold Medal. The ceremony, attended by all members of the Swedish-Norwegian Mission, took place on April 28 in the Hall of the St. Petersburg Dvoryanskoye Sobraniye (Nobility Assembly). The ceremony was addressed by the Vice-Chairman of the Russian Geographical Society, Acad. Pyotr Semyonov Tien-Shansky*, Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy from 1873. He gave a high assessment of the results of the expedition. In his reply speech Dr. Nansen stressed that the first Arctic expeditions "on sleighs" had been undertaken by the Russians along the Siberian coasts. He said he followed that example on many occasions in his own expeditions.

In St. Petersburg Nansen had meetings with Admiral Stepan Makarov. The latter was working on a project of reaching the North Pole on board the ice-breaker ERMAK which he built for the purpose and he was eager to know the opinion on that project of the Norwegian explorer. Being interested in the project, Nansen still believed that a wooden whaler is more preferable for a polar expedition than an ice-breaker with large draught. But he took great interest in the oceanographic works of the Admiral. While processing the results of his own expedition, he repeatedly turned to the Admiral for advice. While preparing the third volume of his "Scientific Results of the Norwegian Polar Expedition of 1895 - 1896" the famous explorer repeatedly turned to the works of Admiral Makarov and Russian academics - F. Litke, K. Behr, A. Middendorf et al.

The Swedish-Norwegian King Oscar II assigned to Nansen certain diplomatic functions and wanted to take advantage of his scientific prestige for improving relations with Russia. In his letter to the monarch of May 17, 1898 Nansen wrote about his talks in St. Petersburg with Envoy Reiternsheld on what could be done in order to express their gratitude to the Russian Geographical Society for their rare hospitality accorded to him during his visit to Russia. He wrote he believed that the King would believe this to be important as bearing on relations with "our mighty neighbor in the East". Nansen also wanted to reward in some way the Vice-President of the Society, Senator Semenov, and his colleagues. As suggested by Toll, he asked for decorating with a medal the Siberian merchant Sannikov Junior who took care of the food depots for the expedition on the Novosibirskye Islands.

Cooperation in studies of the Arctic continued during the organization of subsequent Russian and Norwegian expeditions. In 1900 Nansen helped Toll in preparations for his polar voyage (1900 - 1902) for studies of the Siberian coast and for trying to find the Land of Sannikov. The Norwegian explorer passed on to his Russian colleagues the results of his earlier expeditions and maps. He also helped them in choosing a ship and equipment and conducted consultations with the hydrographer of the expedition, Lieutenant (future Admiral) Alexander


See: L. Kuchumova, "A Passion of the Tien Shan Conqueror, Science in Russia, No. 4, 2001. - Ed.

Pages. 55


Kolchak* who was sent to Norway by Toll for learning new methods of research. When on board of the ZARYA schooner, Baron received a letter from his friend wishing him every success and a safe voyage for the ZARYA. But Toll had perished and the search carried out by Kolchak was in vain. As for Nansen, he helped with the publication of the materials of the Russian Polar expedition abroad.

After Norway received independence there began, first on a private initiative and later with government support, systematic geological studies on the Spitsbergen which was "no man's land" - terra nullius - at that time. Every summer expeditions were sent on a broad program of studies of the archipelago, and that helped Norway to acquire sovereignty over the archipelago after World War I. The head of one of these expeditions, geologist Adolf Huhl became acquainted in the summer of 1913 with his St. Petersburg colleagues Rudolph Samoilovich and Prof. Pavel Wittenburg (who later studied the life and activities of E. Toll). Later on they took part in analyzing the paleontological data collected by the Norwegian expeditions and described in publications of 1906 - 1926.

In 1913 Nansen made another visit to Russia. He accepted an invitation of the Siberian Joint-Stock Company to travel on board the steamer CORRECT to the mouth of the Enisei where the FRAM had passed by 20 years before. He visited again the Yamal Peninsula, and on the Dixon Island tried to obtain information about the expeditions of Vladimir Rusanov and Georgy Brusilov which were lost in 1913, but his attempts were in vain.

The successful voyage of the CORRECT demonstrated the possibility of commercial shipments across the Kara Sea. The cargo of cement for the construction of the Amurskaya Railway was safely delivered to the user. As for Nansen, who was invited by the Administrator of the Siberian railways to travel along the newly completed Transsiberian Railway from Krasnoyarsk to Vladivostok, he continued his journey up the Enisei, studying the banks of the great river. He was overwhelmed by the hospitable reception in Krasnoyarsk, and then in Irkutsk and Vladivostok, from where he took a train to St. Petersburg. On his way to Khabarovsk he had a meeting with the explorer of the Far Eastern region, Vladimir Arsenyev** who showed him some unique exhibits of the local ethnographic exhibition.

The Siberian journey of Nansen continued for a month and a half. He returned to St. Petersburg in late October and had meetings with colleagues from the Russian Geographical Society, the future President of the Academy of Sciences, Acad. Pyotr Karpinsky, hydrobiologist Nikolai Knipovich and other scientists. He attended a meeting of the Committee which discussed the wintering on Novaya Zemlya of the expedition of Georgy Sedov on board the SVYATOI FOKA vessel. At that time they did not know that the vessel had already reached the Land of


See: V. Koryakin, "Explorer Kolchak", Science in Russia, No. 2, 1996. - Ed.

** See: V. Yessakov, V. Markin, "Dedicated to the Far East", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2000. - Ed.

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Franz Josef from where they intended to continue their journey to the North Pole.

When back in Norway, Nansen took an active part in organizing rescue parties for finding the ships of G. Sedov, V. Rusanov and G. Brusilov. Two ships - GERTA and ECLIPS were bought on his advice and continued their voyages under the Russian flag - the first under the command of Captain Islyamov and the second - of Otto Sverdrup. An official message to the Norwegian captain published in the newspaper "Aftenposten" on July 11, 1914 said; "If you discover new islands, representative of the Naval Ministry will help you in every way to determine their coordinates and they should be under the Russian flag".

But the two rescue ships found no trace of the Rusanov expedition. The ST. FOKA returned in 1914 but without Sedov who had died on the way to the Pole. On the Land of Franz Josef they picked up two members of Brusilov's crew who had left the ship without permission - navigator V. Albanov and sailor A. Konrad.

But in the autumn of 1914 the Sverdrup expedition rendered timely assistance to vessels of the Russian Hydrographic Expedition to the Arctic Ocean - the TAIMYR and VAIGACH, which were trapped by ice near Cape Chelyuskin (the expedition was headed by hydro-geographer and geodesist Boris Vilkitsky)*. Radio communication was maintained with both icebreakers. In the spring of 1915 Sverdrup set up food depots and moved part of the crew from the TAIMYR to the ECLIPS which helped save supplies and prolonged the wintering of part of the Russian crew.

In 1915 Nansen published a book about his journey to Russia. He wrote he fell in love with this vast country stretching from the Urals to the Pacific. Later on he visited Russia again with a humanitarian mission. A monument to Nansen (by sculptor Vladimir Tsigal) was erected in Moscow close to the city center in 2002.

The scientific community of this country gave a high assessment of the achievements of another famous Norwegian explorer - Ruald Amundsen (1872 - 1928). In May 1907 he visited St. Petersburg at an invitation of the Russian Geographical Society. On the following day after his arrival he presented a report on the results of his expedition which passed along the straits of the Canadian arc-


* See article in this issue by Yu. Suprunenko "Turns of Fate". - Ed.

Pages. 57


tic archipelago from the Atlantic to the Pacific along the North-Western passage. He was elected honorary member of the Russian Geographical Society and was greeted at its general meeting by Acad. Semenov Tian-Shansky. Then the pioneer-discoverer of the North Magnetic Pole visited the Geophysical Observatory in Pavlovsk. Incidentally, one of the first magnetic measurement in Russia was conducted by Norwegian scientist Kristoph Hansten on his journey across Siberia in 1828 - 1830 and his maps were used again at the start of the 20th century.

Four years later Amundsen's tent stood on the point of the South Pole. Despite the fact that he regarded as his main objective the establishment of a geographical record, our scientists pointed out that his discoveries also broadened our knowledge about the nature of the polar regions. He was decorated with the Constantinovskaya Medal of the Russian Geographical Society. During that expedition oceanographic studies in the Southern Atlantic were conducted by seamen A. Kruchinin who had been recommended to Amundsen by Nansen.

The functions of a wireless operator during Amundsen's longest voyage on board MOD were carried out by Russian coast-dweller Gennady Olonkin. In September 1918, when Russia was gripped with the Civil War, the ship wintered off the north-eastern coast of the Taimyr. The Norwegians organized scientific observations and sailor Olonkin became the chief assistant of oceanologist Herald Sverdrup and meteorologist Finn Malmgren. These studies continued during the second wintering off the cost of Chukotka in Chaunskay Guba. In the summer of 1920 the expedition ship was repaired at the port of Nome on Alaska after which it returned to Arctic Ocean but without Amundsen, who had left the expedition and was replaced by Otto Sverdrup. The ship made its way through ice near the Novosibirskye Islands, where Toll lost his life. The ship also passed along that area of the sea where Toll had seen outlines of the Land of Sannikov and they found nothing there except ice hummocks.

The ship of the expedition remained in the northern latitudes long enough for its crew to make a substantial contribution to the studies of the archipelago and the surrounding area of the sea. A large expedition of the USSR Academy of Sciences which worked at that time in Yakutya deemed it appropriate to include the materials of the Norwegian expedition into its publications. They were published in Leningrad, edited by Prof. Solomon Wittenburg and with his introduction. The Amundsen-Sverdrup polar expedition of an unprecedented length ended in October 1925.

The good traditions of Russian-Norwegian cooperation in studies of the polar regions, which were founded more than one hundred years ago, are being maintained today. Studies of the Arctic and northern regions are one of the priority areas of economic, scientific and cultural cooperation between our two countries. A number of Russian scientists are working at the Norwegian Polar Institute, University of Tromso and other scientific centers of Norway. A comprehensive program of joint studies in different fields is in progress on Spitsbergen and the Franz Josef Land.


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