13 April 1934 was completed an operation to rescue the Chelyuskinites in the Arctic. Soviet pilots have done the impossible. They reached the camp of a scientific expedition led by O. Schmidt on light aircraft and, having made a 24 flight, rescued people. The whole country watched this heroic epic and was glad to rescue polar explorers. The feat of the Chelyuskinites will be an event that will unite the people. History about the courageous members of the expedition, the sailors and the pilots will talk in schools, and the children will play the game "Chelyuskin".
16 April 1934 was issued by the Decree of the Central Election Commission of the USSR on the establishment of the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. The first Heroes of the USSR were the pilots who participated in this operation - Anatoly Lyapidevsky, Sigismund Levanevsky, Mavriky Slepnev, Nikolai Kamanin, Vasily Molokov, Ivan Doronin and Mikhail Vodopyanov. Lyapidevsky was also awarded the Order of Lenin and received the first Gold Star medal in 1939. The orders of Lenin were awarded and two American flight mechanics - Clyde Armstead and William Levery, who took part in the operation. The direct participants in the wintering camp in the ice camp were awarded orders of the Red Star.
The task of the development of the North and the expedition
Artik in the first half of the twentieth century was considered a tasty morsel, on which many dug. In 1920-ies, Moscow announced that all the lands that are in the Soviet sector of the Arctic belong to the Soviet Union. Despite this, Norway still claimed the land of Franz Joseph. The Northern Sea Route attracted the attention of great powers, including Germany.
In 1878-1879 only the sailing-steam vessel "Vega", under the direction of the Swedish researcher A.E. Nordenskiöld, was able to overcome this most difficult and dangerous path. But with wintering. Wintering deprived such a journey of practical meaning. Before the revolution, the Hydrographic Expedition of the Arctic Ocean, which was established on the initiative of Captain II of the rank of A.V., solved the problem of developing the Northern Route. Kolchak. Hydrographic expedition based in Vladivostok and mainly engaged in the study of the eastern part of the Northern Sea Route. At the same time, polar explorer V.А. Rusanov studied the western part of the path. However, the First World War and the Revolution did not allow the plans of the polar explorers to be realized.
After the victory of the Bolsheviks, both sections of the road acted independently of each other. The western section of the Northern Sea Route, from the Yenisei to the White Sea, was used to export grain from Siberia to the European part of the country. With the beginning of industrialization, it began to export timber from Igarka, and then the nickel ore of Norilsk and Talnakh. The development of Chukotka and Eastern Siberia required the organization of regular flights from Vladivostok.
In Moscow, there were serious plans for the development of the North. On the Northern Sea Route, caravans of ships were to move to the Far East. But for this they needed icebreakers, the appropriate infrastructure - ports, settlements and weather and radio stations. The country needed a path that would connect the European part of Russia with Siberia and the Far East. In 1932, for the first time in a single navigation on the Northern Sea Route, the Sibiryakov icebreaker under the command of captain Vladimir Voronin could break through. The head of the expedition was Otto Schmidt. However, the Soviet Union had few such ships. In addition, "Sibiryakov" received significant damage.
It was necessary to prove the possibility of passage through the Northern Sea Route of ordinary ships that could carry significant cargo. Icebreaking vessels carried mainly coal, which was necessary for them. 11 March 1933 of the year was launched "stepped to navigate in the ice" steamer "Lena" (it was designed to sail between the mouth of the Lena and Vladivostok), the future "Chelyuskin." It was built by the Soviet order in Denmark. The vessel had a displacement of 7,5 thousand tons. The steamboat arrived in Leningrad on 5 on June 1933. There, it was renamed “Chelyuskin”, in honor of the Russian explorer of the 18th century, S.I. Chelyuskin.
Although the ship did not make a single test voyage, in the same year it was sent on a difficult expedition. On July 16, the steamboat left Leningrad and, rounding the Scandinavian Peninsula, arrived in Murmansk. 2 August 1933, taking the 112 man on board, the Chelyuskin left Murmansk for Vladivostok. The commander of the steamer was an experienced captain V. I. Voronin, the head of the expedition, corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences O. Yu. Schmidt. The ship’s crew itself was 52 man, the expedition members were 29 man, the rest of the polar explorers and workers who were heading to Wrangel Island. The backbone of the crew were 19 seafarers and scientists, led by captain V. Voronin and navigator M. Markov, who participated in the expedition "Sibiryakova". The most experienced polar explorer, not counting Captain Voronin, was the radio operator E. Krenkel (he was a radio communications specialist in arctic conditions). Krenkel wintered on Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land and participated in a hike on the Sibiryakov icebreaker. In addition, on board were 9 women. Including the pregnant wife of surveyor V. Vasilyeva, the family was heading to Wrangel Island. The head of the wintering on Wrangel Island P. Buiko also went with his wife and little daughter.
It should be noted that the work in the North at that time was as prestigious and honorable as cosmonautics in the future. Arctic achievements have become one of the heroic pages of the young Soviet state. The exploits and achievements of polar explorers did not leave the pages of newspapers and books. Sublime and pragmatic combined in the development of the North.
One of the tasks of the expedition was the change of winter workers on Wrangel Island (its inhabitants already 4, were without connection with the mainland). We also wanted to consolidate the experience of the previous expedition. For wiring in the heavy ice, the expedition identified the icebreaker Krasin. In addition, Chelyuskin was given an Amphibious W-2 amphibious aircraft with an experienced pilot, M.S. Grandma.
Mathematician Otto Yulievich Schmidt became the man who was able to make a decisive contribution to the development of the Northern Route. A brilliant mathematician who took an active part in the creation of the Soviet education system, Schmidt was the founder and editor-in-chief of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. The scientist was fond of mountaineering and had to take part in the Tajik-Pamir expedition. However, the expedition did not take place and Schmidt was asked to take part in the study of another little-studied area - Franz Josef Land. The islands were within the Russian polar possessions. Russia declared rights to them back in 1916, and the USSR confirmed the application ten years later. All known and unknown lands between the meridians of the Bering Strait - in the east and the Rybachy Peninsula - in the west were declared Russian (later Soviet) possessions. But for the practical legalization of this announcement, it was necessary to begin the economic development of these territories.
During the expedition to Franz Josef Land in 1929, Otto Schmidt, who had the authority of a government commissioner, gained polar experience for the first time in his life. This new line of activity has completely captured it. A year later, Schmidt explored the Northern Land. Then, as the director of the All-Union Arctic Institute of the North, he aboard the ship Sibiryakov for the first time in history, overcame the Northern Sea Route without wintering. It was a great success, which Stalin personally noted. The Main Directorate of the Northern Sea Route (GU NSR) was established. Schmidt led it. His task is to finally pave the way and equip it from the White Sea to the Bering Strait.
The crossing of the Kara Sea was accompanied by several events. The Chelyuskin, although following the icebreaker, received several minor damages (loss of rivets, dents and deformation of the frames, etc.). The location of the island of Solitude was clarified. 21 August had to part with the "Krasin", the icebreaker had to accompany the ships going to Lena. Now the crew could count only on themselves.
At first, the ice situation in general favored the expedition, but when entering the East Siberian Sea, the ice situation deteriorated. Captain Voronin noted in his diary: "How difficult is it to walk among the ice on a weak Chelyuskin, besides badly listening to the helm ...". However, the most difficult tests were waiting for the expedition in the Chukchi Sea, where the ship entered in mid-September. Aerial reconnaissance showed the impossibility of visiting Wrangel Island, the path was tightly closed by heavy ice. Besides, the ship soon found itself caught in ice. September 23 ship was completely blocked. From the shore to him dog sleds snuck Chukchi. With them, 8 people were sent to the mainland - the sick and those who needed to return home before the end of the year.
The Chelyuskin drifted along with the ice. November 4, thanks to a successful drift along with the ice, the vessel entered the Bering Strait. Three quarters of a mile remained to clean water. On the same day, icebreaker "Litke" (the flagship of the North-Eastern polar expedition of the People's Commissariat of Water), who was near, offered assistance. However, the leadership of the expedition, knowing about the damage of the ice-cutter, whose crew barely had time to pump out the water, refused. In the evening, Chelyuskin dragged back to the Chukchi Sea. After 10 days, the ship was at Cape Hop, Alaska. Then they asked Litke for help. The sailors of the ice-cutter, who were threatened with death at any moment, did everything possible and approached the Chelyuskin on 25 km, but were stopped by an impassable multi-year ice pack. Schmidt and Voronin, fearing the death of Litke, released an ice cutter.
Wintering and evacuation
13 February 1934 of the year “Chelyuskin” was crushed by ice and sank. The evacuation was quick and clear, so we managed to unload several tons of food, equipment, fuel and various things necessary for survival. At roll call, it turned out that B. Mogilevich, the farm manager, was killed, a barrel rolled along the deck, and he went along with the vessel to the ice abyss.
Moscow attached great importance to the salvation of the Chelyuskin crew. Two days after the shipwreck, a special commission was established, headed by Valerian Kuybyshev. The commission acted in several directions at once. Dismantled airships were sent by rail to Vladivostok, they planned to transfer them to Chukotka by sea. From Leningrad through the Atlantic, Panama Canal and further went the icebreaker Krasin, whose crew had extensive experience saving people in the North. However, the main hopes were placed on Aviation.
At this time, Chelyuskinites passed a severe school of survival. People did not lose heart, they believed that they would be saved and did everything to wait for help. The first days were the hardest. But then even in the Arctic a severe life was established. They built a barrack from the rescued materials, settling there up to half the crew. The rest lived in tents. Built a galley and signal tower. Great work is constantly carried out on the ice airfield. He was constantly destroyed by the shifts of ice, he had to carry out new work.
The coast was located about 150 km from the camp, but Schmidt forbade hiking. Women and children, and indeed many men, could not have reached the coast. Too many dangers concealed such a transition, especially in the absence of the necessary equipment. Dissatisfied harshly humbled. Schmidt said directly that he would open fire. Sprouts of doubt and panic had to be suppressed at the very beginning. The leadership of the expedition, from the rich experience of previous polar expeditions, knew that crossing over drifting ice was extremely dangerous. And even for well-trained, having food and special equipment for people. Under their conditions, such a transition threatened many, if not all, with death. We decided to wait for help from the mainland.
The decision was right. At Cape Olyutorka, the ships were unloaded and collected aircraft for flights to the Chelyuskin camp. From there, they made their way to the village of Vankarem. March 5 (about 3 weeks after the catastrophe) pilot Anatoly Lyapidevsky already on the heavy twin-engined ANT-4 (TB-1) took the first batch of Chelyuskinites (ten women and two children) from the floe. Lyapidevsky made a real feat. According to him, the landing site was small - about 450 on 150 meters, and 650 meters on 150 were required. However, nothing happened. Lyapidevsky's flight on the heavy ATN-4 was the only one, then lighter aircraft were used.
The next flight could only arrive on April 7. It was Slepnev on the American Fleuster monoplane. The plane was damaged during landing. Behind him sat Vasily Molokov, Nikolai Kamanin on single-engine Soviet aircraft R-5. Soviet cars could not take a lot of people. They were built as scouts and light bombers. Molokov and Kamanin took the 5 man (the fifth was “superfluous,” the driver Martisov was shoved into a parachute box under the fuselage). Slepnev was waiting for spare parts.
In the future, “the air bridge worked non-stop. For a week, the Soviet pilots on light aircraft took all. The pilots Vasily Molokov, Nikolai Kamanin, Mikhail Vodopyanov took out people on single-engine P-5 airplanes, and Ivan Doronin on W-34 Junkers. Schmidt wanted to leave the camp one of the last, categorically refusing to leave the camp. However, he began to progress old pulmonary disease, there was a threat of death of the leader of the expedition. Therefore, by order from Moscow, he had to hand over the leadership to his deputy Bobrov. Schmidt was taken to Alaska in order to provide medical aid as soon as possible.
13 April was made the last flight. The last to leave the camp were Captain Voronin, Bobrov, radio operator Krenkel and commander of the Pogosov landing area. Total was made 24 flight. Molokov and Kamanin, made 9 flights (Molokov took 39 people, Kamanin - 34), Vodopianov - 3 flights (evacuating 10 people). The rest were saved by Slepnev and Doronin. People were transported to the Chukchi camp Vankarem, which was located in 140 — 160 km from the ice station. Pilot M.S. Babushkin and flight mechanic Georgy Valavin 2 of April independently left the ice floe in Vankarem on an W-2 aircraft, which was saved from the drowned Chelyuskin. Saved everyone.
The fate of the Chelyuskinites, the feat of seamen, polar explorers and pilots made the whole country united. Now it’s hard to believe, but from February to April 1934, the entire Soviet Union began the day by asking what happens on the ice floe. All greedily caught information on the radio, read and re-read the newspaper. The return of the Chelyuskinites was a triumph for the entire USSR. Their journey from Vladivostok to Moscow was literally covered with flowers. All members of the expedition and the pilots became real heroes and did not leave the front pages of newspapers and radio programs. The Soviet people exulted. It was an incomparable unity of the people. His victory. The parade on Red Square was the highest point of exultation of people, when Chelyuskin people were brought from the station along the flooded streets of the capital flooded with triumphant people.
The practical experience of the expedition was not forgotten and taken into account. They began to build new cargo ships of the Dezhnev type and linear icebreakers of the Stalin type. In addition, it became clear the need to create a detachment of a special polar aviation. Soon he created. At the same time, the idea of creating a special drifting station. In 1937, such a station appeared (“North Pole”). It was the world's first polar research drifting station. The Chelyuskin team also took part in its creation.