Albanov Valerian Ivanovich

Navigator, member of the expedition G.L. Brusilov on the schooner "St. Anna".
For a long time, information about the life of Albanov before the expedition was extremely scarce and ambiguous. However, now, thanks to years of research by the famous Ufa writer M.A. Chvanov, Ufa local lore researcher V.Z. Kuzmina and V.A. Troitsky, it was possible to establish: Alban was born not in 1881, but in 1882 and not in Voronezh, but in Ufa in the family of a military veterinary doctor who served in the Cossack regiment of the Orenburg army stationed there. For a short time the family lived in Voronezh, then in Orenburg, where the boy studied in the preparatory class of the gymnasium. Due to the fact that his father was often absent for military service, his uncle took care of the child, at the request of which Alban was accepted into the preparatory class of the Ufa gymnasium in 1891. After graduating from the gymnasium two classes (in the first remained in the second year) and half of the third, which was equal to the completion of studies in public schools, on the basis of an uncle's petition referring to family circumstances, in 1895 he was dismissed. It is further known that at the age of 17, i.e. in 1899, Albanov entered the Petersburg nautical classes. After finishing them in 1904, he sailed on various ships in the Baltic Sea, and in 1905 he moved to Krasnoyarsk and enrolled as an assistant captain on the steamer "Ob", which was part of the Northern Sea Expedition of the Ministry of Railways, which transported railways from Europe to Yenisei for the Circum-Baikal Railway. Albanov served on the Ob on the summer navigation of 1905–1906, having received excellent maritime and pilotage practice, as well as knowledge of the peculiarities of navigation on the Yenisei, which would be useful to him more than once afterwards.
In November 1906, after the dismantling of the Northern Sea Expedition, Albanov moved to the Caspian Sea and the entire 1907 sailed as a navigator on the steamers "Slava" and "Soyuz", which made passenger-passenger flights from Baku to Astrakhan and Krasnovodsk. Here he sailed the last months of the qualification necessary for obtaining a diploma of navigator navigator, which he received in February 1908. He did not succeed in entering the ocean vessel immediately, and in the 1908 season he was content with the position of senior navigator on the Astarta high-speed steam yacht, which made urgent commercial flights between St. Petersburg and the ports of the Baltic countries.
In 1909–1911 Albanov served on the steamer “Kildin”, which made flights between Arkhangelsk and the ports of England, as well as on the steamer “Grand Duchess Xenia”.
In 1912, Albanov met Brusilov and willingly accepted his offer to participate in the expedition on “St. Anna"as a navigator.
The expedition ship left St. Petersburg on July 28 (August 10), 1912, and on August 28 (September 10), after a short stop, left Alexandrovsk-on-Murman. Having passed on September 4 (17) through the Yugorsky Shar into the Kara Sea, “St. Anna” in the beginning of October was covered with ice near the western coast of Yamal and stood in place for two weeks. On October 15 (28), when the ship was in the area of 71º 47 N, the ice was torn off and carried to the north, and since then “St. Anna" no one has ever seen. The further course of the expedition is known only from Albanov, one of the two surviving participants.
The drift was almost exactly northward. In February 1913, the vessel, overwhelmed with ice, passed through the extreme northern point of Novaya Zemlya, Cape Zhelaniya, and at the end of the year already crossed 82º N, being in the Polar Basin to the northeast of Franz Josef Land archipelago, from where the direction of drift abruptly changed to the west. During the first wintering part of the crew, including Albanova, got sick with what seemed to be a strange and serious illness. Now we can safely assume that it was trichinosis, which people got from eating badly boiled down bear meat. The attempts made in the summer to free themselves from the ice captivity were unsuccessful. The expedition stayed for the second wintering, the participants suffered much worse than the first. Despite the successful summer hunt, nutritional problems began to arise, but the main thing was that wintering affected the morale of the people. A serious conflict arose between Brusilov and Albanov, which grew into mutual hostility. As a result, Albanov asked the commander to remove him from the duties of the navigator. This happened in January 1914, and soon he turned to Brusilov for permission to build a kayak in order to leave the ship in the spring. As follows from the records of Brusilov, he allowed him, "understanding his plight on the ship". Upon learning of this, 13 team members decided to go with Albanov. Their departure was a favorable factor for the remaining part of the team, as it allowed them to stretch their food supplies for a longer period. Preparing for the march turned out to be a very complicated procedure, which required a lot of patience, skill and ingenuity from the participants. Of the auxiliary, often unsuitable means, without a special tool, 7 kayaks and 7 sledges were built in the cold, clothes were sewn or fixed, provisions, fuel, tools, weapons, ammunition and many other necessary equipment were selected and packed. About 65 pounds of cargo were collected, including 600 kg of food, most of which were rye crackers. The best set on "St. Anna"at this point was simply not there. Despite all the efforts, the equipment was extremely imperfect and far from the samples developed by the experience of polar voyages. The situation was aggravated by the fact that there were no Franz Josef Land cards on the ship where the outgoing group was to go. Albanov was forced to use an enlarged scheme and extracts from the book of Nansen.
The Albanov Group started on 10 (23) April 1914 from the point with coordinates 82º 58.5′N. and 60º 5′E. The nearest land, Cape Fligeli on Rudolph Island was 65 miles southwest of them. A meager set of food was calculated for 2 months. Albanov Brusilov sent the materials of the expedition and, as it was believed, the letters of the expedition to “St. Anna"participants.
The first three days there was almost no movement. Due to the snowstorm and strong southern wind, the sailors were forced to sit in a tent. Only on April 13 (26), the definitions showed that they were blown to the north: 83º 17′N. and 60ºE
The march to the Franz Josef Land was incredibly difficult and for the participants who withstood all the tests it was a feat, as those who familiarized themselves with Albanov’s diary fairly evaluate it. Weakened after two winterings, the people were not able to pull the entire load at a height of hummocks at one time. It had to be moved in parts, which sharply reduced the speed of movement, which did not exceed 3-4 km per day. Began sifting participants. After 10 days, three sailors could not stand the way and were released to the ship by Albanov. No one knows and will never know if they managed to do it.


Albanov's detachment is moving to Franz Josef Land.
Picture V. Albanov.


The released two sledges and two kayaks were dismantled for fuel. The remaining 11 people, except for Albanov, P. Maksimov, I. Lunyaev, O. Nielsen, A. Konrad, P. Smirennikov, J. Regald, P. Baev, A. Archiereev, E. Shpakovsky and V. Gubanov, tearing, continued movement through the hummocks on the snow that started to soak. On 3 (16) May, the group suffered its first loss: the sailor Bayev left for ice exploration and did not return. The hardest moral blow came upon travelers after astronomical determinations made by Albanov. It turned out that the ice was drifting rapidly to the west, taking them farther and farther from the coveted Cape Fleegeli. The group was carried past the earth, and this undermined many people with faith in success. Only the iron, indomitable will of Albanov made people rise and move on. Finally, on June 5 (18), the tops of the glaciers of some land appeared on the horizon. The path to it was blocked by piles of hummocks interlaced with streaks and canals. It took another 20 days to overcome them and cling to the island’s most western projection. By the time of landing, 2 kilograms of crackers, 200 grams of dried meat and a kilogram of salt remained on the ground. Fortunately, there was a huge bird market in the area of the landing site. Travelers literally gorged on bird meat and eggs. After the necessary rest, we had to move on, as Albanov had planned for Cape Flora on  Northbrook Island, where he expected to find shelter and food. However, the problem was that according to his map, Albanov could not determine their location. And here luck finally turned to them. Shpakovsky and Konrad, during a hunt, discovered a stone gury, having disassembled which found a note in English. It turned out that she was abandoned in 1897 by the wonderful F. Jackson, the savior of Nansen, who now actually saved them. From the note it follows that the travelers are on Cape Mary Harmsworth, the most western tip of  Land of Alexandra Island, far serving in the sea. All doubts were dispelled. As Albanov wrote, "now we are on a known path". Three days later, they moved east along the southern tip of the island and then through the strait to the island Georg Land. Five people, including Albanov, moved on two kayaks, the other five walked along the edge of the glacier and fast ice. Oddly enough, but it was after reaching the ground, the very fact of which was supposed to encourage people, their losses followed. Literally by force, Albanov had to force his companions to move. “They don’t want to go, they want to live and relax somewhere on the first cliff, or even on the ice. In vain, I argue with them all the rashness of this plan, saying that now the sea is free of ice, but we do not know what will happen next”.  In the land group, the sailor of the bishops was exhausted and could not move on. Comrades threw him, afraid to fall behind the maritime group. The next day Alban forced them to return, but the bishops were already dead. His body was left on the glacier - “Does it matter where the dead person lies?”. There are 9 people left. Albanov made a permutation, taking on kayaks the weakest people from the land group. He did everything to reach Cape Flora, "the Jackson estate", as quickly as possible. “Let us not find there any buildings that could collapse, but we will find these ruins, restore them as much as possible, replenish our reserves of provisions, since we still have a lot of cartridges left and re-winter there in better conditions than anywhere else. During the winter, we will fix the sledges and kayaks, we will make new kayaks ... .., and then it will be possible to think about either Svalbard or Novaya Zemlya”. Here it is a simple and ambitious plan for Albanov. There are no impossible tasks for this indomitable person, and in fact he was more difficult than even Nansen and Johansen. There were two healthy people, prepared for everything, strong in spirit, and under the leadership of Albanov there was a group consisting mainly of exhausted and fallen people who had lost faith in success and the desire for life. They not only could not help, they were the hardest burden.
On the night of 3 (16) on 4 (17) July, the party of 5 people in kayaks reached the southern end of the Land of George - Cape Grant. There was no ground group, which included Maximov, Smirennikov, Gubanov and Regald. In vain waited for them for two days and headed further east to the island. Bell, from which  Northbrook Island with the desired Cape Flora. By the time of arrival on about. Bell finally exhausted sailor Nielsen. He could not stand, stopped talking and eating. Waking up in the morning, the comrades saw him already numb. He was buried in a shallow grave, laying on top of a hill of stones and frozen ground. [1]

[1] In 1953  cartographers of the Glavsevmorput  in honor of Nielsen was named the bay in the west of the island of Bell, and in honor of Gubanov cape in the north of the island of Meibel.

On July 8 (21), 4 people of the Albanov group on two kayaks in calm weather began the last journey to Cape Flora. When they reached about the middle of the strait, a strong wind rose, growing into a storm. In the fog, among the ice kayaks lost each other. Albanov and his partner sailor Konrad managed to land on a small iceberg with all their property, where they spent the night. “Our awakening was terrible”, writes Albanov. The iceberg cracked and the travelers found themselves in icy water. Miraculously, they managed to get out of a sleeping bag and get up, in only one sock, on the projecting underwater part of the iceberg. "Malitsy, boots, hats, blankets, mittens and other items that we hastily caught and threw on the ice floated around". Saved by the fact that the kayak, safe and sound, also fell into the water. Having thrown everything into it that was possible, breaking the sledges and taking several fragments with them, they got into a kayak and began to row fiercely. After 6 hours of furious rowing, they again landed on  Bell Island/  Having warmed by the fire and fortified with hot dive soup, having a little rest, the travelers again got into a kayak and finally, after an incredibly difficult three-month hike, we reached Cape Flora. What they saw exceeded all their best expectations. They found sufficiently suitable housing, and simply huge reserves of a variety of food left over from the expeditions that had been here before. Encouraged by these travelers, despite the unimportant physical condition, especially among Albanov, began active preparations for the winter. Konrad sailed to Cape Grant, hoping to discover a second kayak with Lunyaev and Shpakovsky and a land group. No one could be found, these people disappeared without a trace. In the second kayak, among other things, Albanov’s notes for the drift period on “St. Anna".  


Archipelago Franz Josef Land. August 2011

(view from space)


Fortunately, it was not necessary to winter again. 11 days later, on July 20 (August 2), the expedition vessel G.Ya. Sedov "St. Foka", returning from  Hooker Island home, approached  Cape Flora. By this time, the coal supplies had run out on the ship, and the polar explorers intended to dismantle the big house of the Jackson expedition, which Albanov and Konrad were preparing for their winter, and the barn with provisions for fuel. From Sedovtsev Albanov learned that on about. Bell is the well-preserved home of the expedition B. Lee-Smith with a small warehouse of provisions and a working bot, to which they have not reached some 200–300 steps. These 200-300 steps actually decided the fate of their comrades who were on the second kayak.


Memorial plaque at Cape Flora. Established in 2005

(photo by A. Barakov)

July 26 (August 8) “St. Foka” went home and after 22 days of swimming approached Rynd’s camp on the Murmansk shore. After another 2 days on the passenger ship Albanov and Konrad arrived in Arkhangelsk.
Thus ended the polar odyssey of navigator Albanov, which contemporaries rightfully called a feat. The value of what he accomplished is extremely great. He showed what a person is capable of in extreme conditions. Albanov not only saved himself and his friend, he brought information about the two-year drift of “St. Anna”, essentially extending the life of the expedition members by two years. Information about the drift of the vessel and Albanov's campaign to the FBL finally removed the question of the non-existent lands of Peterman and King Oscar. Data logbook "St. Anna” allowed to predict the existence of land or large shallow water to the east of the FBI, the materials of two-year meteorological observations during the drift were of great scientific importance.
Albanov's subsequent life in the wake of the world and civil wars was very restless. A man who has experienced so much in the north and dreamed of warm lands there, having returned, again connects himself with the north. After a short period of work onshore as an auditor, he served as a senior assistant on the Canada icebreaker (F. Litke), and since 1918 he sailed the North ship as part of the Ob-Yenisei hydrographic detachment, participated in the inventory of the Dickson bay area. There is no complete clarity on the time of the death of Albanov. It was believed that his life ended at the end of 1919 somewhere near Achinsk not either from typhus, or from the explosion of a train with ammunition. Recent studies by M.A. Chvanov brought information that it was as if Albanov visited his mother in Krasnoyarsk shortly before her death, that is, in 1932 or 1933.
During his life in 1917, Albanov managed to publish his notes entitled “To the South, to Franz-Josef Land”.
Many mysteries and ambiguities associated with the expedition of Brusilov. In addition to the main one - the fate of "St. Anna’s" and her team’s members, there are many versions and assumptions about the reasons for the gap between Brusilov and Albanov, the role of Yerminia Zhdanko in this. All this is known only from Albanov, Conrad always walked away from talking about the expedition. Clarification could have been the solution to another riddle: where did the mail, transferred by Brusilov to Albanov, and which Albanov vowed to save, go to. In Albanov's diary there are frequent references to her, it is clear that she was saved before joining the FIA, it is not said anywhere that she was lost. If Albanov for some reason did not want to deliver her, he could have said that she died at one of the crossings. But this is not in his notes, and there is no mail. None of the relatives of the expedition members received any correspondence. V. Z. Kuzmina believes that the letters that all the remaining participants had intensely written for a few days remained with Brusilov. I quote her: "The letters of ordinary people have no place in the package addressed to the high chief". But, firstly, as you know, the Brusilov and Zhdanko families had very high-ranking representatives, and secondly, where are the letters? They did not write them in order to leave. A rather real explanation is given by MA Chvanov: “Due to the difficult relations with Albanov, Brusilov hardly trusted him with personal letters, especially since they may have had unflattering characteristics of Albanov. Most likely, he secretly from Albanov entrusted them to P. Maximov or I. Regalda.  True, it is strange that Albanov thoroughly, knowing in detail the entire load that they had to carry, never once paid attention to this, most likely, very voluminous place.
There is another source of information about the Brusilov expedition. This is Conrad's diary, which was transferred by his wife in 1940 to the Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic and is still kept there. This is a shabby notebook in black calico cover of 76 pages. An inquisitive researcher, upon careful reading, could extract from the diary a grain of information, at least to some extent, shedding light on the riddles of the expedition. But .... This notebook is not the original diary. This is a copy made later and surely edited. We know that Konrad refused to talk about the expedition, he was obviously hiding something, did not want to talk about something. There is no doubt that this “something” was removed from the diary during rewriting.

An island in the area of Dickson Island. Named by Dixon hydrographs (at the suggestion of VA Troitsky) in 1962.
Cape in the east of the Hooker Island archipelago Franz-Josef Land. Named by Soviet cartographers.
Glacier on the island of the October Revolution of the archipelago Severnaya Zemlya. Named in 1953.



Since 1972, the hydrographic vessel "Valerian Albanov" has been operating in the Arkhangelsk hydrobase.


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