Ermolaev Mikhail Mikhailovich 
(16(29).12.1905–24.11.1991)


Geologist and geographer, Arctic explorer, doctor of geological and mineralogical sciences, professor, honorary member of the Russian Geographical Society. 
Born in Petersburg. In 1922 he entered the correspondence department of the Polytechnic Institute and at the same time began to work in the Northern scientific and fishing expedition of the Higher Council of National Economy (later the Arctic Institute). 
In 1924 an event occurred in the life of Yermolaev, which determined his entire fate. During the famous terrible floods in Leningrad, he saved people, caught a cold, got a severe pneumonia, which passed into short-term consumption. The young man literally melted in front of his eyes, there was complete apathy, the desire to live disappeared. The conclusion of Professor Sternberg, a famous lung doctor, was terrible: “With a prudent lifestyle, constant treatment and careful attention to yourself, you will live another year or two. I no longer promise, but less - you can". The reaction of Yermolaev to this sentence was completely unexpected. Why graduate, you need to have time to do something immediately. The Northern Expedition planned sailing on the sailing-motor vessel "Elding" to Novaya Zemlya. Yermolaev appealed to the chief R.L. Samoylovich, who was married to his older sister, with a request to take him on a campaign. Samoilovich, knowing all the circumstances nevertheless agreed.And a miracle happened - Yermolaev returned healthy. The terms of his duties were determined without any discounts for youth (he was the youngest participant) and health. On board, he was engaged in analytical work, and during landings on the shore - geological studies, first under the leadership of Samoilovich as a collector, and then independently as a geologist-surveyor. Before the start of the campaign, Yermolaev had to learn as soon as possible the basics of geology, which he had never done before. 
The expedition on the "Elding" passed from Arkhangelsk to the northern island of Novaya Zemlya, rounded it from the north and carried out an inventory of the east coast, which has been practically not visited since P.K. Pakhtusov. The bays of Rusanov, Neupokoeva and Sedov, discovered in 1910 by V.A. Rusanov, made several hydrological stations, which allowed, among other things, to establish the penetration into the Kara Sea of ​​the branch of the Gulf Stream, raised marine fauna and soil samples. Yermolaev participated in all on-board work, and also conducted a semi-instrumental survey of the coast, combining it with geological routes. 
The first Arctic expedition determined the fate of Yermolaev. He no longer returned to the Polytechnic Institute, enrolling in the correspondence department of the geographical faculty of the Leningrad University. 
In 1926, the young Ermolaev at the request of academician F.Yu. Levinson-Lessing, who liked his work on the formation of basalt prisms, tracked down and processed the geological collection of academician F.N. Chernyshov brought him from Timan. Following this, a new proposal was received: to go to the Chernyshov research sites and find out the genesis of the samples of nepheline syenite found by him, the most important ore-forming rock. The peculiarity of this expedition was that it consisted of one Ermolaev, and the question of transporting it to the place of work was his personal matter. Yermolaev managed to negotiate with the leadership of the fishing expedition, sent to the Czech Bay on the familiar to him "Elding". In late July, he was landed on the shore and left alone with the promise to pick up in two weeks. Every geologist who has worked in the Arctic knows that you are planning a trip for two weeks, bear in mind two months. It happened this time. By the appointed time, Yermolaev had completed his mission, prepared the collections, but the ship did not arrive on time. After waiting a month, he went to the nearest village on the Indigo River, then planning to descend to the mouth of the meteorological station there, where, according to his calculations, "Elding" could arrive. Traveling alone, accompanied by one of the local residents, with whom he had the best relations, Yermolaev reached the mouth, where he finally met the long-awaited "Elding". In the process of travel, he did not stop the study, significantly expanding and clarifying ideas about the geology of this, then practically unexplored region. The results of his Timan expedition were highly appreciated by the scientific community. 
In 1927, Yermolayev worked on Novaya Zemlya, and on his return he received an invitation from N.V. Pinegin to take part in his expedition to the New Siberian Islands. Planned organization of the polar station on the southeastern tip of Big Lyakhovsky Island - Cape Shalaurov. The views of Pinegin and Ermolaev on the role of the latter in the expedition completely coincided. In the summer, Yermolaev was supposed to be released from the routine work at the station to conduct a geological and geomorphological survey of the island. 
At the end of May 1928, the winterers arrived by train to Irkutsk, moved to the upper reaches of the Lena and went down to Yakutsk on the karabas, where the motor pole schooner Polar Star, a veteran of the Arctic and Asian waters, was waiting for them. On it, the polar explorers reached Tiksi, reloading, went into the sea on August 10, and only by the end of the month, after 9 days in ice captivity, crossed the strait Dm. Laptev and landed on the site of the future wintering. By the end of September, the house was ready, and the station began to conduct the usual complex of hydrometeorological and geophysical observations. Wintering was successful, some events from the station’s life were included in the plot of the popular film S.A. Gerasimov "Seven brave", the scientific adviser of which was Ermolaev. 
When summer came, Yermolaev, with an artel of local industrialists, set off on a long-awaited journey around the island, the route of which passed along almost its entire perimeter. In the history of Bolshoi Lyakhovsky, it was the third geological survey after the works of  A.A. Bunge in 1885–1886 and K.A. Vollosovich in 1901. The materials obtained by Yermolaev were an important contribution to the study of geomorphology, paleogeography, stratigraphy, magmatism, and tectonics of the Novosibirsk islands.They have been used by geologists for decades. Yermolaev first drew attention to the fact that the direct relief factor on  Big Lyakhovsky Island are thermal processes. It was Ermolaev who introduced the term “thermokarst” into science. The finds of fossil animals, which are now stored in the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences, turned out to be very valuable, they also found traces of Paleolithic human settlements on the Kigilyi peninsula. 
Unfortunately, not everything conceived by Yermolaev in this expedition was realized. At the end of the route, he received a message from Pinegin about the need for an immediate return to the station. The Polar Star, which was supposed to deliver a shift of polar explorers and everything necessary for the next wintering, died at Cape Buor-Khaya. It was necessary to return to the mainland under its own power. 
All the way from the island to Leningrad took six months. Before the release, in order to maximize the safety of unique materials, polar explorers duplicated all the final tables of meteorological, upper-air and other special observations. In order to take out all the numerous geological, zoological and botanical collections, a huge number of photonegatives, which were glass at that time, people sacrificed personal belongings and food, taking with them only the most necessary things. 
We went on a journey in the midst of the polar night of December 18th. The first stage to the village of Kazachiy at the mouth of the Yana was 450 km, then they moved south to Verkhoyansk, overcame 650 km in severe frosts, and then, having crossed the Verkhoyansk range, reached Yakutsk. Here the group is divided. Pinegin flew to Moscow, and all the rest, with the exception of Yermolaev, went by horse to Irkutsk and then by train to Leningrad. Yermolayev had a long way to the east. The fact is that his collection contained materials that do not tolerate heat: tissues and frozen parts of the bodies of large fossil animals, as well as a sample of fossil ice, which he was to deliver to Moscow on the order of the President of the Academy of Sciences A.P. Karpinsky. Together with one accompanying person, Ermolaev traveled 700 km along the Siberian taiga to Aldan, where there was still winter and from there by car to the nearest railway station Bolshoi Never. Valuable samples in special packaging were placed in a cold insulating car, and after 6 days this unparalleled transition was successfully completed in Leningrad. 
According to published in 1931-1933. the results of wintering on the Bolshoy Lyakhovsky island to Yermolaev, who does not even have a higher education diploma, in March 1937 without a degree were awarded the degree of Candidate of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences. 
In 1932-1933 Yermolaev headed the Russian Harbor Geophysical Observatory on Novaya Zemlya, which conducted research in the framework of the II International Polar Year. 
In addition to performing geological profiles that allowed laying the foundations of the Paleozoic Novaya Zemlya stratigraphy, he, together with German geophysicist K. Velcken, made seismometric determinations of the thickness of continental ice, previously used only in Greenland, and carried out studies on the stratosphere.

 

Wölken Glacier

(photo E.A.Korago)

 

During wintering on Novaya Zemlya the remarkable human qualities of Yermolaev once again appeared. He, who did not have a medical education, had to undergo a surgical operation to one of the industrialists, who received a severe frostbite of his hands. Without this operation, the man was doomed to death. Yermolaev already had a similar experience: in 1929, when returning from Bolshoi Lyakhovsky, he saved the Yakut industrialist in the same way. At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Glavsevmorput leadership, Ermolaev directly addressed M.I. Kalinina with a request to organize an expedition to transport people from the Novaya Zemlya field camps, in which scurvy began to rage. Thanks to this appeal, a rescue mission was organized by the government commission on the Krasin icebreaker. In order to organize radio communications, Yermolaev and two comrades had to go on a snowmobile to Cape Desire, and after breaking the sledge on foot to cross the Novaya Zemlya ice sheet. This event is also included in the plot of the film "Seven brave". At the end of the wintering period, Yermolaev was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. 
Since 1934, the young scientist headed the geological sector of the Arctic Institute, under his leadership organized expeditions to Novaya Zemlya, ZFI, arch. De Long, in the period 1935–1938 he participated in three high-latitude expeditions, incl. in 1937–1938 on icebreaking steamer "Sadko". This expedition for him, as for many other polar explorers, was the last. In 1937, the entire Soviet polar naval fleet was on the route of the Northern Sea Route, and all the ships were captured in ice. There were objective reasons for this - this tragic year in the history of the Soviet Union was also anomalously difficult for the ice situation in the Arctic. However, subjective reasons were also found. The authorities found the enemies of the people, mainly from the leadership and composition of the teams of wintering ships. According to Yermolaev, the main reason was the helplessness and incompetence of the Glavsevmorput leadership, which O. Yu. Led at that time. Schmidt, in fact, completely switched to the organization of the North Pole - 1 drifting station. 
In 1938, on his return from the drift, Yermolayev was arrested. I.D. Papanin, either guessing about the upcoming arrest of Yermolayev, or knowing something about it, said: “Yermolaychik, stay here with me, live with me at the dacha, hunt together ...”. But Yermolaev was in a great hurry to go home to his family, to his younger son Mikhail, who had just been born, and did not obey Papanin. Upon arrest, they confiscated his almost ready doctoral thesis, which then disappeared without a trace. At first he was recognized as a French and German spy, then the case was discontinued and immediately brought a new charge - of sabotage. Other geologists were also involved in this case, including N.N. Urvantsev. Yermolaev was sentenced to 12 years in prison - “the sentence is final, not subject to appeal”. Nevertheless, in February 1940, this final sentence was overturned "for lack of corpus delicti". However, in August, Yermolaev was arrested again and sentenced to 8 years in a forced labor camp without a court.He stayed in the camps until 1944 and was early released for good work on the construction of the Northern Railway. He was left on the same construction only now as a civilian. Only after the end of the war, Yermolayev was given the opportunity to move to Syktyvkar, in 1953 he was amnestied, and in 1955 he received permission to return to Leningrad. 
After liberation and rehabilitation in 1959–1970. Yermolaev worked at the Department of Physical Geography of the Leningrad University, in 1965 at the Institute of Geology and Geochemistry of the Academy of Sciences he defended his doctoral dissertation entitled "The Origin and Development of Bauxite-Bearing Facies and Bauxite Deposits on the Eastern Slope of the Baltic Shield". Already in his declining years, he threw out an established Leningrad life and moved to Kaliningrad, where he organized the only ocean geography department in the country at the university, whose leadership he combined with the duties of vice-rector for scientific work. In Kaliningrad, he completed his main book, Introduction to Physical Geography. 
In 1983, Yermolayev returned to Leningrad. The years have taken their toll. His physical and mental state began to deteriorate noticeably, but he continued to work, preparing a book of memoirs, which was released after his death. 
He died in Leningrad, a little before the age of 86, and was buried at the Serafimov cemetery. He was an eminent scientist and a man whose potential turned out to be not fully realized due to the fact that his best, most productive years were distorted by prisons and exile. 
Cape northern entrance to the Melky Bay on the western shore of the northern island of Novaya Zemlya and the mountain on the southern shore of Russkaya Gavan Bay. Cape called by the geological expedition of the All-Union Arctic Institute in 1933, and the mountain - the surveyor of the All-Union Arctic Institute expedition on the icebreaker "G Sedov", G.A. Wojciechowski in 1930. 
Bay in the south of the southern island of Novaya Zemlya. Named in 1934, the head of the expedition of the North-West Geological Prospecting Directorate V.A. Kuklin.

 

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