Norwegian seaman, ship carpenter by profession.
He took part in the expedition of
W. Ziegler - A.
Fiala to Franz Josef Land, for which he was awarded gold nominal
In 1918 he took part in the expedition of
R. Amundsen on
the Maud schooner.
Cape Chelyuskin, the ship was hibernating.
Fearing to take with him to further navigation the materials
received during the wintering, Amundsen decided to send them and
mail to Dickson Island,
the distance to which in a straight line was 900 km.
On the way to Dikson there were three food depots laid by
O. Sverdrup in
1915 for the hydrographic expedition of the Arctic Ocean.
The most suitable person for this was Tessem, who had experience
of sled routes.
In this expedition, he made several trips, including alone from
the wintering site to the islands of
Small Taimyr and
Another sailor, Paul Knutsen, who was 15 years younger, but quite
experienced and physically prepared, volunteered to go to his
In addition, Knutsen participated in laying the food stores of
One of the most fascinating and tragic mysteries of the Arctic is
connected with this campaign, which, and even not completely, was
solved only in recent years.
September 12, after the "Mod" was able to continue to move east,
the sailors set off, but did not arrive at Dickson.
They found out about their disappearance in Norway only in 1920,
when Amundsen, who had been wintering for the second time near
Aion Island in the
East Siberian Sea, sent a telegram about the expedition through the
radio station in Anadyr.
At the insistence of
F. Nansen and
Sverdrup, the Norwegian government sent in search of a motor-sailing
schooner "Hayman" headed by captain L. Jacobsen.
Because of the ice, the ship could not make its way to
Cape Wild, where
Tessem and Knutsen, in agreement with Amundsen, had to leave a
message, and wintering on Dixon.
It was decided to organize a sledge expedition, to which
connected from the Russian side.
At the end of July, Begichev and Jacobsen made their way to Cape
Wild and actually found the message of the Norwegians dated November
10, 1919, from which it was clear that they were in good condition
and began their journey to Dikson, having 14 days' supplies.
Moving along the coast, rescuers found traces of fires, abandoned
sledges, which recognized the traces of the movement of the
Not reaching the Pyasinsky Bay, they found traces of a bonfire on
Cape Primetnoy and burned bones, buttons, buckles, rifle and rifle
cartridges and other small items in it, and they concluded that this
was the place where one of the Norwegians died. without having the
power to bury, burned at the stake.
Having photographed the finds and taking some of the objects with
them, the rescuers buried the bones and erected a cross over them
indicating the date.
In September, with the beginning of frosts and blizzards, the
search was stopped.
In August next year, the geological detachment
which also included Begichev, moving along the coast of the Kara
Sea, 90 km from Dixon, discovered Amundsen Mail, and then, at the
mouth of the Uboynaya River, two pairs of serviceable Norwegian
A few days later, Begichev, having crossed over from the island
to the mainland while hunting, found the skeleton of a man lying on
a high bank about four meters from the water.
Near the skeleton were Tessem’s nominal watches, which he
received for taking part in the Ziegler – Fial expedition, a wedding
ring hung on his belt with the inscription “Paulina” - the name of
All this served as a basis for recognizing that Tessem's body was
Urvantsev and his companions buried him right there, laid down a
hill from stones and set up a pillar with a memorial plaque.
Later, Dixon polar explorers transferred the remains of the
little higher and put a multi-ton basalt pyramid with a marble
plaque and the inscription on the burial site: “Tessem.
Norwegian seaman, member of the expedition of the Mod motor
He died in 1920".
Tessem's skeleton found by Begichev
It would seem that everything was clear with this, but after
several decades, first Norwegian and then Soviet researchers
suggested that Dixon had found Knutsen, and not Tessem.
It has been suggested that Knutsen removed the wedding ring from
the deceased earlier Tessem and hung it on his belt.
The desire to solve this many-year mystery of the Arctic was
First, in the late 1970s, they conducted research on a photograph
of the skull by the method of the famous anthropologist M.M.
The results of the study tended to the opinion in favor of
In 1983, by decision of the Moscow branch of the Geographical
Society of the USSR, with the consent of the Norwegian side and the
permission of the USSR Prosecutor's Office, an expedition of
specialists was organized to exhume the remains buried in Dikson.
The scientific methods available by that time made it possible to
identify human remains with great accuracy, especially since Tessem
and Knutsen had a rather large age difference.
The exhumation and subsequent research convincingly confirmed
that Urvantsev's conclusion was correct.
In the Dixon burial were the remains of Peter Tessem.
Memorial cross near the grave of Tessem
(photo by Vlad Vasilyev)
What happened to Knutsen?
The fact is that subsequent investigations showed that the
Norwegians were not at Cape Observable.
According to Urvantsev, expressed by him in his diary entries,
and then in the book “Taimyr - my northern land”, Begichev and
Jacobsen found the parking of the participants of the missing
Most likely, both Norwegians reached the place of the find of
The number of things found there, two pairs of skis would not be
able to pull one exhausted person.
It can be assumed that Knutsen fell ill and could not move on his
Then Tessem arranged a warehouse with mail and other things and
took his friend on a sled.
Somewhere at the crossing, possibly in the Pyasinsky Bay, the
sledge fell through the ice, and then Tesse moved alone.
This version is convincing enough.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to say anything more definite
now, and it is unlikely to ever succeed.
River and bay in the Bay of
Middendorf on the Taimyr Peninsula.
The river was named by geologists in 1947.