Tessem Peter
(1875–1920)


Norwegian seaman, ship carpenter by profession.
In 1903–1905 He took part in the expedition of W. Ziegler - A. Fiala to Franz Josef Land, for which he was awarded gold nominal watches.
In 1918 he took part in the expedition of R. Amundsen on the Maud schooner. Around 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 Starokadomsky. Another sailor, Paul Knutsen, who was 15 years younger, but quite experienced and physically prepared, volunteered to go to his companions. In addition, Knutsen participated in laying the food stores of Sverdrup. 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 N.A.Begichev was 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 Norwegians. 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 N.N.Urvantsev, 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 skis. 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 Tessem’s wife. All this served as a basis for recognizing that Tessem's body was found. 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 Norwegian a 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 schooner. He died in 1920".  

 

Tessem's skeleton found by Begichev

Photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Tessem_and_Paul_Knutsen


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 extremely great. First, in the late 1970s, they conducted research on a photograph of the skull by the method of the famous anthropologist M.M. Gerasimov. The results of the study tended to the opinion in favor of Tessem. 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 expedition V.A.Rusanov. Most likely, both Norwegians reached the place of the find of Amundsen's mail. 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 own. 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.

 

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