Ushakov Georgiy Alekseevich
(17(30).09.1901–03.12.1963)


Outstanding Soviet explorer of the Arctic.
Born in the village of Lazarevo, now the Amur region, in a large family of Amur Cossack. He spent his childhood in this taiga village. The harsh, close to nature life early tempered the boy physically and spiritually, laid in the nature of the quality of this man, prepared for the tests that awaited him in the future. After receiving primary education in a rural school, Ushakov moved to Khabarovsk, where he graduated from a city college, intending to enroll in a teacher’s seminary. He lived in a night shelter, making a living as a newspaper seller, apprentice hairdresser, copyist in customs. In 1916, fate brought him to the famous Russian traveler, the researcher of the Ussuri region, V.К. Arsenyev, whose work on the expedition laid another brick in shaping the character of the future outstanding polar explorer.
It is difficult to say what fate was prepared for Ushakov if there had not been a revolution. In our opinion, uncommon human qualities in any case would allow it to manifest itself in any sphere of human life. But the revolution was accomplished, and Ushakov made his choice. In 1918, he volunteered to participate in the battles of the Red Guard with the whites, then briefly studied at the Khabarovsk Teachers' Seminary, and since September 1919 he again defended Soviet power in arms. After the end of hostilities, Ushakov was going to continue his education at the University of Vladivostok, but life in the person of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks, of which he became a member during the war years, had his own way. At the call of the party, he worked as head of a reading room in a distant region of Primorsky Krai, was secretary of the party cell, chairman of the board of the Credit Society. This activity taught him how to communicate with people, gave valuable skills to an economic worker and manager. Successful and effective work of Ushakov, his business and human qualities were noticed. At the end of 1925 he was transferred to work at the Vladivostok office of Gostorg, and soon he was entrusted with a matter of state importance, which connected him with the Arctic and allowed his natural abilities to manifest themselves - Ushakov was appointed to manage the Wrangel Islands and Herald. The United States and Canada attacked these islands. In 1924 the gunboat "Red October" under the command of B.V. Davydov expelled Canadian settlers from Wrangel Island and hoisted the Soviet flag on it. However, in order to finally establish itself there and stop all sorts of foreign encroachments, it was necessary to settle the island. Ushakov was instructed to recruit as a future settlers several families of the Chukchi and Eskimos, to organize on the island hunting and scientific observations.
The task was a state one, but the possibilities of a state weakened by wars and revolution turned out to be very limited. In order to ensure the success of the enterprise, Ushakov had to show all his organizational skills, energy, ability to communicate with people, find a way out of seemingly hopeless positions. I had to start from scratch.
The first problem was the search for a vessel capable of delivering settlers to the island. Moscow could not help. Ushakov contacted the polar captain P.G. Milovzorov in Vladivostok.  and with his help chose the steamer "Stavropol", adapted for navigation in the ice, which took part in Kolyma flights, but requires serious repair. The problem of equipment and food to solve in Khabarovsk and Vladivostok was impossible. I had to go to Shanghai and buy everything I needed with the help of Soviet representatives. Fur clothes, fur raw materials, sled dogs, sledges, equipment for sleds were procured in Anadyr and delivered to Providence Bay, where the Stavropol was supposed to go. By contacting the Polar Commission of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Ushakov agreed on a research program and, with his own money, acquired the necessary scientific literature.
By mid-July the main charges were over, and Stavropol set off on its long and dangerous journey. Thus, the titanic work on the preparation of the expedition was brilliantly carried out by Ushakov for some three months, which in itself was a feat. In Providence Bay, Ushakov successfully solved another major task. With the help of influential people in Chukotka, Pavlov’s teacher and hunter Yerook, he persuaded seven Eskimo families to go to the island. Including Ushakov and his wife, the team of future Robinsons was 59 people.
Fortunately, the ice situation in the Chukchi Sea in 1926 was favorable, and in early August the ship approached the island without any problems. As a place for the future settlement chose Rogers Bay coast on the south coast.
A lot of difficulties fell to the islanders especially during the first wintering, and, of course, the greatest trials, both mental and physical, had to endure Ushakov, the leader responsible for the common cause and for each person individually. The Eskimos were completely illiterate, full of many religious prejudices, and besides, they were engaged in sea hunting all their life, whose role on the island was secondary. The main task of the settlers here was to organize the fur trade, for its successful implementation it was necessary to resettle people around the island. However, the Eskimos, fearing the “devil”, for a long time refused to leave the village, refused to go hunting. The lack of meat, the Eskimos' reluctance to eat other products that were in abundance in the warehouse, led to the fact that hunger began among them, signs of scurvy were revealed. On one of his trips, Ushakov himself, along with Ierok, fell through the ice. Wet through, into a fierce cold, they drove 70 km to the village. The body of the old hunter could not stand it, and he died, and Ushakov, who had received inflammation of the lungs and kidneys, was permanently bedridden. The situation became critical - the Eskimos decided to leave the island and go to the mainland. The misfortune with Ushakov led them to the idea that the “devil” was no longer afraid of him either. In order to regain faith in the power of the Bolshevik chief, Ushakov decided on a desperate step: he was seriously ill and went hunting alone. If he does not produce meat, the Eskimos will grow stronger in their fear and leave, and this was more terrible for Ushakov than death. He believed in himself and good luck - he got the bear, cut off a piece of meat, because he was completely unable to carve the carcass, tied himself to the sledges and let the dogs follow the old trail. The team brought him to the village unconscious. The rest of the carcass was brought by Pavlov with the Eskimos. For several days, people were provided with meat, but the main thing was that the Eskimos saw that the “devil” could not cope even with a sick boss. The resettlement of hunters at several points on the island made it possible to begin a full-fledged harvest of the beast. Bear skins, polar fox skins, mammoth bone were taken from them in unlimited quantities, and weapons, ammunition, equipment, goods were issued in return. The settlers had an incentive to live, the fate of the islanders could not worry and begin to solve other problems. Ushakov began exploring the island. He did not have a special education, but the intuition and experience of the taiga hunter, the natural intelligence and information gathered from books sent by the Academy of Sciences allowed him to organize collections of collections of flora, fauna, geological samples. Meteorological observations were also made.
The life of the islanders was held in complete isolation from the rest of the world, since they did not have a radio station. Only a year later, in the summer of 1927, two aircraft flew to them, headed by one of the authorized representatives of Komseveroputi G.D. Krasinsky. The excellent state of affairs in the village allowed him to support Ushakov’s request to stay on the island not for two, but three years, for a fuller study of it.
In the spring of 1928, Ushakov and his comrades on three sledges made a 42-day route around the island, conducting a geodesic survey of its coast. It was the first authentic map of Wrangel Island. In the summer of 1928 he made several trips to the interior of the island, continuing his description and collection collections.
Prolonged close contact with the Eskimos made him very close to them, allowed them to study their life and customs, learn the art of hunting, handling dog sleds, and gave practical skills necessary for survival in the extreme conditions of the Arctic. “The chief does everything as an Eskimo”, they said about Ushakov, and this was the highest mark on their lips.
By the spring of 1929, everything planned by Ushakov turned out to be more than fulfilled. Wrangel Island was inhabited, the costs of the expedition were paid for by the extracted fur, walrus tusks and mammoth bone, numerous various collections were collected, a map of the island was compiled. With a clear conscience, it was possible to return home. In late August, an ice cutter "Litke" broke through to the island with the new change of wintering men headed by A.I. Mineev. The joy of returning to the Big Earth was overshadowed only by the necessity of parting with the remaining friends.

 

Wrangel Island. Village Ushakovskoe

(photo E. Bruy)

 

After returning from Wrangel Island, Ushakov settled in Moscow, but he was overwhelmed by new plans, which he was still considering on the island. A project of a daring expedition to explore the Northern Earth, a hydrographic expedition of the Arctic Ocean, opened on the eve of World War, led by B.А. Vilkitsky. Russian hydrographs from the ship were filmed only the south-eastern and southern shores of this land. The rest of it for more than one and a half decades remained a “white spot” on the map of the Arctic. Closing it was of great scientific and applied importance. The government commission dealing with this issue gave preference to the Ushakov project, which had a number of significant advantages over other options. It was planned to conduct a full route semi-instrumental survey based on a network of astronomical and magnetic reference points, a geological survey, collection of flora and fauna collections, systematic meteo and ice observations, and all this in two years by four people without using a special vessel. Enough of the small costs of the expedition was supposed to recoup the active fur trade. It was clear that the implementation of such a daring plan was possible only by selected professionals, most adapted to work in the Arctic. The question of choosing the expedition leader was not: Of course, Ushakov himself was approved, who was entrusted with selecting the other members of the expedition at his own discretion. Required polar geologist, industrialist and radio operator. As the first, Ushakov had earlier “recruited” the famous N.N. Urvantsev, who, among other things, was instructed to lead the research. The second was invited the most experienced hunter of the Zemlya S.P. Zhuravlev, for which there were no secrets in the sea and land arctic fisheries. And finally, Ushakov chose V.V. Khodov, enthusiast and connoisseur of the short-wave radio communication that was booming in those years in the Arctic, a strong and balanced young man. Of all the members of the expedition, he alone did not have experience in the Arctic.
On the charges remained a few months. The list of equipment, equipment, food, equipment needed for an autonomous two-year life and work in the Arctic was extremely wide. There could not be little things. The energy of all the members of the expedition, their highest professionalism, Ushakov's contacts and his experience in organizing the settlement on Wrangel Island allowed in a short time to brilliantly solve all organizational issues.
An icebreaking steamer “G. Sedov”, which was headed by O. Yu. Schmidt and V.Yu. Vize expedition to explore the northern part of the Kara Sea. Unfortunately, severe ice conditions did not allow the vessel to make its way directly to Severnaya Zemlya. I had to land westwards on one of the tiny islands of the previously unknown archipelago. As it turned out later, this islet, called Domashn’s polar explorers, was 60 km from the native coast of Severnaya Zemlya, i.e. automatically each route increased by 120 km.
For 6 days, unloading was performed and the main house was assembled with the help of the team. After the vessel left, the winterers, in an emergency manner, engaged in organizing and arranging the base and preparing for the first hike, whose task was to reach Severnaya Zemlya and create a food warehouse on it. The main component of the preparation for the campaign was the preparation of food for forty dogs.
Ushakov, Urvantsev and Zhuravlev set off for the first trip, which lasted from October 1 to 10. There were only one moves, maintaining regular communication with the Great Earth. Difficulties of the way, strong headwinds, lack of coherence of the work of untrained dogs demanded the highest voltage of people. Nevertheless, having overcome all obstacles, the polar explorers reached the high indigenous coast of Severnaya Zemlya and laid the first 900 kg of equipment at the point they called Cape Serp and Molot. In the same campaign they also put on the map the first 145 km of the coast of the island, which was later called the island of the October Revolution. Prior to March, Ushakov and Zhuravlev made four more trips, completing the creation of a depot at Cape Serp and Molot. In addition, during March they set up a depot to the north, opening the strait, named after the Red Army, and at the beginning of April they crossed the island of the October Revolution and set up a food storehouse at Cape Berg on the east coast, opened in 1913. The front of the 1931 survey was assured. During the trips of Ushakov and Zhuravlev, who remained at the base of Urvantsev and Chodov, they prepared all the tools necessary for shooting.
At the end of April, Ushakov, Urvantsev and Zhuravlev set off on the first filming route, which lasted 38 days. As a result, the northern island of Severnaya Zemlya, Komsomolets, was put on the map. From the western shore of Komsomolets, travelers saw another rather large island, later called Pioneer Island. It became clear that the Severnaya Zemlya is not a solid land mass, but an archipelago. To the north of it to the horizon stretched free from the ice of the sea.
Returning to the base on May 29, after a short rest, the travelers set off on the next trip on June 1. It was necessary to hurry - the coming summer threatened with a thaw that could make travel much more difficult. In addition, an autopsy could have put the group’s question back from base of Severnaya Zemlya. Overcoming the icefalls, steep rocky cliffs, areas of loose snow and other numerous obstacles, Ushakov, Urvantsev and Zhuravlev crossed the archipelago and came to Cape Berg. Here they are divided. Zhuravlev, taking away the collections and bear skins left in the previous route, went alone to the base, trying to get ahead of the thaw, and Ushakov and Urvantsev with the shooting moved south. As a result of this campaign, which lasted 51 days and ended on July 20, the largest island of the archipelago, the October Revolution, was put on the map. This route turned out to be the most difficult and dangerous, demanding from the travelers tremendous exertion of all mental and physical strength. More than once they had to risk their lives. The fast-thawing snow made movement very difficult, dogs were exhausted, sleds had to be practically carried by hand. Getting to fast ice created other difficulties. Had to wander to the waist in the water, risking to fall into the ravine, the dogs floated, and the sleds flooded with water. One of the transitions almost ended in disaster. During the crossing of one of the bays on the ice covered with water, the travelers fell into a storm. The water level began to rise sharply, the current picked up and carried the sleds, the dogs in a panic mixed up straps, climbed on the sleds. At the cost of incredible efforts, Ushakov and Urvantsev shoulders in water were able to pull the teams to a dry stretch of ice, from where the wind drove the water. Forcing numerous rivers and streams, which turned into turbulent flows at this time of year, was especially difficult. And all this was necessary not only to overcome, but to conduct a continuous topographical survey. With great difficulty, the travelers reached Cape Sickle and Hammer. Fortunately, the strait separating them from the base has not yet opened, however, numerous cracks and gullets appeared in the ice. Part of the dogs, completely exhausted, lay on the sleds, the rest barely walked. People, harnessed to a sledge, moved on one character and only, having entered the island, they fell to the ground. A few days later a detailed report on the tremendous work accomplished was transmitted to Moscow. The shooting plans for 1931 were fully implemented.
The polar explorers spent the second half of the year preparing for new hikes: they stocked up meat for dogs and themselves, prepared equipment and equipment, without stopping at the same time planned hydrological, meteorological and magnetic observations.
In 1932, they had to map two islands: the southernmost and the most distant from the base (Bolshevik) and the smallest (Pioneer). In March, Ushakov and Zhuravlev conducted a preparatory route for organizing food warehouses on Fr. Bolshevik, and on April 13, Ushakov and Urvantsev set off on a southern film trip. When they reached Cape Neupokoev, the most southwestern point of the archipelago, for 45 days they traveled counter-clockwise on Bolshevik Island and plotted it on the map. The total length of this route was over 1,100 km.

 

Bolshevik Island

(satellite photo)

 

After resting for 2 days, for 8 days, playfully, mapped the island of Pioneer. The expedition, unprecedented in scale, originality of organization and execution, brilliantly ended. In total, about 5,000 km were traveled on dogs, over 2,200 km of the coastline of the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago were laid on the map. A semi-instrumental survey was based on 15 astronomical sites, fairly evenly distributed across all routes. The map of the Arctic has acquired its modern look. According to V.Yu. Visa, the Ushakov expedition can be attributed to the outstanding polar enterprises of our time. She played an important role in solving the problem of organizing and developing the Northern Sea Route. In addition to the survey, the researchers conducted a variety of scientific observations, which gave the first information about the geology, climate, glaciation, hydrology of the archipelago. The costs of the expedition's work were largely paid off by the products of the fur trade of polar explorers.
On August 14, 1932, the icebreaking ship “A. Sibiryakov”, who made his historic through navigation for one navigation along the Northern Sea Route, and the next day the icebreaking steamer“ Vladimir Rusanov ”approached, which brought the Ushakov group to the Big Land.
In December 1932, Glavsevmorput was created, of which Schmidt became the head, and Ushakov became his deputy.
In 1934, Ushakov was appointed Commissioner of the Government Commission for the Rescue of the Chelyuskinites. His work in this post contributed in no small measure to the successful organization and conduct of the most complicated rescue operation.
In 1935 he led the first Soviet high-latitude expedition to the icebreaking steamer "Sadko". It consisted of a number of outstanding scientists in various fields of earth and ocean sciences. The expedition conducted complex scientific research in the northern part of the Kara Sea between the Franz Josef Land and the Northern Land. Ushakov was once again, but already through binoculars from the ship’s side he was able to see the land he walked three years ago. The vessel reached a latitude of 82º 41.6 , setting a new record for free navigation in the high latitudes of the Arctic.
The hike on "Sadko" was the last meeting between Ushakov and the Arctic. The deterioration of his health did not allow him to directly participate in polar expeditions, but all his subsequent activities were somehow connected with them. Until 1936, he worked at Glavsevmorput, then in 1936–1940 - at the Main Directorate of the Hydrometeorological Service of the USSR and until 1958 at the Institute of Permafrost Science of the USSR Academy of Sciences. His merits were awarded several orders, incl. Order of Lenin for the North-earth expedition, and medals. In 1950, by decision of the Higher Attestation Commission, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Geographical Sciences. The expeditionary life and privations have undermined the once mighty organism of Ushakov. Due to a progressive cardiovascular disease in 1958, he retired, continuing to work at home on his extensive archival materials. In 1963, the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Severnaya Zemlya was celebrated. Ushakov was also invited to the presidium of the ceremonial meeting, which brought together many outstanding polar explorers, who spoke on his expedition. Three weeks after that, George Alekseevich died suddenly.
He bequeathed to bury himself in his beloved Northern Land. The will of Georgy Alekseevich was fulfilled: an urn with his ashes was buried on Domashniy Island.
By the decision of the executive committee of the Krasnoyarsk Regional Council of People's Deputies of 05.11.1990 No. 279, the expedition house was restored and taken under protection as an object of cultural heritage of regional importance. It was installed at the airport of Sredny Island and organized an exhibition in it devoted to the study of Severnaya Zemlya.

 

 

An island in the northern part of the Kara Sea. Opened on September 1, 1935 by the First High-latitude expedition of the Northern Sea Route on the icebreaker steamer Sadko. The name suggested by N.N. Zubov, the scientific and technical council of the expedition approved it.
Cape in the southwest of Nansen Island archipelago Franz Josef Land. Named in 1933–1934 by All-Union Arctic Institute expedition under the direction of T.N. Spizharsky.
Cape on the northwestern shore of Wrangel Island. Named in 1929 by A.I. Mineev.
Spit (Georgy Ushakov) in the south of Wrangel Island, separates Rogers Bay from the sea. The name on the proposal of the employees of the Providence Bay hydro base was approved in 1968 by the Iultinsky District Executive Committee.
River in the northern part of the island of the October Revolution of the archipelago Severnaya Zemlya. Named in the early 1950s by polar geologists.

 

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