Georgiy Sedov: Russia to the Pole?

Georgiy Sedov (1877 – 1914),
Russian Arctic explorer

Robert Peary discovered the North Pole in 1909. At the same time, Russia was often criticized for the lack of efforts in the exploration of the polar seas. With a naval and explorer’s background, Georgiy Sedov decided to become the first Russian to reach the North Pole. To do so, he had to start his expedition earlier than Roald Amundsen, who planned to depart in 1913. Sedov’s plans were criticized by Russian geographers as too dangerous and poorly prepared. Peary had 250 dogs and 4 support groups, while Sedov's expedition team included three men and 39 dogs. The Russian government would not support his plan, Nikolay II came to Sedov’s assistance and privately donated 10,000 rubles for the expedition. Newspapers organized fundraising campaigns and soon Sedov was ready to go. What he did not know was that while he was busy making preparations, merchants sold him local mutts for huskies and rotten meat for pemmican.

On August 27, 1912 the ship Svyatóy Múchenik Foká (Saint Martyr Phokas) departed Arkhangelsk. Unfortunately, it was too late to begin an Arctic expedition, but the race with Amundsen forced Sedov to sail early. He was aware of this and planned to spend the first winter at HYPERLINK ""Novaya Zemlya, on cape Pankratyev. During the entire winter he and his crew performed geographic and astronomic observations. Sedov and his boatswain Inyutin also mapped 700 kilometers of the northern shores of Novaya Zemlya. Because of an extremely cold winter, it was mot until September 13th that they managed to get free of the solid ice and to head to Franz-Joseph Land. There they spent the following winter. By this time the food shortage became acute. Some of the members of the expedition, including Sedov, fell ill with scurvy. In spite of the disease, on January 2, 1914 Sedov and two sailors, Grigory Linnik and Alexander Pustoshny, set out for the North Pole with only eight dogs. The men were very ill. The temperature fell to minus 40C. Trying to save the fuel they ate cold meat and made "tea" by melting the snow with their own breath. On February 22nd, Sedov died near Rudolf Island, the northernmost island of the northernmost Russian archipelago. Linnik and Pustoshny buried him on the island, erecting a cross made of two skis. On March 9th the two sailors decided to turn back. On March 19th they returned to the ship, St. Foka. In August the ship returned to Arkhangelsk. Only then did Sedov’s wife Vera learn of his death.

Though he did not reach the North Pole, Sedov’s expedition was not a total failure. A great amount of information about Russia’s North was obtained. Information that was invaluable to future expeditions.

Two HYPERLINK ""gulfs and a HYPERLINK ""peak on Novaya Zemlya, a HYPERLINK ""glacier and a cape on Franz Josef Land, an island in the HYPERLINK ""Barents Sea, and a cape in HYPERLINK ""Antarctica bear Sedov's name.