Russia Finds Last-Days Log of 1912 Arctic ExpeditionBy AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
MOSCOW — Russian explorers said Monday that they had found a sailor’s log from aboard a legendary Arctic expedition that vanished as it sought to forge through the ice-choked Northeast Passage in 1912.
For decades, mystery clouded the fate of Georgy Brusilov, the captain of the first Russian crew to seek the elusive Arctic trade route from Asia to the West. His expedition’s disappearance inspired a generation of books and films.
But the voyagers’ remains and a journal — dated to May 1913 from aboard their vessel, the St. Anna — were found this summer on the icy shores of Franz Josef Land, Europe’s northernmost landmass.
“There is no doubt that the skeletons and notebook pages we found at the end of July on Franz Josef Land are the remains of Georgy Brusilov’s expedition, which were thought forever lost,” said Oleg Prodan, who led a mission in the expedition’s footsteps.
The Brusilov expedition ran aground on thick ice floes midway into its journey along the Siberian coast, after navigating the Vilkitsky Strait into the Kara Sea.
One of its only two survivors, the navigator Valerian Albanov, described in his memoirs two grueling winters clinging to the doomed ship and floating ever closer to the North Pole.
Mr. Albanov was among the 11 members of the 24-man crew who abandoned the ice-locked vessel and set out across the snow drifts seeking firm land. Their desperate trek was depicted in the popular novel “The Two Captains” by the Russian author Veniamin Kaverin.
Until now, the St. Anna and the rest of its crew had vanished without a trace. But pages of the sailor’s log, which were found well preserved, offer glimpses into the lingering fight for survival aboard the ship.
“Today we got our last brick of tobacco; the matches ran out long ago,” it reads, adding that crew members hunted polar bear as they struggled on low supplies.
Other traces of the expedition were found nearby: a watch, snowshoes, a knife, a spoon engraved with a sailor’s initials and sunglasses made from the glass of empty rum bottles.
“It was so overwhelming to find those sunglasses, which we had all been able to imagine so well after Albanov’s description,” said Vladimir Melnikov, a member of the search mission, at a press conference in Moscow.