Arctic Odyssey of politechnics

Older people still remember well the epic that was played out in the Arctic Ocean in the early 40-ies of XX century. Primarily the United States and the Soviet Union and also some other countries were involved in that epic. Heroic fame of papanintsy lives in folk memory. They passed triumphantly on drifting ice trough boundless expanses of the Arctic and survived in spite of deadly embrace of disaster after a sudden ice fracture where their tents were located.

Dec 28, 2006

By Yuhim Berezosky (a member of the National Union of Journalists in Ukraine)

People feel that feat of papanintsy is not only fight against weather vagaries in Arctic Ocean, measurements of arctic depths motion detection of atmospheric fronts but something much more serious.

Of course former students of the Kiev Institute of film engineers were delighted with the feat of polar explorers. They were preparing for an interesting work with sound-on-film. But lives of many of them went in another direction. When the Film Institute was bound with KPI they started to engage in acoustics aimed at protecting the interests of their motherland. Many of KPI graduates joined the ranks of scientists in Kiev SRI of hydrodevices (early secret research facility). Its researches were largely devoted to defense equipment.

The fact is that the Civil War began and there was a risk of the Third World War. And if heroic drift of papanintsy on “PP – 1” was more or less opened then activity of  "PP-2" was classified "secret" (Point-36).  In that time the United States were speaking without reserve that the central polar basin in the upcoming battle between America and the Soviet Union would be one of the main places in war. There was even a new term "Arctic doctrine." It was happening even taking into account the intercontinental missiles, jet aircraft, nuclear submarines and others. If you look at the map you will clearly see the shortest direction of devastating blows directly from Arctic.

So importance of training for defense personnel in KPI and Kiev SRI of hydrodevices is completely clear. By the way SRI is 50 years old. Many of his employees are KPI graduates and they were involved in research as a part of polar expeditions which was conducted by the Leningrad Institute of Arctic and Antarctic. After acquiring necessary experience they successfully cope themselves with difficult tasks.

I recently had the privilege to talk with very interesting people who took part in polar expeditions and have been awarded high honors for heroic feat in the Arctic. First of all the former leading members of the Kiev Hydrodevices Institute and laureates of Soviet Union State Prize for great achievements in the Arctic research are Mykola Klimenok and Konstantin Barytskyy. I had a wonderful friendship with another champion and selfless worker who has been in Arctic over than three years, former chief designer in SRI – Anatoliy Vasilevich Gokoev. However, I was a friend not of heroic explorer but of just excellent, very tolerant and thoroughly gifted person. We exchanged with views on life, literature, art, and even automobiles (Anatoly earned some money on drifting through Arctic and purchased humpback limo "zaporozhchyka" which drove his family on vacation to Odessa, Crimea and the Caucasus and simply adored his four-wheel friend).

We were never talking about subglacial noise or acoustics in the depths of the ocean, the intricacies of external threats. Never! Only now his colleagues tell us some details about the heroic epic of Soviet Arctic polar when A. Gokoyev passed away without reaching his 70th birthday.

“My first trip to the Arctic with a group of our SRI took place in spring 1962”, says the former leading researcher of the Institute M.H.Klymenok.

“It had happened when there was organized our short-term base for the drifting ice near Northern Earth archipelago called "base-3".

The main aim was studying underwater noise and sound spreading in the Arctic ocean depths. Hard work had been running on in April and May. Somehow we were lucky: during ace splitting that crushing shaft had stopped in a few meters from our tent. We knew about such cruel temper of drifting ice floes. But the first face-to-face meeting with ice floes has left a memorable scar on our hearts.

The next departure was in the spring in 1963. For a six-month series of studies on the drifting station "SP-10" came landing groups consisting of 5 people. But due to floes crash our group was settled on the separate ice floe in 10 km from the station. It is worth to say that conditions in which we found ourselves were not much different from the "comfort" conditions for papanintsy.

In spring of 1965 the station "SP-14"was put into operation. Its staff included our group and group from Kiev. They had specific tasks on a yearly cycle. It wasn’t easy for us to settle in the new environment but boys were brave and worked very hard. An experienced polar explorer, handyman Anatoly Gokoev was particularly distinguished among them. He took over all difficult and responsible tasks. And there were lots of difficulties. We relocated our camp for two times because of ice floes crash. It was very difficult and responsible task.

In autumn 1966 I arrived at the station with a detailed year plan. For our group there were delivered special houses and such event was like a step forward. We have landed on the ice floe in the northern direction from Wrangel Island as they say on the edge of the world in lost place meaningfully named “Pole of relative inaccessibility”. It was expected that as always happens in the Arctic, the station would drift in a north-westerly direction. But the ice element had decreed otherwise and till the end of November we had reached Jeanette Island in De Long archipelago. First of all, it wasn’t our primer plan. We had to finish our work in this direction. I remember well that date and that event because that was the time when I was 30 years old. But such failure hadn’t bedeviled our souls for a long time. The team was young, full of life forces and aimed at overcoming all the difficulties in achieving its goal.

Working experience at the “PP” station with versatile tasks assured us that some station services and even human’s steps on drifting ice floes create strong barriers in sensitive acoustic equipment. It was decided to place our groups at some distance from the basic stations for purely acoustic research. In spring 1966 a new station named “SP – 15” was landed on the drifting ice floe and within a few dozens of kilometers from it there was housed a branch of "PE-15F". To head the team of 15 persons was entrusted to me. We worked together without any incident. Only once we had a rush job with relocation to another ice floe because of destruction of the previous one.

So summer passed more or less peacefully. In March 1966 we were came up by a nuclear submarine designed for a very responsible and urgent work. Can you imagine our emotions and joy from meeting with submariners, team of giant atomic cruiser which rose on the surface through a huge hole in ice. But that commemorative meeting hasn’t gone without accident. Our mechanic, Peter Morhun, quickly folded his equipment and decided to drive closer to the boat but blurred floe could not stand the weight of the tractor and went to the bottom of the ocean with the scraper. But when the submarine surgeon had sewed a small wound on the mechanic’s head who was saved by A. Gokoev everything was alright. Meeting with submariners inspired us and gave confidence. We have remembered it for life.

Soon after visit of submariners we received new replenishment of staff and equipment for a successful overwintering in a highly polar night. With great effort of our people there was prepared a runway (size 400h40 meters) for receiving aircraft. We worked by hand without using technology. We worked tirelessly.

Before ice floes started to move several plains AN – 2 had come down successfully. But the Arctic wasn’t slow with expressing its cruel character again. Suddenly the runway broke away from our camp. The crack had been spreading behind our laboratory and then there appeared another one from the opposite side of the camp. Throughout the day an ice field with the size of 2x3 km had been reducing to a piece with a size of 200x300 meters. Fortunately, the whole camp remained on the same field. But that piece of ice was useless. And there was no bigger ice floe near us. We decided to close the station branch, take the minimum of necessary equipment, relocate the main station "SP-15" and continue our work on a reduced program. Several people from our research team including such dedicated explorers as A. Gokoev, V. Tesovsky, cook and mechanic A. Matviychuk and P. Morhun, spent the winter at this station. Members of the group remember with gratitude doctor Viktor Ardobatsky – orthopaedist and traumatologist.

The next work stage in Arctic began in spring 1969. After organizing drifting station branch "SP-18" under the designation "PP-18B" it was assigned to M.Klymenko and A. Gokoev led one of working areas. In April and early May all preparations were completed, the camp was built and implementation of research programs was started.

In late May Konstantin Barytsky came to the station after defending a Phd thesis and led the team. M. Klimenko had continued his research in his own area.

In autumn navigation system at the station was changed. M. Klimenko and A. Gokoev came back home. But Kyiv department continued its work during the whole next year. And once again A. Gokoyv had to deal with providing the station with everything necessary for work in the Arctic by means of polar aviation. In 1971 A. Gokoev led expeditionary group to ensure Siberian village Cherskiy with everything necessary for successful work of a station "SP-20". It was very difficult and responsible task. M. Klimenok was at the head of some tasks and E.G. Mayhrovsky was station chief.

The station has worked very effectively. In early autumn it was approached by a submarine. Working together submariners station staff achieved good results.

In spring 1974 M. Klimenko saw Arctic for the last time. During that time, he headed testing of the new equipment on "Base – K”. A. Gokoev was also involved in creating favorable conditions for successful work. Ice epopee ended in late May 1974 and the mission of Kiev SRI in Arctic was completed.

Konstantin Baritsky devoted many years of his life to Arctic mission. He is laureate of Soviet Union State Prize for outstanding achievements in research in Arctic. Road to the Arctic was opened to him after successful completing of graduate studies at the Department of acoustics at KPI in 1957 and entering in the same year to the Kiev Hydrodevices Institute as an engineer. Two years later, a young specialist became head of the sector and then Head of the institute.

Since the middle of1962 to 1974 he was supervisor of all work at the Kiev Hydrodevices Institute and did his research on drifting ice of the Arctic Ocean.

In most previous episodes told by M. G. Klimenko, K. O. Baritsky was involved directly and not only as statistician or just a chief but also as a colleague, friend who was ready to help in difficult situations. It so happened that he as a typical technician had to pay a lot of attention to the psychological questions. Work in the Arctic Ocean with its semi-annual nights and days, hail storms, severe frosts has quite strong influence on mood and vitality of people.

“My first meeting with Arctic was remarkable because of huge temperature difference”, says K. Baritsky.

“When we had left Kiev it was a very sweet day and the temperature reached +32 degrees Celsius. While landing on a drifting ice floe we were met by a normal temperature for that place – the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees Celsius. Frankly speaking, it was not easy for people to realize that under our ice floe where the station was located the depth had reached several kilometers. In any moment there could begin ice crashing. It was a huge risk for all of us”.

At the beginning kievans cooperated with polar explorers from the Leningrad Institute of Arctic and Antarctic. As K. Baritsky mentioned it was a very efficient cooperation. Kievans lived and worked with Leningrad residents in perfect harmony. When they eventually had begun to work independently their friendship hadn’t changed.

Friendship of polar explorers from Dnipro was even stronger. Life and work in extreme conditions, risk and great responsibility for the assigned work are connecting people.

“After many years only a sacred feeling of friendship remained intact”, says K. Baritsky.

 For 30 years he had been working in his native Institute. A few years before retirement he was a scientific secretary of the Institute and in this way trying to educate a new generation of researchers.

According to this principle live and other polar veterans: former Senior Fellow at the Institute M.Klimenok, S.Zaharenkov, V.Tesovsky, M.Zvarych. That was the life credo of their unforgettable colleagues: A.Gokoev, P.Morhun, E.Mayhrovsky. And may their soul rest in peace.

Kiev polar veterans live and remember old days and are proud of carrying out their duties. Cooperating with polar explorers from Russia they had made everything to prevent our country from nuclear tornadoes in the Arctic Ocean and thus saved the world from The Third World War.