On the Path of Two Captains expedition sets sail in search of The Svyataya Anna
© RIA Novosti. Vera Kostamo

On the Path of Two Captains expedition sets sail in search of The Svyataya Anna

On August 6, participants of the On the Trail of Two Captains expedition will leave Murmansk on board The Alter Ego yacht for the second stage of a voyage under the scope of the project, RIA Novosti reports. The researchers will check the radio beacons that were installed four years ago at the last known coordinates of The Svyataya Anna schooner and will attempt to find the place where Georgy Brusilov's expedition perished 100 years ago. 

In the middle of July a team of scientists boarded the The Alter Ego headed off from Murmansk to the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago to launch the first stage of the expedition. That part of the voyage prioritised ornithological research and carried it out in accordance with the Sea Track international program, which studies the migration routes of birds that nest in the Arctic. The second stage, scheduled to start on Sunday, will be dedicated to searching for traces of Brusilov's expedition on Frantz Josef Land.  Veniamin Kaverin used the fate of the expedition as the background for his novel, "Two Captains."

The first expedition to Franz Josef Land headed by polar explorer Oleg Prodan took place in 2010.  Its aim was to search for The Svyataya Anna crew. The expedition made unique finds, such as human remains, personal belongings and diaries. "This was the first discovery from The Svyataya Anna since it was last seen. From then on the possibility of more discoveries gave us no peace," said Yevgeny Fershter, head of the scientific expeditionary center of the "Maritime Heritage — to Research and Preserve" association and who leads the project.

In the second part of the expedition its participants hope to reveal the secret of The Svyataya Anna schooner's demise. Radio beacons will be instrumental in finding the vessel's location.

"In 2013, Oleg Prodan installed radio beacons in the place where The Svyataya Anna was seen last. Based on the investigation of her drift, members of the expedition assumed that she drifted in the area of Franz Josef Land, not far from Rudolf Island. It is possible that we may find traces of the schooner," Mr. Fershter said.

The researchers hope to find some evidence of the presence of people. "There is not much alien rubbish in that region from those days. Traces of Albanov's fire were found in 2010-2011. Things left there 100 years ago are still there. Search teams will land on each island where it is possible," Fershter said. Researchers have singled out 10-15 islands where The Svyataya Anna could have been cast ashore. The task of the expedition is to inspect each of them.

Last year Prodan tried to install radio beacons again but his helicopter crashed during the expedition and the polar explorer died. The current voyage will be dedicated to Prodan's memory. The expedition plans to return to Murmansk in the middle of September.

The participants of the voyage will not manage to perform one of their intended missions this year, to bury the human remains that were found in 2010. Scientists failed to identify the victim and it was decided simply to bury the remains where they were discovered, on Prince George Land.

 During the first stage of the expedition, researchers installed locators for birds nesting in the rocks, so as later to ascertain their migration routes and dates, and their wintering grounds.

"We have obtained unique material about places where birds concentrate, we have samples of their blood and feathers to find the contents of contaminants in their systems and feathers, which will be used in future word publications on controlling human activities in the Arctic. This concerns wintering conditions and how various human activities in those areas may affect the bird population," said ornithologist Alexei Yezhov from the Murmansk Marine Biological Institute.

In addition to ornithological research, the expedition studied pollution of the Arctic coast. Participants discovered that the larger part of debris consists of plastic that was used on ships, such as trawls, cables and ropes. "To a lesser extent, it is household plastic. The third part of rubbish consists of scraps of polyethylene, which we have not yet identified. There is no serious danger of Arctic coast pollution, but rubbish is accumulating," Mr. Yezhov said.

Georgy Brusilov's expedition under the Russian flag aboard The Svyataya Anna schooner set sail in 1912 with the aim to pass the Northern Sea Route along the Siberian coast to Vladivostok for the first time. The schooner was entrapped by ice near the west coast of Yamal, started drifting and by the beginning of 1914 ended up to the north of Franz Josef Land. In April 1914, navigation officer Albanov left the schooner with part of the crew. Out of 11 people who embarked on this dangerous crusade, only Albanov and sailor Alexander Konrad reached mainland.

Captain Georgy Brusilov and the other part of the crew remained on board, hoping to get free themselves from the ice and reach open water. Since then nothing has been known about The Svyataya Anna. Veniamin Kaverin wrote a well-known novel "Two Captains" inspired by the story of Brusilov's expedition, but did not use the real names of the schooner or the crew.