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Operation on rescue of the crew and members of the expedition on board of Chelyuskin completed

13 April 1934

April 13, 1934 in the waters of the Chukchi Sea was completed the rescue of the crew and the members of the expedition on board of "Chelyuskin”.

August 10, 1933 the steamship Chelyuskin, with over a hundred passengers on board, left Murmansk and headed east. “Chelyuskin” was supposed to repeat the feat of "Sibiryakov” which, for the first time in the history of seafaring, had navigated from the White Sea to the Pacific Ocean during one short summer navigation. Its passage was regarded as a pilot one in the conditions of navigation in ice. It was an effort to see if supply ships, not just ice-breakers, could manage the Northern Sea Route.

The expedition was led by a legendary Arctic explorer O. Yu. Schmidt. Captain of the ship was a polar V. I. Voronin.

The beginning of the navigation was quite successful: in a month "Chelyuskin” has made three quarters of the way and in early September reached the Chukchi Sea. However, when Chelyuskin entered the waters of the Chukchi Sea, it turned out that nine-tenths of its surface was covered with ice. The movement of Chelyuskin was slowing down. Air reconnaissance had proved that just fifteen miles ahead there was clean water, from where it was easy to fall into the Bering Strait, but the ship could not get out of the ice any more. Instead of pushing the ice apart, the ship drifted with it, moving slowly back to the west.

"Litke" icebreaker, despite the many injuries it had received, was trying unsuccessfully to break through to the Chelyuskin to rescue it.

Explorers led a desperate struggle with the elements, but the situation of the ship continued to deteriorate and 13 February 1934, it was crushed by ice. Members of the expedition and the crew headed by Schmidt landed on a drifting ice floe.

Owing to the efficient work of the Chelyuskin crew, all the necessary items and supplies of provisions were placed in advance on the deck and thrown on the ice. An ice camp was set up on a drifting ice floe.

The Soviet government had taken all possible measures to rescue people. In Moscow, a government commission headed by V. V. Kuibyshev was set up. It had mobilized various kinds of transportation: dog sledding, snowmobile, airships and icebreaker "Krasin". However, a major role in rescuing the polars had played airplanes piloted by A. V. Lyapidevsky, S. A. Levanevsky, V. S. Molokov, N. P. Kamanin, M. T. Slepnev, M. V. Vodop'ianov and M. I. . Doronin.

The first to land on the ice floe on March 5 was Anatoly Liapidevsky. He took away from the ice for all women and children.

After the successful evacuation of the first people from Chelyuskin, air rescuers rushed to the ice camp from three directions. Kamanin’s detachment of seven planes was supposed to be delivered by sea from Vladivostok to the Bay of Providence, but because of ice, steamers Smolensk and Sovet unloaded the planes and their crews at Cape Oljutor, whence they traveled to the village Vankarem on their own. From this detachment to the camp of Schmidt had flown only Kamanin and Molokov. From Khabarovsk along the Okhotsk coast to the north flew a detachment of Vodopyanov of three planes, but only Vodopyanov and Doronin had reached Vankarem. In America, were purchased two aircrafts for pilots Slepnev and Levanevsky that operated from Alaska.

April 13, 1934 Vodopyanov, Kamanin and Molokov made the final flight to the camp and delivered to the mainland last passengers of Chelyuskin: Schmidt’s deputy Bobrov, radio operators Krenkel and Ivanov, boatswain Zagorski, Voronin and minder Pogosov.

June 7, the ships with passengers of Chelyuskin and hero-pilots on board were taken to the port of Vladivostok.

For outstanding courage all passengers of Chelyuskin were awarded medals, and pilots Liapidevsky, Levanevskiy, Molokov, Kamanin, Slepnev, Vodop'yanov and Doronin were first in the country to be awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union established in connection with Chelyuskin epic.

Lit.: Курс на льдину // Молоков В. С. Родное небо. М., 1977; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:; Пароход раздавлен льдами // Водопьянов М. В. Полярный лётчик. М., 1959; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:; Археологические подводные экспедиции «Челюскин»: сайт. 2018. URL:; В ледяном плену // Каманин Н. П. Лётчики и космонавты. М., 1971; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL:

См. также в Президентской библиотеке:

Встреча лётчика Ляпидевского челюскинцами. Арктика (1934 г.): [фотография]. 1934;

Освоение Арктики: коллекция.