Arctic explorers ate oatmeal for breakfast
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Arctic explorers ate oatmeal for breakfast

September 25, 2020

Scientific and sports expeditions of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper date back to 1969. Their participants were no longer looking for the mysterious Sannikov Land, but the traces of Toll, Rusanov and other Russian sailors.

In 1973, during a summer trip along the western coast of Taimyr, one of the expedition groups discovered a food warehouse of the Eduard Toll’s expedition, founded in 1900. In the VII volume of the Chronicle of the North of 1975, it was reported that in the warehouse at Cape Depo at the depth of one meter there were several boxes with food. There was also a broken-off post at the base with the inscription: “Zarya Depot 1900”.

Toll’s diary contains a record of what was buried over seven decades ago: “A box with 48 cans of canned cabbage soup, a sealed tin box with 6 kg of crackers, a sealed tin box with 6 kg of oatmeal, a sealed box containing about 1.6 kg of sugar, 4 kg of chocolate, 7 bars and 1 brick of tea”.

As the methodologist of the Taimyr Museum of Local Lore Lyubov Nachinkina said, since 1979 they have kept a flask with the same oatmeal, which celebrates its 120th anniversary this year: ​​“The warehouse was dug, some products were taken out to be sent for research and ‘sample’. During the excavation, they damaged a metal box with rye bread crumbs, so they were tasted on the spot. According to eyewitnesses, those Toll’s rusks did not taste different from those that were found by the expedition of 1973″.

According to Lyubov Nachinkina, the sealed tin cube with six kilograms of pre-revolutionary hercules was delivered to Moscow. The groats were perfectly preserved, later they cooked oatmeal porridge from it, which had a great taste. Other products from the warehouse, such as canned food, made no later than 1900, also proved to be of excellent quality and excellent preservation.

In 1973, more than a hundred finds were made, which entered specialized museums. The Taimyr local lore museum got not only a flask with oatmeal, but also a pillar that served as the identification mark of the Toll’s warehouse.

In today’s exposition of the Dudinka museum, opened almost ten years ago, the history of the polar expedition of the Russian geographer and geologist Eduard Toll is told not only by genuine objects. Especially for this complex, a team of artists from St. Petersburg made a model of the Zarya boat on which Toll in 1900 went to search the Sannikov Land.

The former whaling schooner, bought in Norway specially for the expedition, has a special background. It is closely connected not only with the search for the mysterious land, but also with the names of the future admiral Alexander Kolchak and the future resident of Dudinka boatswain Nikifor Begichev.

On the Fridtjof Nansen’s recommendation, the famous builder of his Fram boat Colin Archer re-equipped the schooner for swimming in ice, and the expedition’s hydrographer and second magnetologist Alexander Kolchak underwent a special training in Norway.

Eduard Toll managed to see a piece of the mysterious land, which had been observed by the explorers of the polar islands Sannikov and Gedenshtrom before him. From the Kotelny island, a clear picture of four mesas appeared in front of him and his guide. At the same time, the baron calculated the distance to the mountains and determined that they were composed of basalt rocks.

That time the trip to Sannikov Land was planned from Bennett’s island, but the ice prevented the Zarya from reaching the island. Taking three companions with him and leaving a food warehouse on the New Siberian islands, Toll set off north on foot, never to return… The polar expedition returned to St. Petersburg without its leader. In April 1903, a whaleboat taken from the Zarya to Tiksi was sent in search of him. The rescue expedition led by Alexander Kolchak did not find people on Bennett’s island.

Zarya got a new owner, who was engaged in transportation. It burned in a fire in 1915. However, its solid wooden hull was firmly rooted to the ground and became the base of the oil pier.

The next issue of the project will talk about the role of Alexander Kolchak in the first academic polar expedition of 1900–1902 and the artefact associated with his name kept in the Norilsk Museum.

Read about other amazing things from the local museums in our Artefacts section.

Text: Valentina Vachaeva, Photo: Taimyr Museum of Local Lore

September 25, 2020

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