SS Chelyuskin

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Chelyuskin sinking
Chelyuskin sinking
Name: Chelyuskin
Owner: 30px Soviet Union
Operator: Soviet Commercial Fleet[1]
Builder: Burmeister and Wain (B&W) Copenhagen, Denmark
Launched: March 11, 1933
Christened: Semion Chelyuskin
Completed: 1933
Maiden voyage: May 6, 1933
Out of service: February 13, 1934
Fate: sunk
General characteristics
Class and type: commercial steam ship[2]
Tonnage: 7,500t
Length: 310.2’
Beam: 54.3’
Height: 22.0’
Installed power: 2400hp
Speed: 12,5 knots
Crew: 111

SS Chelyuskin or Cheliuskin (Russian: Челюскин) was a Soviet steamship reinforced to navigate polar ice that became ice-bound in Arctic waters during navigation along the Northern Maritime Route from Murmansk to Vladivostok. The expedition's task was to determine possibility of travel by non-icebreaker through Northern Maritime Route in a single navigation season.

It was built in Denmark in 1933 by Burmeister and Wain (B&W, Copenhagen) and named after the 18th century Russian polar explorer Semion Ivanovich Chelyuskin. The head of the expedition was Otto Yuliyevich Shmidt and the ship's captain was V. I. Voronin. There were 111 people on board the steamship. The crew members were known as Chelyuskintsy, "Chelyuskinites".

After leaving Murmansk on August 2, 1933, the steamship managed to get through the bulk of the Northern Route before it was caught in the ice fields in September. After that it had been drifting in the ice pack before sinking on February 13, 1934, crushed by the icepacks near Kolyuchin Island in the Chukchi Sea. The crew managed to escape onto the ice and built a makeshift airstrip using only a few spades, ice shovels and two crowbars. They had to rebuild the airstrip thirteen times, until they were rescued in April of the same year and flown to the village of Vankarem. From there, some of the Chelyuskintsy were flown further to the village of Uelen, while fifty-three men walked over 300 miles to get there.

The aircraft pilots who took part in search and rescue operations were the first people to receive the newly established highest title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Those pilots were Anatoly Liapidevsky, Sigizmund Levanevsky (who didn't actually fly to the camp on the floe), Vasili Molokov, Mavrikiy Slepnev, Mikhail Vodopianov, Nikolai Kamanin and Ivan Doronin. Anatoly Liapidevsky was flying ANT-4, civilian version of a TB-1 heavy bomber, while other pilots were flying Polikarpov R-5, and Slepnev and Levanevsky were flying Consolidated Fleetster specially bought in the US for the mission. Two American air mechanics, Clyde Goodwin Armitstead and William Latimer Lavery,[3] who also helped to search and rescue the Chelyuskintsy, on September 10, 1934 were awarded the Order of Lenin.

As the steamship became trapped in the mouth of the Bering Strait, the USSR considered the expedition mainly successful, as it had proven that a regular steamship had a chance to navigate the whole Northern Maritime Route in a single season. After a few additional trial runs in 1933 and 1934, the Northern Sea Route was officially opened and commercial exploitation began in 1935. Next year, part of the Soviet Baltic Fleet made the passage to the Pacific where an armed conflict with Japan was looming.

In the wake of the catastrophe, a central square in Yaroslavl was renamed after the Chelyuskintsy, while Marina Tsvetayeva wrote a poem applauding the rescue team. Efforts to find the wreck of the ship have been made across at least four different expeditions.

The wreck of the ship was finally discovered in September, 2006 at the depth of about 50 metres in the Chukchi Sea[4]. The polar explorer Arthur Chilingarov argued that the ship should be raised and converted into a museum.


  1. (Russian)Chelyuskin and Pijma: All dots above i by Lazar Freidgame
  2. Lloyd Register: "+ 100 A1 strengthened for navigation in ice", "A1" means for special commercial navigation
  3. The Junior Aircraft Year Book, 1935, p.8
  4. В Чукотском море найдены фрагменты «Челюскина» — in Russian

See also

External links

bg:Челюскин (ледоразбивач) de:Tscheljuskin (Schiff) es:Desastre del Cheliuskin fr:Tcheliouskine (brise-glace) it:Cheliuskin (nave) mr:चेलियुस्किन nl:Stoomschip Tsjeljoeskin pl:SS Czeluskin ru:Челюскин (пароход)