The Brusilov Expedition (Russian: Экспедиция Брусилова, Ekspeditsiya Brusilova) was a Russian maritime expedition to the Arctic led by Captain Georgy Brusilov, which set out in 1912 to explore and map a route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific via a northeast passage known as the Northern Sea Route. The expedition was ill-planned and ill-executed by Brusilov, and disappeared without a trace. Earlier searches were unsuccessful, and its fate was not known until 2010.
The expedition set out from Alexandrovsk on August 28, 1912 in the gunvessel Svyataya Anna, so late in the summer that in October the ship became locked in the polar ice of the Kara Sea off the Yamal Peninsula. Supplies were abundant, and officers and crew prepared themselves for wintering over, hoping to be freed in the following year's thaw.
However, during 1913 the sea remained completely frozen. By early 1914 the Svyataya Anna had drifted far north in lazy zigzags with the Arctic ice. In the summer that year she reached 83° of latitude, NW of Franz Josef Land, and had no chance to be freed in 1914 either. To make matters worse, captain and crew had succumbed to scurvy. Navigator and second-in-command Valerian Albanov, believing that their position was hopeless, requested permission from Captain Brusilov to be relieved from his duties as second-in-command in order to leave the ship and attempt to return to civilization on foot. Albanov hoped to reach Eva Island in Hvidtenland, the northeastermost island of Franz Josef Land. He used Fridtjof Nansen's inaccurate map, full of dotted lines where the archipelago was still unexplored. After a gruesome ordeal, Albanov and Alexander Konrad, one of the crewmen of the Svyataya Anna, finally made it back to Russia. They were the only two survivors. One of the members of the expedition was the second Russian woman to go to the Arctic, Yerminia Zhdanko, a 22-year-old nurse and daughter of a general who was a hero in the Russo-Japanese War.
The Svyataya Anna was never seen again. She may have sunk, crushed by the polar ice. It was thought she may have been carried by the polar ice drift until she broke free on the other side of the Arctic (like the Fram), but this seems unlikely now that items have been found on Franz Josef Land.
In 1914-15 Otto Sverdrup led a search-and-rescue expedition aboard ship Eklips in the Kara Sea on behalf of the Russian Imperial Navy. He aimed to find two missing arctic expeditions, those of Captain Brusilov on the Svyataya Anna and Vladimir Rusanov on the Gerkules, but found no trace of either expedition.
Valerian Albanov made repeated requests to Arctic explorer and Admiral Alexander Kolchak to launch a search expedition for the Svyataya Anna. In December 1919 Albanov traveled to Omsk to confer with Kolchak, but the political turmoil in Russia at the time made a relief mission impossible, and the fate of the expedition was unknown until 2010.
Explorers announced in 2010 that they had found the bones of a crew-member of Brusilov's expedition.1 Later in 2010, a crew-member's logbook and various other artifacts were found, also on Franz Josef Land.2
- "New Clue To Russian Captain’s Mysterious Disappearance". Prime Time Russia. 28 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
- "Russia Finds Last-Days Log Of Famed 1912 Arctic Expedition". AFP.
- Valerian Albanov In the Land of White Death.
- William Barr, Otto Sverdrup to the rescue of the Russian Imperial Navy.
- History of the Northern Sea Route (external link)