Ice-breakers in Arctic

The Britnev yard at Kronstadt launches the first ice-breaker in 1864 for navigation between Kronstadt and Oranienbaum, West of St Petersburg. PILOT was built (in 1862 ?) as a steam tug about 26 m long with a 85 hp steam engine. The bow part was altered to push itself on the top of the ice and consequently break the ice.
In 1899, Russian government acquires ERMAK, built at Newcastle, built after plans made by admiral Stepan O Makarov: 5.128 tons, dim. 305 x 71 x 25 ft.. Triple expansion steam engine of 10.000 hp, three stern propellers and one bow propeller. She is then used in Baltic Sea.

Nevsky yard launches in 1909 two ice-breakers for the Russian Imperial Government , TAIMYR and VAIGACH used for the first landing on Wrangel island (1911), then for the Hydrographical Expedition in Ocean Arctic (1910-15).Tonnage 1.290 tons, displacement 1.500 tons, length 175 ft (53.34 m). Powered by a steam engine of 1.200 ch at a speed of 10,5 knots.

Alexandr Sibriakov

Before the revolution, the tsarist navy will put in service sveeral ice-breakers of British origin:

V.Yu. Vize (1886-1954).meteorologist, oceanographer, explorer, participates to G. Sedov expedition  (1912-1914), expeditions with ice-breakers TAIMYR (1921-1922), MALYGIN (1924, 1928, 1931), SEDOV (1929), SIBIRIAKOV (1932), LITKE (1934). 
ALEKSANDR SIBIRIAKOV 1.132 tons, 467 net, dim. 241 x 35.8 x 16.9ft. Powered by a 2.000 hp. triple expansion machine, speed 11 knots. Used to carried  supplies from United Kingdom to Archangels. During sailing with Otto J. Schmidt from Arkhangelsk on 28 July 1932 on a non stop trip via Northern route to Bering strait, she lost her propulsion and leaves the strait under sails. It is the beginning of a regular navigation along the Siberian coast. Named LD-6 she is sunk by the German cruiser “Admiral Scheer” on 25 August 1942. The strait in Kara Sea and a mountain in Antarctic are named “Sibiryakov” to honour the heroic ship.
FEDOR LITKE is launched as EARL GREY for the service through the Northumberland between New Brunswick and Prince Edward island. After a collision in 1917, she is repaired et renamed FEODOR LITKE in 1928. In 1934 she she makes the first east-west passage along the north coast of Russia, she sailed on 28 June 1934 from Vladivostok, rounded 22 August Cape Tseljoeskin and arrived Murmansk 20 September. Out of service in 1958

Tonnage 1.140 GRT, dim. 240.7 x 35.8 x 24.5ft.
Built in 1916 as BEOTHIC, she is sold to the Russian government and in 1920 takes part to the first Soviet Arctic Expedition at the mouth of Ob and Yenisei rivers.
In 1929 she takes part to the Expedition at Franz Josef Land carrying Scientifics.
In October 1937, after exploring Kara Sea, she is send to help two other ice-breakers, prisoners of ices, SADKO and MALYGIN.
On 28 August, YERMAK reaches the two other ships led SADKO and  MALYGIN out of the ice to the open sea but Sedov, the screw damaged, stays in the ices.
After 2 years of drift, on 3 December 1939, Papinin is send on board of JOSHEP STALIN and 959 days after she had set sail in 1937, Sedov was eased to dockside in Murmansk.

21 January 1913 launched as LINTROSE
Tonnage 1.616 gross, 506 net, dim. 255.0 x 28.3 x 22.7ft.
Powered at 15 knots thanks to 3.500 hp given by the four boilers of a triple expansion, she may carry 80 1st class passengers and 150 second class passengers.
Built for regular service between Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and North Sydney, Nouvelle-Scotland.
Sold to Imperial government to carry war supply from Arkhangelsk.
October1933 : she was refloated after a wreck in 1916 and leaves in 1935 for 85 days. She sinks on 11 September 1941 on a Franz Josef Land reef.

Delivered in January 1912 as  a ferry in the Cabot strait. Sold in 1916, renamed in 1920, she takes part to the researches of Nobile expedition.
1930 with KRASIN she reaches the position of 81 47N.

KRASIN built by Armstrong, Witworth & Co. Ltd yard, at Newcastle, UK as SVIATOGOR delivered in February 1917 Tonnage 5.168 gross, 2.342 net, with a displacement of 9.300 ton. Dim. 323.2 x 71 x 26ft., length bpp. 297ft. Three triple expansion, 10.000 ihp, connected to three shafts, speed 15 knots. During the Civil War in Russia she was scuttled in Arkhangselsk to block the port for advancing British Forces ; Seized by the Royal Navy on 03 August 1918 and refloated 3 August 1918. In service with the Royal Navy until 19 November 1921, when she was comes back to Leningrad, then Murmansk, due in large measure to the efforts of the People's Commissar of Foreign Trade L.B. Krasin after who she was named in 1928. The ship is used to keep the northern seaway open. In 1933 IShe made a winter voyage to the north of Novoja Zemlja , the first winter voyage at that latitude.
In 1938 she saves the LENIN seized in the ices. In 1941 She completed its second round the world voyage under command of M.G. Markov before spending the war on the Northern routes to escort Russian and Allies convoys in Arctic. After a stop at Mathias Thesen Werft in GDR in 1957, she is used until 1972 then converted in research ship. She became a floating museum in St Petersburg.
Vladimir Ilytch
VLADIMIR ILYICH is built by the same British yard as KRASIN under the name of St ALEXANDRE NEVSKY.
Tonnage 3.375 gross, dim. 264.2 x 64.1 ft. 8.000 hp., 3 shafts, speed 19 knots. Renamed LENIN in 1923, she serves in Russia with 122 crew. Lost in October 1943 in position 74 00N 57 00E, she is repaired between 1946 and 1947 par Vickers Armstrong. She becomes in 1957 VLADIMIR ILYICH when the new LENIN, a nuclear ice-breaker, is put in service. Scrapped in 77.

In 1935, the yard Andre Marti in Leningrad delivers DEZHNEV, with the name of the Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev who in 1648 reached the Eastern point of the Asiatic  continent , cape Dezhnev. Tonnage 3.578 grt, 1.678 net, dim. 335 x 49ft. Specifications: 7330 t, 104x15 m, steam engine 2500 hp, 12.5 knots, crew 122 men.
This passenger-cargo of Sevmorput 1 type (in Russian, Severniy morskoy put, shortened Sevmorput = North maritime route) is used from Murmansk as patrol and  supply ship. During port Dikson defence against the cruiseur “Admiral Scheer”, she is damaged but comes back to service after the war until 1969.

Sibir ex-Stalin
Plans by Russia to keep a regular Polar service needed some large and strong icebreakers, four icebreakers were ordered designed after the drawings of the ERMAK. The first of the four, was the JOSEPH STALIN, is launched on 14 August1937 by Ordzhonikidze yard in Leningrad. Tonnage 4.866 grt., displacement 11.000 ton, dim. 107 x 23 x 9.3m.3 triple expansion, 10.050 ch., speed.5 knots.  Crew 142. She led the GEORGIY SEDOV out of the ice after the completion of her historic ice drift for over 800 days in 1940. After the fall of STALIN, she continues to steam, named SIBIR, until 1977.
KAPITAN BELOUSOV is in 1953 the first soviet diesel-electric ice-breaker (where the diesel engine powers the electric engine which drives the shafts) after war. First from a  serie of 3 issued of Wartsila yards in Helsinki, she is used mainly in Baltic Sea but also in Arctic. She sails now under Ukrainian flag.

LENA is delivered in 1953 by the Netherlander yard "De Schelde". In 1955/56, with her sister ship OB, she carried the Russian expedition in Antarctic of M. Somov during the  International geographic year. During a call in Adelaide, she was welcome by the Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson. She is scrapped in 1983.

In 1957, appears the first nuclear ice-breaker, the first nuclear powered surface vessel : LENIN. The technologic gap is important : from 7.503 to 14.067 GRT, from 129.5 x 18.8 m (LENA) to 134.0 x 27.6 m. The 2 nuclear reactors geared to 4 steam turbines drive four generators connected to three electro motors, one to the middle shaft of 19.600 bhp., the two outer shafts had 9.800 bhp each, speed 18 knots. After two accidents on the reactor in 65 et 67, the ship is decommissioned in 89 to be transformed in museum at Mourmansk.She has played an important role allowing to maintain opened the North maritime route.

Vladivostok + Mikail Somov

The Finish yard Wärtsila delivers in 1960 a new diesel-electric, MOSKVA, first from a serie of 5 and at this moment, the most powerfull in the world.  She has no propellers forward; the Arctic ice is so hard and thick that it only can be broken by sheer force. The hull was all welded and partly built of special high-impact strength steel. Maximum plate thickness is 2.12 inch. In 1985, she contributes to save 3000 belugas close to Bering strait. Scrapped in 1998. 
The last ships of MOSKVA class arrive in 1968 : MURMANSK and VLADIVOSTOCK They are the first to whithstand to the ice pressure which give their predecessors inoperative. On 26 July 1985 VLADIVOSTOCK frees the supply-ship MIKHAIL SOMOV from ice in Antarctic. 

A new class of polar cargos is produced from 1962 directly by the Russian yards: AMGUEMA born in Leninskogo Komsomola of Komsomolsk, will be nevertheless considered as too small.

Leningrad (St Petersburg) yards built 16 LEDOKOL type ships , the first one named in 1966 VASILIY PRONCHISHCHEV Smaller (Tonnage 2.305 GRT, dim. 67.7 x 18.06) they are powered by 3 diesels coupled to 3 generators connected to electric engines, 5.400 hp. Range 5.700 miles or 17 days in total selfsufficiency. They are used also as tugs


The second generation of nuclear ice-breaker appears with ARKTIKA (operational in 1975), followed by SIBIR (operational in 1977), then ROSSIYA (operational in 1985), Sovetskiy Soyus (operational in 1989) and YAMAL (operational in 1992).
ARKTIKA is built in Leningrad and delivered on 30 December 1974 to Murmansk Shipping Co Tonage 18.172 gross, 3.018 net, 4.096dwt., dim. 148.00 x 30 x 17.20m., draught 11m. Equipped with two nuclear reactors and 4 steam turbines giving 75.000 shp, on 3 generators connected to 3 shafts. Speed 18 knots. Renamed ILIYCH BREZHNEV in 82, she is renamed again in 86. She opens the way to ships from Murmansk. On 17 August1977, she is the first surface ship to reach the North geographic pole.
Sibir NS Rossiya
SIBIR pushed by two nuclear reactors and 4 turbines Kirov for 75.000 shp, driving three generators connected to three shafts giving a speed of 21 knots. Able to break ice of  2 meters thick, she leaves Murmansk on 5 May 1978 with the cargo KAPITAN MYSHEVSKIY for a 3200 miles trip where about 2000 in the ice to arrive at Magadan trough the Bering strait.
In the ARKTIKA class, the last oner, ROSSIYA, is of a little bit greater tonnage and her propulsive  equipment a little bit more powerful (52MW, 69.733 hp) allows to reach 20 knots. Tonnage 20.680 GRT, 2.752 dwt., dim. 150.0 x 30.0m.

NS Yamal


YAMAL, achieved in October 92, she never filled her designed role of keeping shipping lanes open. She has always carried passengers on arctic excursions. YAMAL took an excursion to the North Pole to celebrate the Millennium. YAMAL is the 12th surface ship ever to reach the north pole. Being the most powerful icebreakers in the world, her double hull contains ballasts to aid icebreaking which is also assisted by an air bubbling system delivering air jets below the surface. The Yamal can break ice while making way either forwards or backwards.
50 LET POBEDY (50 Years Since Victory or 50 Years Anniversary of Victory) is the last ice-breaker of ARKTIKA class; building started in 89 and ended in 2007 for the 60th (and not 50th) anniversary of victory. Stopped between 94 and 2003, the work is marked by a fire in 2004 then trails occur in gulf of Finland in 2007.For the first time in history of their icebreakers, Russian used a spoon-shaped bow, to increase the efficiency of the ship's efforts in breaking the ice.

Alternatively with nuclear ice-breaker, Russian will continue to buy conventional ice-breaker to Wartsila in Finland. After MOSKVA class, appears YERMAK class with YERMAK, ADMIRAL MAKAROV (1975) and KRASIN (second with this name, 1976) Far-East Shipping Company (FESCO) used ADMIRAL MAKAROV from Vladivostok to tug docks floating (Yugoslavia 1981, Japan 1981, from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski to Bahamas in 1999) or to assist ships at the Primorsk oil terminal in Baltic Sea or from De-Kastri (east coast of Russia) through Tartar sea. 

The third generation of nuclear ice-breakers comes with TAYMYR and VAYGACH: their hull is built at Wartsila and is then motorised in Russia. Equipped of a 50 000 ch reactor, these ice-breakers are used to clear rivers, including their mouths and estuaries of ice and to open channels in order to make winter navigation possible.

Characteristics: 20791 t, LOA 149.7 m, depth 15.68 m, 20 knots


To be followed: Ice-breakers in Arctic (2)


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