On July 6, 1935, the Sadko icebreaker went on the first of its three high-latitude cruises to explore the deep-waters of the Arctic. It went much further north than any other Soviet craft had ever gone.
During its cruises between 1935 and 1937, the Sadko completed a number of important studies on the unexplored areas in the northern Karskoye Sea, the Barents Sea, and the Laptev Sea. Ushakov Island was discovered on one trip.
One of the most remarkable of the Sadko’s achievements was unraveling the mystery of the Sannikov Land. The existence of the island has been debated over many years.
The island was first reported in 1811 by Yakov Sannikov, an entrepreneur and an Arctic explorer. He was convinced that, “a vast land” existed to the north, constituting four rocky mountains.
Another argument in favor of the Sannikov Land enthusiasts were the multiple bird migrations. Some boldly suggested that the Sannikov Land not only existed, but was a very fertile and beautiful place. The question was: how could this be possible so close to the North Pole?
In 1886, another Russian explorer and famous polar geologist, Baron Eduard Toll, saw the contour of the Sannikov Land in his binoculars. In search for the Sannikov Land in 1902, he was tragically defeated by the Arctic ice and perished in the snow desert.
After that, the mysterious land was in oblivion for a long time.
In 1926, with increasing interest in Arctic exploration and the advent of new techniques, the island appeared in the book of the Russian science fiction writer. Vladimir Obruchev wrote an eponymous novel in which the island is the last escape for a tribe of Yuit (Siberian Eskimo) pushed away from the mainland by the newly-arrived tribes. In Obruchev’s story, the island is heated by a volcano, hosts mammoths and a tribe of Neanderthals called Vampoo, and ultimately is destroyed by an eruption of the volcano. Ten years later, a Soviet SF movie ‘The Sannikov Land’ was released.
In 1937, the Sadko teamed up with an air reconnaissance crew and conducted a very thorough research of the area. The team hadn’t located any trace of the Sannikov Land. The mystery was unravelled.
Most scientists came to the conclusion that the Sannikov Land was a temporary formation of permafrost, with a layer of soil on top of it, but which melted over time, as many other similar islands.