One of the world’s most famous icebreakers celebrates 100 years since she was built on the Tyne.
Designed from drawings by the famous Russian seaman, Admiral Stepan O Makarov, on Aug 16, 1916, the shipbuilders Sir WG Armstrong, Whitworth & Co launched the Svyatogor, 5,168grt, for the Russian Government. She been ordered during the reign of the Tsar Nicholas II but before she was completed, the Russian Revolution began in 1917, and the Tsar was forced to abdicate and then he and his family were shot a year later.
The icebreaker was given the name Svyatogor in honour of a Russian mythical hero. The ship was 323ft long with a beam of 71ft, she had steam propulsion and her original armament comprised two 5in and two 13pdr guns. Survey during construction of what was the most powerful icebreaker at that time was carried out by the Russian Register. The agreement for the RS survey was signed on Jan 1, 1916, and construction had been completed by September, 1917.
The icebreaker then sailed to Russia. British forces had been sent to Russia to aid the White Russians fighting the Bolsheviks in the Civil War between 1918 and 1921. In August 1918, as enemy troops approached Archangel, the city’s Military Council ordered the Svyatogor to be scuttled in the estuary of the northern Dvina River. The ship was not fully submerged and was refloated by the Royal Navy and she was commissioned into the Royal Navy that autumn and served until 1921.
In 1920, the Svyatogor took part in one of the most dramatic rescues in the Arctic. The icebreaking steamer Solovei Budimirovich became ice-bound in the Kara Sea with 85 people on board including women and children. The Svyatogor was part of the international operation to pick up the survivors.
In 1922, the icebreaker was bought back by the USSR for £75,000 thanks to the efforts of Russia’s trade representative Lord Krasin. Between 1922 and 1926, the icebreaker assisted merchant ships in the iced-over Baltic Sea. In 1927, she was renamed Krasin. In 1928, she rescued members of General Umberto Nobile’s expedition after the Italian airship Italy was wrecked near the North Pole on May 25.
Today, the Krasin, owned by the International Fund for the History of Science, of Murmansk, is berthed at St Petersburg as a museum ship and is open to the public.