Imagine steaming across thousands of miles of frigid, poorly charted waters, many of them made all the more dangerous by icebergs and sea ice. Imagine finally reaching land and then dealing with one of the driest, windiest and coldest places on earth. One completely void of indigenous peoples, man-made infrastructure or vegetation.
We came out of the cave, we looked over the hill and we saw fire. We crossed the ocean and we pioneered the west.
The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration, and in 1873, a remote and forbidding archipelago that would soon be called Franz Joseph Land was next.
This story really happened more than 30 years ago.
In the Russian High Arctic, a convoy of over 50 Soviet-era ships became trapped in ice fields along the Northern Sea Route or "Northeast Passage." In those days, many Russian Arctic settlements were dependant on food and other neccessities that were typically delivered by these traditional convoys. This time, however, the convoy was unable to return after supplying the isolated settlements due to impassable ice.
As the situation became dire, it was agreed that a nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Lenin, would be pressed into service to lead the other ships out of their icy jail.
What makes this story special – and the Lenin the hero – was her power source: nuclear energy. It enabled the Lenin and her crew to prevent hundreds of seamen from being trapped in the ice for a prolonged period of time. It was one of the biggest and most successful rescue missions of its day.