'Discovery of the year': sunken British ship found in Russian Arctic

时间:2019-09-01 责任编辑:濮戈铝 来源:合乐888手机网页版 点击:263 次

Researchers have discovered the wreck of a pioneering British steamship that sank in the Russian in 1878.

The Thames was a 120-tonne steamship captained by decorated explorer Joseph Wiggins during his attempts to open a trade route between the UK and Siberia through the Arctic Ocean. Two researchers from the which is chaired by President Vladimir Putin, found its wreck in shallow waters on the Yenisei river near the village of Goroshikha just south of the Arctic Circle.

The ship was the first ocean vessel to enter the Yenisei, the largest river flowing into the Arctic, and one of the first to navigate the North-east Passage shipping route.

Captain Joseph Wiggins was an early believer in the possibilities of sea trade with Siberia. Photograph: Siberian State Aerospace University

“It’s difficult to say how well the steamship was preserved. The ship is full of silt and sand, and only part of the stern superstructure is visible,” expedition member Alexander Goncharov the Interfax news agency. He said further archeological work was needed to see if the ship could be raised.

in the regional newspaper Nash Krasnoyarsk Krai called it the “discovery of the year” and said it would “replace scepticism with a positive attitude toward the reclamation of the Russian north”. As climate change rapidly warms the Arctic, Russia has been staking its claim to the region’s trade routes and oil and gas reserves.

Wiggins was an early believer in the possibilities of sea trade with Siberia, which was rich in timber, furs, coal and even mammoth bones. Going against the conventional wisdom that ice cover made the Arctic route unnavigable, the merchant captain self-financed an expedition to the Gulf of Ob in 1874, proving the Kara Sea was passable. Journalist-explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who was already famous for finding missionary David Livingstone in eastern Africa, had sought to but was refused permission by his employer.

Members of the expedition in their catamaran. Photograph: Julia Komissarenko/RGO

Undeterred by a failed mission in 1875 and backed by new investors, Wiggins reached the Yenisei in The Thames in 1876 and left the ship to winter on the river. According to the Russian Geographical Society, he tried to upriver the next year but the ship ran aground and froze to the bottom. He was forced to sell it for parts and return to Britain overland, and The Thames sank during the spring thaw in 1878.

Later that year, Wiggins sailed to the Gulf of Ob and brought back a shipment of wheat, the first Siberian produce to be transported to Britain through the Kara Sea. Although development of Arctic sea trade with was hindered by shipwrecks, Wiggins was honoured by Emperor Alexander III in St Petersburg after he transported rails for the Trans-Siberian railway up the Yenisei in 1893. The Royal Geographical Society recognised his work to open the Kara Sea route with the 1894 Murchison award.

Journalist-explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley was refused permission to accompany Wiggins. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Russian Geographical Society researchers also discovered what they believe to be the wreck of the Russian schooner Northern Lights when a storm forced their motorised catamaran on to the largest of the Brekhovsky islands in the Yenisei Gulf. Four of six crew members died of scurvy after the ship was forced to winter there in 1876, and it was wrecked during the spring thaw. Its remains are a rare example of Siberian shipbuilding of the era, Goncharov said.