понедельник, 14 сентября 2009 г.

WOMEN IN THE ARCTIC



Women in the Arctic… The very thought of women taking part in Arctic expeditions can hardly surprise anyone these days, but a while ago it was something that sent eyebrows sky-high…

Tatiana Pronchischeva, the wife of the well-known Russian polar explorer Vasily Pronchischev, was the first Russian woman to set foot on the never melting ice of the Arctic. Together with her husband, Tatiana took part in the Great Northern Expedition of 1733 and 1743…

Almost two centuries on, Yerminia Zhdanko became the second woman to set to the Arctic in 1912. The daughter of a Russian general, Yerminia was a courageous and determined young woman who always tried to measure up to the odds. Learning that her distant relative, Georgy Brusilov, was planning to sail the Saint Anna schooner from St. Petersburg around Scandinavia and further on along the Northern Sea route, Yerminia had a burning desire to get aboard. She did not want to go all the way, though. All she wanted was making a short trip north and come ashore in Murmansk. For some strange reason, several crew members, including the ship’s doctor, never showed and, hating to see the whole undertaking falling through, Yerminia, a certified nurse herself, agreed to fill in for the deserting doctor. In a letter she sent to her family on September 10 of 1912, Yerminia wrote: “We expected the doctor to come on board at Alexandrovsk, but he never did. As we later leaned, he had simply changed his mind. With everyone talking about our expedition, we just cannot back off. We have plenty of medicines aboard, but, apart from one ex-military paramedic, we have no other medical personnel here. I was so frustrated by all this… I realized that if I backed out too, I will never be able to forgive myself…”

Georgy Brusilov hated to see his young relative taking part in what promised to be a very arduous journey. He eventually agreed to let her onboard if only she got her parents’ permission first… Responding to his daughter’s plea, General Zhdanko cabled back his guarded opposition to the idea, but left the matter entirely to her discretion…

Ignorant as she was about Arctic expeditions, Yerminia fully realized that she would have to spend at least one winter on the ice – an experience that was absolutely unthinkable for an early 20th century young woman.



The Saint Anna’s northern epic went down in the history of Arctic exploration mainly because it ended in tragedy. The schooner vanished without trace and for a whole two years she drifted helplessly amid the ice and snow of the Central Arctic region. Only two sailors survived the ordeal. One of them, Alexander Konrad, eventually wrote a book where he detailed everything he and his fellow crewmembers had gone through in the snow-covered wilderness of the Arctic. Reading from this book we can see that Yerminia Zhdanko, or “our fair lady” as the crewmen called her, always remained “the kindest and most devoted member of the crew. While the strongest men on board fell ill, brawled, shouted abuse at each other and sometimes even fought each other, she carried on. Suffering like anyone else from diseases caused by the protracted drift Yerminia was always ready to help out buoying the sagging spirits of her fellow crewmembers. Always patient and looking at the bright side, she was a great source of inspiration to everyone on board.”

The name of the world’s first and so far only woman to spend two years exploring the Arctic, was later given to a cape in the Franz-Joseph archipelago…

Source:The Voice of Russia

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