On the Siberia-to-Europe route, 36 of 42 expeditions succeeded but six foundered, and from 1901 to 1910 commercial voyages on this route disappeared completely.
The first icebreaker for the purpose of Arctic navigation was the Yermak (98m long, with a displacement of 9,000t and output of 10,000HP), built at the British port of Newcastle under the direction of the Russian Admiral S.O. Makarov. The Russians built two smaller icebreakers thereafter, dubbed the Taymyr and the Vaygach; these were used by Russia's Central Hydrographic Administration to assist in hydrographic surveying activities, and in 1913 were instrumental in the discovery of Severnaya Zemlya.
The triumphs of Nansen and Amundsen
In the recent history of the NSR, one vessel that deserves a place of honor alongside Nordenskjold's Vega is the Fram, skippered by Fridtjof Nansen. Because Nansen was a scientist rather than a commercial adventurer, his achievements are often underplayed in the saga of the NSR, but his contributions, both indirect and fundamental, were profound in terms of understanding the natural environment of the Arctic. Nansen's two-year voyage across the Arctic Ocean beginning in 1896 provided the observations that pack ice motion was always at a large angle to the surface wind (up to 45｡?um sol), which hinted the fact that the Coriolis force must be an important factor. Nansen had ushered the concept of drift-station and intended to drift for a protracted period in the icy seas, so he developed an ice-resistant ship construction, of which the basic concept of the hull form continues to be used to this day. Nansen's innovative spirit formed the cornerstone of much of the academic research on the Arctic conducted today.
In the early part of this century a Norwegian named Roald Amundsen challenged the western Arctic. After a preliminary voyage to the west coast of Greenland aboard the Gjoa, Amundsen sailed the same vessel on a three-year expedition from 1903 to 1905 to complete the long-heralded navigation of the Northwest Passage. It is said that Amundsen, who was also the first to reach the South Pole, had been inspired by Nansen's polar explorations and his completion of the Northeast Passage aboard the Vega, and had held a lifelong ambition to open up the Northwest Passage.
2.1.3 The Russian Revolution and its aftermath
The early years of the revolution
Even during the turbulent years of the Russian Civil War, pioneers such as Admiral A.V. Kolchak continued to pursue the vision of Peter the Great, experimenting with ways of opening the Kara Sea route between Europe and Siberia. This effort soon became entangled with the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and the opening of the NSR gradually took on the complexion of a strategic military project.
The 1930s were a period of rapid and significant development for the NSR. In 1932 the Soviet Pacific Fleet merchant marine was formed, followed in 1933 by the Northern Naval Fleet; both were based on the Kola Peninsula. Battle-hardened from action in the Russo-Japanese War, these Fleets sharpened the strategic importance of the NSR. In 1932, as part of the activities of the International Polar Years of 1932-1933, an international scientific observation project traversed the NSR from west to east in a small icebreaker called the Aleksandr Sibiryakov. On this voyage, the party left the port of Arkhangelsk in July and arrived that same summer in Vladivostok, from which it continued onward to dock at Japanese shores in November. The Aleksandr Sibiryakov completed this landmark NSR journey in only a third of the time logged by the Vega. Other successes were to follow: in 1934 the Fedor Litke became the first vessel to negotiate the NSR in a single season and without a single mishap, and in 1935 the cargo ships Vantsetti and Iskra, supported by the Fedor Litke, became the first craft of their kind to successfully complete the eastern NSR.