The Krassin (Svyatogor) Icebreaker is one of the symbols of the Russian arctic fleet. She took part in numerous polar expeditions in Arctic including the rescue of the expedition of Umberto Nobile.

Svyatogor (Krassin) icebreaker in 1916-1922

The ship was built for the Imperial Russian Navy in Great Britain at the shipyard "Armstrong and Whitworth" in Newcastle upon Tyme in 1916. Svyatogor (Святогор) was the first name of the icebreaker. She is a three-deck vessel with the displacement of 10 000 tons, 99,8 meters long and 21,6 meters wide. Total capacity of the steam engines was more than 10 000 horsepowers. The maximum speed of the ship came to 15 knots.

On the 31st of March 1917 Russian St. Andrew's flag was raised on the ship and she became a part of the Russian fleet. Svyatogor was sent to Arkhangelsk to provide ice escort in the Barents and White Seas. It was particularly important because Arkhangelsk accepted ships with weapons, military equipment, coal and other supplies from Great Britain and other allies of Russia in WWI.

In 1918, after the Bolshevik revolution, the British and French governments decided upon an Allied military intervention in Russia. It is mentioned in several sources that the intervention was approved by Trotsky, who was the head of the Soviet government.

Real goals of the parties are still pretty much unclear, as well as the relations between the Allied forces, the Bolsheviks and the Whites (a confederation of anti-communist forces). As a matter of fact, on 01 August 1918 the Bolsheviks sunk brand new Svyatogor together with another icebreaker, Mikula Selyanovich, in the Northern Dvina River in order to block up the way to Arkhangelsk for the British.

However, it was made in shallow waters and did not cause any inconvenience. On 02 August the British forces entered Arkhangelsk and on 03 August the ships were raised by the team of Russian sailors.

In 1920, when the Bolsheviks overrun the resistance of the White Army in Arkhangel Province, British troops withdrew and took Svyatagor to Great Britain because they did not receive the full payment for the vessel.

In 1922 Svyatogor was bought out by the Soviet Government and was used in the Gulf of Finland. In 1927 the ship was renamed after Krassin in honour of the Soviet ambassador in Britain and People's Commissar for Foreign Trade Leonid Krassin who played an important role in organizing the buyout deal.

The rescue of the expedition of Umberto Nobile

15 April 1928 the Italia airship commanded by the famous polar explorer and airship constructor Umberto Nobile left Milan in Italy and on May 8 it reached Kings Bay in Spitsbergen (Svalbard). They were going to explore the unknown territories and reach the North Pole.

On May 23, the Italia airship with a crew of 16 people flew along the coastline of Greenland and on May 24 reached the North Pole. During the return flight from the North Pole on May 25 Italia crashed in about 120 km from North East Land, Spitsbergen. The airship broke apart and left 9 persons survived and 1 dead on the ice and 6 more crew flown away on the envelope and a part of the gondola. They have never been found.

Some equipment and food were found by the nine survivors at the place of the crash and they could establish a tent and repair a portable transmitter. On May 30, 3 people (Malmgren, Zappi and Mariano) left the camp in attempt to reach Kings Bay on foot. On June 3 a Soviet amateur radio operator heard the SOS signal from Italia and the radio connection with the survivors was established.

The rescue operation included several attempts to reach the crash zone by planes. One of them was implemented by the famous polar explorer Roald Amundsen. His plane disappeared during the mission and was never found.

On June 23 the Swedish pilot Lundborg managed to land and almost forcibly took Umberto Nobile to the base ship Citta di Milano. However, during the next rescue flight his plane crashed and the pilot was trapped with the others.

Soon after the crash, a rescue committee was established in Moscow. Soviet Union had two powerful icebreakers, Lenin and Krassin and a smaller icebreaker Malygin. They sent Krassin and Malygin to save the Italia crew. Krassin left Leningrad on June the 16th under the command of Captain Carl Eggi and expedition leader Professor Samoilovitch, total crew 136. The icebreaker had a plane on board under the command of pilot Boris Chukhnovsky.

11 June Chukhnovsky found Mariano and Zappi (Malmgren died earlier). 12 June Krassin rescued Mariano and Zappi and later on the same day 5 remaining Italia survivors.

In September 1928 icebreaker Krassin made second expedition to find 6 crew members disappeared with Italia. However it wasn't successful.

The rescue of SS Monte Servantes in 1928

On 25 July 1928 Krassin was en-route to Norway for repairing. However, in the afternoon radio operator heard SOS signal from the sinking passenger steam ship Monte Servantes. With 1500 passengers and 300 crew on board Monte Servantes was on a tourist trip to Spitsbergen when collided with an iceberg. During 8 days Krassin crew worked on repairing Monte Servantes and patched up two hull breaches.

Later history of the Krassin icebreaker

During the WWII the icebreaker took part in the convoy PQ-15 and safely reached Murmansk.

After the war the ship was sent to capital repairing and reconstruction.

In 1972 the Krassin, being the veteran of the Arctic fleet, was passed over to the Ministry of Geology as a research vessel. In 1992 the Government of Russia gave the Icebreaker a status of a historical monument. Later the icebreaker was registered as a museum-ship. In 2017 the ship celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Nowadays the icebreaker is docked in St. Petersburg at Lt. Shmidt embankment, 23rd line of Basil's Island.

Opening hours of the museum on board of the Krassin icebreaker:

Open: WE-SU from 10.00 till 18.00 (except for last Wednesday of each month).

Excursions to the engine room take place only on Saturday and Sunday.

Closed: Monday, Tuesday