Icebreakers (20th century)
Advances in shipbuilding technology resulted in the creation of the icebreaker, a vessel strong enough to not only withstand the crushing power of the ice, but to break through it. This technology finally opened most of the ice covered Arctic Ocean to military, scientific and commercial interests. In Russia, Britnev is believed to have proposed in 1864 the characteristic bow shape that is now used by all icebreakers. The first notable icebreaker was the Pilot (1870), used to maintain communication between Kronstadt and St. Petersburg. Naval Commander Makarov is credited with the construction of the Yermak, the first true icebreaker, which reached 81°21’N north of Spitsbergen on her maiden voyage in 1899, and 83°06’N nearly 40 years later. In 1916, the first linear icebreaker aimed at support of regular navigation along the northern coast of Russia was built in Newcastle, England by order of Russian Maritime Ministry, and named the Krasin. This icebreaker operated for many years in the Arctic and was a crucial component in the development of the Northern Sea Route (Northeast Passage).
In 1921, the Floating Marine Institute in the USSR was founded for multi-disciplinary study of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas, rivers, islands and coastal areas. Its first cruise was carried out on the icebreaking steamer Malygin. Later, a new special vessel Persei was built in Arkhangelsk. In the eastern sector of the Arctic, regular steamer cruises from Vladivostok to Kolyma commenced, and in 1927, ships from Vladivostok came to Tiksi in the Laptev Sea and even the Lena River. In 1928, Krasin reached the ice camp of the Italian airman Nobile and took part in the rescue. The icebreaking steamer Malygin approached the camp from the southeast and carried out valuable scientific observations in the northern part of the Barents Sea. Icebreaking steamer Sedov explored the western and southern part of Frantz Josef Land. The first nuclear powered icebreaker, Lenin, was built in 1959 at Admiralty Shipyard, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). The most powerful nuclear icebreaker in the world was the Soviet Arctika. It was the first surface ship to reach the North Pole in 1977.