Dixon The northernmost outpost

We present to your attention a chapter from the book “From Mangazeya to Norilsk. 30 stories of the Arctic. "
The publication was carried out with the support of PJSC "MMC" Norilsk Nickel ", 2017.

The harbor, now mapped by Lieutenant Bove, was opened by me in 1875 and named Dixon. As far as is known, this is the best pier on the entire northern coast of Asia, and over time, of course, it will be very important for the Siberian import and export trade. It is surrounded on all sides by rocky islands and, therefore, is protected from any wind. Clay bottom is very convenient for anchorage. This marina can be entered from the north and from the southwest; At the entrance, caution is needed, since all the pitfalls could not be shown on Lieutenant Bove’s map because of haste.

I’m sure that the time will come when Dixon’s marina will have large warehouses and inhabited dwellings all year round. But now this area is completely uninhabited ...

Adolf Nordenskiöld, a Swedish navigator,
Arctic explorer

Since time immemorial, both the mighty of the world, and ordinary seafarers, and merchants have dreamed of finding a sea route from Russia to Europe through the Arctic Ocean. Not because it was easy and safe, but because it was the shortest and, accordingly, the most profitable. For the first time, the famous Italian scientist Paolo Giovio mentioned the possible existence of such a move at the beginning of the 16th century, referring to conversations with the Russian diplomat of Tsar Vasily III, Dmitry Gerasimov, who arrived in Rome in 1525 with an official visit.

It is difficult to say whether it was the random reservation of Gerasimov or a thoughtful diplomatic move, but the information he transmitted was extremely interesting for the Italians. She was reported to Pope Clement VII and included in the Book on the Embassy of Vasily, Grand Duke of Moscow, published later, and a detailed map of the Russian lands known at that time that was compiled by Giovio.

Twenty-five years later, Ivan the Terrible promised those who would find the Northern Sea Route to reward, as they say, royally.

However, the active search for the sea passage through the Arctic Ocean began only at the beginning of the 17th century, as a result of which many geographical discoveries were made, including the appearance on the maps of the most important island route for this northern route - Dixon.


Who was the first traveler to discover this inhospitable rocky piece of land, towering among the cold Arctic waters a mile and a half from the Taimyr Peninsula, is not known for certain. Most likely, the pioneers were Arkhangelsk coast-dwellers, swimming on the White Sea, or Mangazeya sailors, rafting down the Yenisei to the Kara Sea in search of the fur-bearing beast on their legendary kochi. Who knows…

Kochi called medium-sized wooden (16 - 24 meters) fishing sailing and rowing vessels, which had truly unique driving characteristics. Single-deck, with an egg-shaped hull and a small draft (1-1.5 meters), they were free to walk both along the shallow waters of Siberian rivers and along the stormy sea. Unlike conventional ships, Kochi didn’t overwhelm them with ice due to the round shape of their hull, and the freezing water just pushed them up. Even to winter these vessels were left afloat. Depending on the size of one koch could carry from 30 to 45 passengers and 10 - 15 people on the team. When the water froze, it was easily pulled onto the ice and dragged along the river or the sea, and sometimes over land by ordinary drags. No wonder the people say: "As the ship name, so he sails." The word "Kochi", according to Dal, means "sleigh for riding from a hill"!

One way or another, but thanks to the Koch class sled, as well as the stubbornness and curiosity of Siberian navigators, by the end of the 16th century, Dickson Island was no longer a new Siberian coast.


But if everything was more or less clear with Dixon’s location, it’s necessary to go around Taimyr along the coastline along clear water (so it’s almost impossible to pass by, at least in case of good weather), then a real leapfrog occurred with the name . Not only did each new discoverer give him his name, but the island was marked differently on official maps. There was nothing to say about the local population - each nationality also had its own name for it.

The first name noted in written sources was assigned to Dixon in 1738 during the Great Northern Expedition. The head of the Ob-Yenisei detachment, navigator Fyodor Minin, unsuccessfully trying to go around Taimyr, marked the island on the map as the Big Northeast.

Somewhat later it became known that the Siberian fishing people called Dickson Island Long. This geographic name is now quite common in Russia. On the modern map you can count more than twenty-five islands of the Long, and all of them are similar in outline to each other - narrow and elongated along one line. It is strange only why Dixon got into this company - he looks more like a big horseshoe than a long stick.

But why not be in Russia only! In the XIX century, the island was already known as Kuzkin. According to the existing legend, it was called so in honor of a certain helmsman from the coast of Pomor, named either Kuzma, or Kuzmin, or something else. So this Kuzma allegedly was the first of the navigators who brought logs to the island from the mainland, put a log building there and staked a rocky section behind him.

And in 1875, a small Swedish vessel “Preven” appeared in the mouth of the Yenisei with a scientific expedition on board, led by polar explorer Adolf Nordenskiöld. Approaching the island, the scientist found a deep and comfortable bay on its eastern shore. In his diaries, he was surprised to describe the diversity of the island’s fauna: “On our arrival, six wild deer grazed on Dixon Island; one of them was shot by Yalander, and the others were unsuccessful. In addition, we saw several bears in many places between stone piles and many traces of nests and foxes ... Of the birds, a lot of plantains were seen hatching their eggs between piles of stones on the mainland and on the islands; white grouse families; a lot of coastal inhabitants, swimmills, the types of which were not determined more precisely; eiders, prey and gulls-burgomasters were less common, more often ice glacial ducks and diving. Apparently, there is generally an abundance of fish, whose herds were seen in the Strait of Lena; probably, seals and white whales are often caught here at a certain time of year. ” On the island there was fresh water suitable for drinking. The researcher also noted that these places were once visited by people: "At the northern entrance to the harbor on one of the small rocky islands are visible remnants of the hut, which served as a refuge for animal hunters."

This bay Nordenskiöld was named the harbor of Dixon in honor of the Swedish magnate Oscar Dixon, who financed his expedition.

Later, in 1878, Nordenskiöld sailed on the steamer "Vega" from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the waters of the Arctic and became the first navigator who managed to pass through the Northern Sea Route. Having stopped in the bay of Dixon, the traveler decided to call the whole Kuzkin Island by the name of the philanthropist Dixon. The sly Swede generally liked to assign the names of his sponsors to geographic objects, which in the future helped him to play on the ambition of money cats and to get money from them for new expeditions.

Sixteen years later, the name given to the island of Nordensheld was officially established by the Russian Hydrographic Expedition under the command of polar explorer Lieutenant Colonel Andrey Vilkitsky. A wealthy Swedish merchant Dickson, who did not make a single discovery personally, entered the history of the development of Siberia, immortalized his name in Russian toponymy, received a nobility, a baron’s title and became a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences.


By the beginning of the twentieth century, Dikson was drawn on all the official maps of the Russian Empire. Increasingly, military and merchant ships stopped at his bay. They also came here for temporary parking and research vessels, sent to conquer the expanses of the Arctic. And the navigators, scientists, and merchants were primarily attracted by the good location of the island, its proximity to the mainland and the Yenisei Gulf, and the deep and well-protected from the weather lagoon.

Thus, at the end of the summer of 1901, the legendary schooner Zarya anchored in Dickson bay with the famous explorer of Siberia and the Arctic, Baron Tolle aboard. This year he headed the Russian polar expedition and went to study the sea currents. Toll dreamed of finding the mythical northern continent - Arctis (Hyperborea), in whose existence he sincerely believed. In extreme cases, Sannikov’s Land would have arranged for him - the Baron did not doubt her reality either.

He ordered to build a coal shed at Dixon, where the fuel supply for the sailing-steam barquentine Zarya was put. If you do not take into account the legend of the Kuzma felling that was set up here, then this shed can be considered the first building on the island.

Fourteen years later, a tugboat "Correspondent" arrived with a barge loaded with hewn wood. Next to the Tollevsky barn of logs brought, the team cut down two residential huts and a bathhouse. Thus, the first residential town appeared on the island for members of a scientific expedition on the icebreaking steamers Vaigach and Taimyr, who for the first time tried to go along the Northern Sea Route from Vladivostok to Arkhangelsk (1914-1915). A powerful radio transmitter was also delivered, and on September 7, 1915, the call signs of one of the first polar radio stations were broadcast. Later this day began to be considered the date of foundation of the village of Dikson.

The campaign was successful and confirmed the need to create permanent marine and scientific bases on the island. The following year, hydrometeorological equipment was brought here and a full-fledged research station was laid.

Nikifor Begichev, a tireless explorer of the Arctic, found his peace in the land of Dixon


But, as always, in the history of the island was not without tragic events. Thus, on June 24, 1919, the new ship Maud sailed from Norway, the owner of which was the Napoleon of the Polar Countries, as it was called, the legendary traveler Roald Amundsen. The researcher intended to sail along the Northern Sea Route, go to the Bering Strait and repeat the drift of Fridtjof Nansen to the North Pole. But in September, at Cape Chelyuskin, his ship was covered with ice and got up for the winter. Amundsen sent two sailors, Peter Tessem and Paul Knudsen, with mail to the nearest polar station, eight hundred kilometers from the ship, to Dikson Island.

However, there are no messengers. What happened to Knudsen is still unknown. In 1922, Tessem was found by the Russian polar explorer Nikifor Begichev, who participated in the expedition of Nikolai Urvantsev. At first, ninety kilometers from Dixon, the Amundsen post was discovered, then two pairs of healthy Norwegian skis were found at the mouth of the Uboynaya River, and a few kilometers from the station, on the mainland, at the very edge of the water, Begichev stumbled upon a human skeleton. Next to it was Tessem’s nominal watch, and a wedding ring with the name of his wife Paulina was fastened to the belt. Apparently, dying, the poor creature saw a saving island, but could not reach it.

Peter Tessem was buried in the same place where he was found, the grave was laid with stones and a memorial pillar was installed. And in 1958, a monument was erected to the brave Norwegian on the seashore.

Nikifor Begichev, who discovered Tessem's body, himself died of scurvy in 1927 during wintering at Cape Inlet near the Pyasina River. In 1964, his ashes were reburied on Dixon, and a monument was erected on the grave: in full growth, the discoverer in the skins walks along the stones and snow ahead.

Panorama of the modern village

Not bypassed the island and the Great Patriotic War. On the night of August 27, 1942, the heavy German cruiser Sheer entered the harbor of Dixon and began shelling the port and the ships moored at the pier. The coastal battery opened fire, forcing the Germans to leave the bay and go to sea. But as a result of this short but brutal battle on Dixon, two ships, a power station, a radio center and two houses were damaged. Seven people died and more than thirty counted the wounded. In memory of this battle in 1972, near the port, a monument was erected to the dead sailors from the North Sea.

Villagers carefully honor the memory of the heroes. Here they are very tactful about the history of their island. Probably, because it was written in the incredibly harsh and harsh conditions of the Far North by the most courageous and courageous, most curious and curious people.


The tumultuous flourishing of Dixon objectively falls on the times of the USSR. In 1932, a new organization appeared in the country building socialism, whose name was hidden behind the incomprehensible mere mortal by the acronym GUSMP, which meant the Main Directorate of the Northern Sea Route. She had one task - the development of the Arctic and the provision of through navigation on the Arctic Ocean from Murmansk to Chukotka.

Monument to Peter Tessem, sailor of the Amundsen expedition, who died just a stone's throw from the cherished Dixon

Dixon settlement as a key point of this route began to develop rapidly, gradually capturing the mainland part of Taimyr. The island was equipped with a state-of-the-art polar station. Entire streets began to appear from one-story houses. By a simple order of the station head, these streets were immediately assigned the names of the heroes of the Arctic: Ivan Papanin, Valery Chkalov, Mikhail Vodopyanov, Nikifor Begichev, Vladimir Voronin.

There is a street named Eskimo Tayana on Dixon. According to the documents, in 1935, this hunter put an end to the "excesses" of Konstantin Semenchuk, the head of the polar station on Wrangel Island, and his assistant, the horseman Stepan Startsev, who was "convicted" later in the murder of the station doctor Nikolai Wolfson. In 1936, a court was held in which Comrade Vyshinsky himself, the prosecutor of the USSR, acted as an accuser. Both men were found guilty and shot, but in 1989 they were rehabilitated for lack of corpus delicti. So the repressions did not avoid this small village at the very end of the world ...

Nonetheless, Dickson continued to grow. By 1936, the first berths of the seaport were built here, which quickly turned into a strategic object, which ensured the activities of military bases and polar stations located in the western sector of the Russian Arctic, as well as all shipping and sending arctic expeditions to the local section of the Northern Sea Route. From that moment, a beautiful romantic name stuck to the island - the Gates of the Arctic.

During the years of Soviet power, an airport was built on Dixon, a seaport was modernized, a geophysical observatory, a radio hydrometeorological center, a power station, two schools, a hospital, several shops, multi-storey residential and administrative buildings, a frontier post, a military town of the air defense forces and many more were built. By the mid-1980s, the population of the village was about five thousand inhabitants, and the entire country was jealous of the specialists who worked here.

Hay for the Chukchi mammoths

By the mid-1960s, Dixon became known not only in the USSR, but throughout the world. Books are written about him and songs are composed. Morzian, written by the poet Mikhail Plyatskovsky and the composer Mark Fradkin, was especially popular in the Soviet Union. Her famous words “The fourth day of the snowstorm swings over Dixon” sounded from the radio speakers, black and white TVs, in the kitchens and in the courtyards of a huge state.

And in the 1970s, the famous bike “About the herd of Chukchi mammoths” born on an island among harsh polar explorers went across the expanses of the country. She was retold to friends, recited from the stage and published in major Soviet journals. The essence of the legend is this: allegedly Dixon came from Moscow with a lightning telegram that they dug out and revived a flock of mammoths in Chukotka from the permafrost, and there was nothing to feed them! It is necessary to urgently deliver a batch of hay so that the warmed up ancient giants will not perish from hunger now. They woke up the sleeping pilot of the Li-2 transport aircraft, explained the task that, they say, the mammoths came to life, there was nothing to feed, it was necessary to fly, but the “irresponsible” airport haymaster did not give ... Well, the pilot woke up and rushed to the prehistoric herbivores to knock out. The head, of course, isn’t a dream: what mammoths, what kind of hay, and even on the polar Dixon? And the pilot pushes everything: you are a bureaucrat, a saboteur, a saboteur, a destroyer of living beings! And so on. драки не дошло, да товарищи того пилота вов ремя расхохотались… Розыгрыш удался, и пошла о нем слава по всей стране.

Однако нагрянули лихие 1990-е - и шутки кончились. Исчез Советский Союз, а с его распадом и Диксон постепенно пришел в упадок. Военный гарнизон ПВО расформировали. Севморпуть практически перестал использоваться, и обветшавший морской порт передали в подчинение Дудинке. The airport is also breathing its last, completely falling apart, and now there is no one to fly especially - the population of Dixon has decreased almost ten times and in 2015 it was only 650 inhabitants.

But there is hope for the revival of the village. In recent years, the state has once again awakened interest in its northern territories, and if this trend does not die away, Dixon can return its former glory and honor. In any case, we will believe in it - aren't the heroic efforts and memory of the people who sacrificed their lives for the development of this land worth that?

Cover photo: Sergey Gorshkov

Text: Vadim Vershinin
Photos: from the archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel"
Drawings: Evgenia Minaev

Watch the video: Appalachia. Wikipedia audio article (January 2020).


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