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Kauan do it . . . . . again


Onliest Smeg David

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'Ice Fleet' the new album from Kauan has arrived, 

Pre-order from Canada only - in Blue Vinyl, I also obtained the CD with booklet

 

Stylistically it follows on from their brilliant album Sorni Nai. This one comprises a 43-minute long opus dedicated to the terrific story from the 1930's northern shore of the USSR where a flotilla of frozen ships were suddenly found by geologists. The story is based on real letters, articles and events. The album is separated into seven narrative chapters carefully described with an included libretto.

Together with the album there's a 40-page tabletop RPG adventure to interact with the story, available in print together with limited LP and CD versions of the album.

 

Love it!!!

This is why physical media cannot be supplanted!

 

 

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Ice Fleet Vinyl Cover.jpg

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Onliest Smeg David

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The Ice Fleet story:

 

Back in the early 30s on the North of the Balunsk area of Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR, a settlement named “Tiksi” had been made by the shore of the arctic waters of the Laptev sea. The neighbouring area of the settlement was being thoroughly explored and a Polar Station construction was commissioned by the Chief Directorate of the Northern Sea Route.

10 years prior to this event - in the early 20s - Tiksi bay area was explored and deemed fit for the construction of the Sea Port in course of F. Matissen’s expedition.

In September 1930 the surface of the permafrost was blasted with an experienced geologist Eugene Klimov in charge of the operation. Throughout the series of explosions one of the snow mountains was eventually cracked open only to reveal what seemed to be… treetops. It is a fact that due to mild-cold climate and strong winds typical for this area nothing taller than 50 cm (20 inches) bushes had ever been documented in Tiksi. Even those rare trees one may stumble upon here tend to stay low, close to the ground.

With another blast a carcass of a ship emerged from the snow masses. The demolition works were brought to a halt. What first appeared to be treetops were in fact masts, a couple dozen masts emerging from their grave made of snow and huge chunks of ice. Where could an entire fleet come from to end up under a rock several miles off the coast in a place where no seaport, not even a village had ever been seen?

 

The demolition team got on board of the nearest ship. They managed to clear off the deck and eventually reached the entrance to the cargo hold only to discover yet another “surprise”: frozen dead bodies were found about different areas of the hold.

The expedition team members took a couple of photographs. The corpses were well- preserved due the permafrost. One could assume that the bodies belonged to two distinct groups: the crew and the civilians. The passengers were rather well-dressed which indicated their noble background. They were found in the most comfortable area of the vessel, secured from crew’s access.

What appeared to be particularly bizarre about this morbid scene was the abnormal cause of death of the people found on ship, the looks frozen on their faces, the unnaturalness of their posture with their tongues sticking out from their disfigured mouths. Initial examination didn’t reveal any documents or personal belongings of the deceased. Who were these people? How long had they been buried here? The discoveries of that day were literally blood-chilling and they only gave way to more questions. Whatever the truth may have been, it was most definitely ghastly. These extraordinary discoveries were immediately reported to Moscow. In his telegram Klimov requested the officials to take action urgently.

With the investigative team en route, E. Klimov and his assistants Cherevichny and Fedukov attempted to identify the discovered ships. They found out that the identification numbers were hidden under layers of paint on the board of the ship, and it was done, apparently, in much of a hurry.

It wasn’t long before the investigative team led by captain Litvinenko arrived from the capital. The investigators examined the vessels and questioned the polar expedition team. Fedukov’s photo film was confiscated. In course of the investigation several ships were deployed from Murmansk to the incident site to collect and transport bodies and evidence.

 

The most fascinating discovery turned out to be captain’s log found in the wardroom. This was the first thing to get confiscated. Klimov himself, along with three other polar explorers were taken away by the investigators. The remaining members of the expedition team were called off the expedition and redeployed to active construction sites all around the country.

Klimov’s work was continued by another team of polar explorers at a different site. In the end of summer of 1932 Polyarka polar base became operational and with another year passed, an urban village of Tiksi emerged here, eventually becoming the northernmost seaports of our country.

Nevertheless, nobody has ever heard about the ice fleet ever since. There is no documented source that may confirm that the ships had still been there upon the arrival of the second group from Murmansk. None of the Tiksi old-timer’s reports ever mentioned the frozen vessels. They were not present with the summer arriving in Tiksi (thus being said, summers in that area back in the 30s were hardly warmer than 3-5 degrees Celsius).

My grandfather, Eugene Klimov, told me this story numerous times, so incredibly vividly detailed, as if happened yesterday. He and his colleagues were given a 20 year sentence in GULAG under the direct order of G. Yagoda, the head of secret police. I took at attempt at trying to figure out why my grandfather was “rewarded” this way for years of hard work for the sake of the young new state, all because of a bunch of ships and several (un)fortunate photographs?

The key question remains — where did this fleet come from and where did it go? I knew the names of several ships thanks to my grandfather’s stories, he had managed to uncover them under thick layers of paint. The very first ship their team discovered had the name “Gordyi” (The Proud) on it. But who would need to cover the names anyway?

 

“Gordyi” had been registered at Murmansk seaport since 1907, but in the early 20s this name disappeared from all logs. There is one assumption that could be made from all this — what we’re dealing with was the illegal migration of the remaining family members of the Imperial Army officers and all sorts of aristocracy. They were fleeing from what used to be their motherland carrying jewellery, precious metals, antiques and art. Considering the route from Murmansk to Vladivostok and further to the USA, Tiksi made sense.

The fugitives posed interest both to Soviet leaders, and to any criminal minds of those times. Seeking convincing answers I went to city of Murmansk — the only large seaport within the USSR territory — rightfully assuming that if a fleet of such size was indeed able to leave the Soviet coast, this was precisely where they would sail off.

Upon my arrival to Murmansk, I instantly went to the State Archive of Murmansk Cargo Fleet. I was able to find records of ALL the ships, beginning with 1920s. The access to the records was granted to me once mere journalist credentials of mine were presented. The freedom of speech in action!

In order not to miss any potentially relevant case, I started with the very first ship and went all the way to the year of 1930. And there was only one single list of ships that sailed without a properly stated destination! It didn’t have the ships’ name, which was quite peculiar, just vessel IDs and captains’ last names: Filimonov, Merchinsky, etc. One ship had a little note next to it: Signalled an SOS near Dyxon seaport”.

I examined the map and could hardly even find this port, which turned out to be located exactly in the middle of the sea route between the city of Murmansk and where Tiksi used to be. Which means that if those ships did signal mayday from Dyxon, they had been en route for at least another week! And only then something persuaded them to dock near the then-uninhabited coastline of the northernmost part of USSR. Unfortunately I was unable to scavenge any more information on the matter.

 

I ended up back in Moscow with more questions on my mind than I had had before embarking on this trip. What exactly occurred during the fleet run and what was the nature of that mayday call? And did somebody actually answer it?

I am quite certain that you, my dear reader, are anticipating the developments of this story just the same as I am, have been, in fact, all these years, trying to unveil the secrets behind this expedition. Alas, I can’t help but disappoint you — I haven’t been able to discover anything. No other facts, no artefacts or any sort of paperwork which could have aided in identifying the fleet and it’s passengers.

I’m fairly certain that the log file, found by my grandfather, must have been able to uncover the true sequence of these tragic events. And the same thing applies to Fedukov’s photographs. However, both of these are apparently gone forever.

My interpretation of the story is obviously based on more of a hunch, rather than facts that any decent scholar should operate with. It does seem to make sense, yet is unable to provide answers to a great number of questions. We hardly have any facts in this story to begin with. And the ones we have fail to facilitate the understanding of the big picture. On the other hand, the remarkable thoroughness that the Soviet regime exercised covering the tracks of this story, suggests that the passengers of those ships were no mere immigrants. And the contents of that mysterious cargo may not have been limited to family jewels.

With all this taken into account, I’ve made up my mind to turn to the curious readers of the “Nauka ee Zhizn” magazine. Some of you may have heard something or you may have heard your family members and friends discussing this matter. Any kind of information may assist in unveiling the nature of this mysterious disappearance, with a dozen ships gone along with their crew and passengers, that had sailed on them onto their last journey.

For if we fail to do so, the very memory of this amazing, incredible story may fall into oblivion.

 

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