In the 1890s icebreakers were small ships, seldom exceeding 2,000 tons. Russia needed something more formidable, something with bulk and power. With the longest ice choked coastline in the world, Russia had more need for effective icebreakers than any other country in the world. As a consequence Russia contracted with the British firm of Armstrong, Whitworth and Company to lay down a new type of icebreaker, a giant among midgets, the Ermack (click for review of the Combrig Ermack).
The Ermack was truly a giant from past building practices of icebreakers. She was laid down in 1897, launched on October 17, 1898 and completed on February 20, 1899. The 7,875 ton proved to be a complete success. It could break through ice of a thickness that impossible to overcome with the icebreakers of the class. Admiral Stepan Makarov was largely responsible for fostering the giant icebreaker and he sailed on her in exploratory missions in the frozen Russian territory in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas. He went on to command the Russian First Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur and was killed in the Russo-Japanese War.
Almost 20 years later, Imperial Russia in spite of being embroiled in the midst of the First World War, saw a significant need for a replacement of Ermack. Consequently they went back to Armstrong and ordered another giant icebreaker, to be named Sviatogor, after a Russian warrior of myth. The Sviatogor had an even greater displacement than Ermack but in comparison between the two ships, they were remarkably similar. Ermack Ė length 97.5m, beam 21.8m, draught 7.9m, displacement 7,875 tons normal, speed 12 knots, range 4,400nm, and crew 112. Sviatogor - length 96.9m, beam 21.8m, draught 7.9m, displacement 8,730 tons normal, speed 16 knots, range 4,400nm, and crew 112. The new Sviatogor was actually shorter but heavier and faster than the older Ermack.
Since Russia was involved in fighting Germany and Austro-Hungary the Sviatogor was armed with two 4.7-inch (120mm) and two three-inch (76mm AA) guns. Her Russian Imperial service didnít last long and she after the abdication of the Tsar, Sviatogor was scuttled as a blockship in the northern reach of the river Dvina. She was raised by the British and transferred to the UK during the Russian Civil War. On September 8, 1921 after the formation of the Soviet Union the ship was returned to Russia where she was renamed Krasin. Now disarmed and stationed in the Arctic, the Krasin had a long history in the Soviet fleet. In the 1920s Krasin made headlines in rescue operations. A German passenger ship, the Monte Servantes, which had been holed by an iceberg and was carrying 1,500 passengers and a crew of 325. Krasin came to her aide and the Russian crew repaired the damage caused by the ice.
However, the greatest world fame came from the rescue of a crew of an airship. In May 1928 the airship Italia was sent from Mussolini's Italy with the mission to reach the North Pole. Led by General Umberto Nobile, the airship crashed and broke in two on May 25, 1928. Nine crewmen, lucky enough to be in the gondola, were stranded on the ice, although a 10th man died in the crash, while the other five crewmen still inside the gasbag portion of the airship floated away on the wind, never to be seen again. There were nine survivors, including Nobile. That day the survivors start to transmitting for rescue on a radio set with a 425 mile range. "SOS Italia. Nobile on the ice near Foyn Island, northeast Spitzbergen , latitude 80:37, longitude 26:50. Impossible to move, lacking sledges and having two men injured. Dirigible lost in another locality. Reply via IDO 32. SOS." A two weeks passed until the radio transmissions of the survivors were received by a Russian ham radio operator, located in Archangel, Russia, 1,200 miles away. Another three weeks passed before Nobile was flown out in a small plane. Seven survivors, one of the nine had died, were rescued by the Krasin on July 11, 1928 after 48 days on the ice. A few days later the ice at the crash site breaks up. This entire episode was made into the movie The Red Tent. Krasin reached 82 degrees north latitude.
In the 1930ís Krasin continued with her rescuing and exploratory ways. In 1932 she crossed to the eastern Pechora Sea to rescue the crew and ship of another icebreaker, the Lenin. The Lenin had become icebound and had drifted with the ice. The Krasin freed the ship, which then steamed to safety.In 1933 Krasin became the first ship in history to reach the northern shore of Novaya Zemlya. In 1935 Krasin went to the Chuckchee Sea along the northeast coast of the Soviet Union. She went to 75 degree North Latitude north of Vrangel Island conducted hydrological discovery and experiments to a depth of 200m. During her service in the 1920s and 1930s, Krasin appeared to have red stars painted on each side of the funnels.
When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 Krasin was in the Pacific. Krasin crossed the Pacific, went through the Panama Canal and wound up on the east coast of the United States, where she received repairs. From there she went on to Great Britain, where she was armed with four 76mm heavy AA guns, seven 20mm Oerlikons and ten machine guns. After being armed Krasin steamed to Iceland to join convoy PQ-15 as one of the escorts to Murmansk. After arriving at Murmansk Krasin became part of the standing Russian escort for the northern convoys.
After the war Krasin was disarmed again and was part of Arctic research expeditions as well as performing her standing duties as icebreaker for Soviet merchant convoys through ice bound regions of the far north. Between 1953 to 1960 Krasin was extensively reworked in Wismar, Germany to be much more modern in appearance. She was finally decommissioned in 1972. She was then used as a floating workshop and accommodation vessel under the name of Leonid Brezhnev at the polar island of Spitsbergen. For a portion of her career, Krasin appeared to have red stars painted on each side of her two funnels. Unlike the Ermack, which was broken up, the Krasin still survives. She was moved from Spitsbergen to Saint Petersburg where she was restored and made into a museum ship. The Krasin, rescuer of the crew of the airship Italia can still be seen in Saint Petersburg at this address and times.
Icebreaker Krasin Museum
(History and ship's photographs from The Icebreaker Krasin Organization web site http://www.krasin.org:8101/eng/history.html, Saint Petersburg.com web site http://www.saint-petersburg.com/sightseeing/museums/icebreaker-krasin.asp, Historic Naval Ships Organization Web Site http://hnsa.org/ships/krasin.htm, Soviet Warship Development: Volume 1: 1917-1937 by Siegfried Breyer)
The Combrig Krasin
If anything, it has character. She is not a beautiful ship, icebreakers are not built for beauty or speed just as Clydesdale horses are breed for power not speed. The Krasin deck is loaded with features that add character to the squat, stubby ship. There are plenty of skylights, cleats, bollards, winches and platforms to go around. The twelve platforms that run the length of the ship, six per side add extra interest. As you would figure with an icebreaker, there are not many things hanging on the hull sides. The sides of the hull on the model are smooth with a nice tumblehome, except for the nicely done anchors, portholes and an odd horizontal line on the stern. It almost appears as it would be a support for a sternwalk but in reality appears to be a reinforcing band for the stern. It can be seen in the large photograph of the profile.
There are several stand-outs with the smaller parts. The six cranes and two tall thin funnels will only further add to the character of the model. If you look closely at the photograph of the funnels, youíll see how each funnel segment is delineated by a delicate inscribed line. The small houses on the bridge wings also add an interesting tough. With a multitude of ventilation funnels, the Combrig Krasin will certainly have a busy deck.
The photographs show all of the resin parts but the instructions and box art were not yet ready when I received the model, although they should be ready now. You can expect the standard format for Combrig on the instructions with a one page, back-printed sheet. Following the prior format the front will have a nice profile and plan which supplements assembly and provides a rigging plan, a history for Krasin, shipís specifications and painting guide. I am especially interested in the painting guide, since the Krasin should be a colorful and striking ship model. In the 1920s and 1930s Krasin had red stars on her funnels, which alone will make her stand out from rows of gray prima donnas of sleek warships. The reverse will undoubtedly have a photograph of all of the parts plus an isometric assembly drawing.
The Combrig Krasin will not have photo-etch but that should not be a problem as railings and inclined ladders represent the biggest requirements. Gold Medal Models has a nice merchant ship fret in 1:700 scale which will probably provide some extra details that could be useful for the Krasin. The Combrig Krasin has cast on aztec steps that will need to be removed but that should be no problem as they are only attached to the deck, except for the two on the bridge.