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Biography of the Vessel

 1939 - 1945

In 1939 the motor vessel Mars (afterwards, Vityaz) was built as a cargo and passenger vessel at the German shipyard in Bremerhaven as ordered by the Neptune shipping company. The vessel was to transport fruit from southern countries to Germany. According to Heinrich Tamm, an engineer who used to sail on the Mars: “She was an unbelievably beautiful ship. Painted cream with elegant forms and harmonious lines, the vessel resembled a yacht. The Mars was a high-class vessel and a novelty in shipbuilding of that time. There were cabins for 38 crew members and 12 passengers. They were attractive, outfitted with wood and decorated in a medieval style. You could hardly believe that you was aboard a ship…” During WWII the Mars transported cellulose from Scandinavia and then became a military hospital for 600 persons. In January-April, 1945, the Mars evacuated 20 000 refugees from Koenigsberg and Pillau. She made her last voyage on April 13. After WWII the vessel was given to Great Britain and renamed the Empire Forth. Liverpool as her home port. A year later, she was given to the USSR and moored in Leningrad.
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1946 - 1949

On January 31, 1946 the Institute of Oceanology of the USSR Academy of Sciences was founded. It required a oceanic research vessel, and, in autumn of 1946, P. Shirshov, a renowned polar researcher and the Minister of Sea Fleet, ordered Captain S. Ushakov and V. Bogorov, a celebrated marine biologist, to go to Leningrad and choose a ship. V. Bogorov stated: “When we were approaching the bay where the trophy ships were moored, we spotted this ship from a hill and immediately pointed at her. This vessel was the Mars.” Re-equipment was completed from 1947-1948 in Wismar, Germany as well in Leningrad, Riga, Odessa and Vladivostok. During re-equipment the central superstructure was lengthened to accommodate laboratories, service cabins and harbor cabins. The former cargo tween decks were turned into harbor cabins, a social room, sanitary rooms and service rooms. Diesel-generator sets, additional fuel and water tanks were installed. As a result, 136 crew members could be housed aboard the vessel. Modern equipment made the Vityaz a unique ship. Firstly, there was an anchor winch for 11-kilometer anchoring and trawling. The world record for deepest anchoring is still held by the Vityaz. There were 14 laboratories, a library and a depository for tests aboard the vessel. The vessel changed her name several times – from the Equator to the Admiral Makarov and, finally, to the name that would bring her fame — the Vityaz. This name was given in honor of the famous corvettes of the XIX century – S. Makarov’s Vityaz and N. Miklouho-Maclay’s Vityaz. Thus, the new oceanographic vessel inherited the name of its famed predecessors and would carry it in across the ocean with pride. Furthermore, the emblem of her name was designed by Peter Shirshov himself.
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1949 - 1979

This period was the happiest for the ship. She made 65 voyages across the World Ocean, covered over 800 000 nautical miles, fulfilled 7 943 scientific stations, visited exotic countries and hosted interesting people. In world oceanology, this period was called the Age of the Vityaz. Numerous works, monographs and articles in various languages were written about her scientific achievements. The first research carried out by the Vityaz was a comprehensive study of the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Sea of Japan, work at the International Geophysical Year programme, participation in the International IndoOceanic expedition and the Polimode Soviet-American experiment. Numerous oceanological discoveries were made and unique materials were collected during the age of the Vityaz. New geographic names for underwater mountains and deep-sea trenches appeared on the map. Twentyseven prominent discoveries were made in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean alone. The Marina Trench was measured, its depth 11 022 m. The study of deep-sea trenches, their morphology, sediment and water dynamics in trenches and near-bottom waters was particularly important. A special study conducted on the Vityaz proved the inadmissibility of radioactive waste dumping at deep-sea trenches due to dynamic near-bottom water circulation. Geophysical work completed on the Vityaz created an opportunity to present scientifically grounded hypotheses about the structure of the Earth’s crust and then to develop a new concept of the Earth’s evolution. Significant results were produced by geologists, hydrologists, chemical hydrologists and biophysicists, but the most prominent and numerous discoveries were made in biology. 1 176 new plants and animals were documented thanks to the expeditions of the Vityaz. New ichthyology findings related to fishery areas were produced, a lot of new species were described and a large collection was compiled. It was thanks to the Vityaz that saury were first studied as a fishery species. The study of cephalopoda was a special focus. The study of benthos also played an important role in the expeditions. The work of the Vityaz demonstrated that the World Ocean is a single natural phenomenon with a very close interaction between all of its parameters, forming a single complex biological system within a strict structure. Diverse fauna was found at great depth (from 6 000 m to maximal point) and siboglinidae, a new species, was discovered. The school of national oceanology was formed aboard the Vityaz. The founders were the scientists who once worked aboard the legendary Perseus: biologists L. Zenkevich and V. Bogorov, chemist S. Bruevich, oceanographers V. Shtokman and A. Dobrovolsky, and geologist V. Zenkovich. In 1957, the Vityaz set off for her first foreign voyage and since that time she has been welcomed in 100 ports of 49 countries as a representative of the USSR. The Vityaz was an “ambassador of friendship and peace.” Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Thor Heyerdahl have stepped aboard the Vityaz, as well as governors, prime-ministers, ambassadors and astronauts. “Open Doors Days” were often organized when she would call at port— people waited in line for hours to go on board. Scientists from 14 countries have worked aboard the Vityaz. She completed her last voyage in 1979, sailing around Europe, and proved that she was still famous: when the vessel called at ports in France, Prtugal, Great Britain, Spain and Denmark scientists everywhere made the effort to come on board the Vityaz to see the ship with their own eyes.
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1979 - 1990

This was the most dismal period in the ships’ history. In the late 1970s the oceanic career of the vessel came to the end and the idea to found a museum aboard the Vityaz was conceived. But where should the veteran be moored? She was supposed to be moored in Moscow, at the “port of five seas,” by the opening of the Olympic Games. Leningrad was also a candidate, while residents of the Far East also asked to give the Vityaz back to Vladivostok, which had been her homeport for many years. In the end, Kaliningrad was chosen. On 22 April, 1979 the Vityaz finished her 65th and last voyage and entered the Pregol River. There was no celebratory transfer of the ship to the city— she simply was anchored there for many years to come. L. Pochivalov, a writer who did a lot to save the Vityaz, was quoted in Pravda as saying: “Nobody wanted to be responsible for the the fortune of the national relic”. She was supposed to be remelted. By this time the legendary Ermak had disappeared, and the famous icebreaker steamer Sedov, the national pride of northern exploration, was sold. The same was to happen with the Vityaz, only in 1988, the Vityaz was moved to the Yantar shipyard, and in 1989 the Atlanic branch of the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, USSR AS ordered the Kaliningrad branch of the Zapryba Central Planning and Design Office to develop technical documentation for re-equipping the Vityaz as a museum ship. The efforts toward the ship’s preservation resulted in the order of the Government of the RSFSR issued on April 12, 1990. According to the order, the Museum of the World Ocean was founded in Kaliningrad and Svetlana Sivkova, who had spearheaded the work on the legendary ship’s preservation and revival for many years, became its directоr. In 1991, the Kaliningrad branch of the Central Planning and Design Office (know today as the Kaliningrad Planning and Design Centre) developed engineering documents for re-equipment of the vessel in accordance with the Rules of the RSFSR River Register. Open decks were partially replaced and the main deck planking was completely replaced. Fire control and ventilation systems were installed during the repair at the Yantar shipyard. In 1992, the Russian Academy of Sciences passed the Vityaz to the Museum of the World Ocean of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, and in 1994, after the repairs at the shipyard, the Vityaz was moored at the museum quay in the centre of Kaliningrad.
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