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18:28 | Aug 01 | 2012

Lena Coch: comeback of a legend

Two historical vessels will go down the Lena River from Ust-Kut to Tiksi.

380 years have passed since the city of Yakutsk was founded. Four centuries ago Russian pathfinders opened up the vast territories of Siberia, - the territorial expansion of the scale that was unprecedented at the time. Along with the courage of explorers and civil servants, technical means also played a role in discovering new territories. “Coch” stands alone among such technical means.

Thousands square kilometers of the Siberian taiga were explored using these simple but at the same time very reliable boats that Cossacks would drag from river to river having put them on wooden blocks.
This year the Republic of Sakha will take part in the second stage of the interregional project “Arctic – the territory of discoveries. From Semyon Dezhnyov to the present”. The Republican project aimed at replicating the first historical voyages down the Lena River on vessels similar to those used by the first settlers of the 17th century will thus be combined with an Arctic regions of Russia interregional cooperation project, which has a historical and geographical experiment featuring reconstruction of specifics of the Russian pathfinders’ navigation techniques as one of its components.
With the aim of drawing attention to the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) historical, cultural and natural heritage, the second stage of the “Lena Coches” project envisages carrying out scientific and archival research featuring participation of two historical coches and a complex expedition.
The expedition will go down the Lena River from Ust-Kut to Tiksi. The total length of the route is 4500 km. The expedition plans to make it over the period from June to August.
During the 2013 navigation season coches will set off for an Arctic coastal voyage from Tiksi to Anadyr thus replicating the voyage made by the Bering Strait discoverer Semyon Dezhnyov.
The expedition activities of the summer of 2012 will remarkably parallel such outstanding events in the life of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) as the 5th International Sport Games “Children of Asia”, celebration of the 380th anniversary of Yakutia’s integration into the Russian state, the International Sports Forum “Russia is a Sport Power”. It is also worth noting that coches will arrive in Yakutsk around the 4th of July.
The Arctic regions of Russia interregional cooperation project “Arctic – the territory of discoveries. From Semyon Dezhnyov to the present” seeks to attract public attention to problems of the Russian Arctic, its development and historical heritage. The project is expected to contribute to development of interregional cooperation in economy, science, culture and tourism.

The “Coch” type vessels are one the most mysterious ones in the history of the national shipbuilding. Numerous archival sources dating back to the 17th century suggest that it were Coch vessels that were used to open up vast territories of Siberia and the Far East. While English and Dutch explorers were trying to make their path to the East in the Arctic seas and could only reach Novaya Zemlya, every year Russians organized sea expeditions on Coch boats to the mouth of the Ob River, and step by step over the course of the 17th century opened up the entire Northern Sea Route, rounded the easternmost point of the Asian continent and went into the Pacific Ocean.

By their molded form, the forms of their bow and stern the built vessels are close to the traditional ships of the Russian North that have been mentioned in archival documents since the 16th century, and which could be reconstructed using the 19th century drawings that remain available in archives. The extendable mast and a flooring structure – a loft in the center of the vessel coincide with the picture of coch engraved in the Dutch voyager Nicolaes Witsen’s tractate on “Moscovites’ ships”. The planks are joined “in overlap” using copper pins, not the withes.