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    MARCH 5, ANNIVERSARY OF YERMAK ICEBOAT'S MAIDEN TRIP

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    MOSCOW, MARCH 5. /RIA NOVOSTI / -- On Friday, March 5, 105 years ago the renowned Russian iceboat the Yermak made its maiden voyage, the press service of the Russian Navy told RIA Novosti.

    The Yermak was laid down at the British Armstrong firm shipyard in December 1897 on Russia's order. "The iceboat takes its name from Cossack chieftain Yermak Timofeevich, who began the conquering of Siberia", reads the press release. It was the first-ever ship of its type, capable of breaking two-meter-thick ice.

    "On October 17, 1898 the iceboat's hull officially sided down the ways. After the factory trials the Yermak was accepted and in 1899 made its maiden voyage", the communique continues.

    That year the iceboat opened unusually early navigation at the St.Petersburg port - the first steamer arrived here on April 17. Very soon the Yermak made the first-ever use of the invention of Russian scientist Alexander Popov, radiotelegraph.

    "On April 11, 1900 the Yermak iceboat pulled off the rocks of the Gogland Island /the Baltic Sea/ the latest armoured cruiser the Admiral-General Apraksin, taken ashore by a severe storm. The salvation of the armoured cruiser cost 4.5 million roubles, a tremendous sum by that time, and vindicated the Yermak building expenses. In winter the iceboat released from ice captivity in the Gulf of Finland a number of steamers and the Gromoboi cruiser", said the press service.

    During the Russo-Japanese War the Yermak, crushing the ice in the Libava Port /the Baltic Sea/, escorted the Rear-Admiral Nebogatov squadron to pure water and opened for it the way to the Far East. During the first 12 years of service the iceboat spent more than 1,000 days amidst ice.

    After the start of the 1st World War, the workhorse iceboat was entered in the Baltic fleet's inventories and continued escorting ships in the Gulf of Finland. When in February 1918 the German forces came close to Revel /now Tallinn/ the Yermak took out of the port all the seaworthy ships and escorted them to Helsingfors /now Helsinki/. In a cruise from Helsingfors to Kronstadt /the Russian naval base on the Baltic/ the Yermak, teamed with other iceboats, escorted 211 warships, auxiliary ships and merchantmen through the Gulf of Finland, saving the main body of the Baltic fleet.

    After that the Yermak returned to the non-military service and in the 1920s-30s ensured cargo transportation on the Baltic and White seas, in the Arctic. In February 1938 it partook in the evacuation of Polar explorers from the North Pole-1 station.

    On March 29, 1949, marking its 50th birthday, the Yermak iceboat was awarded the Order of Lenin. The Yermak was removed from service in 1964. In 1974 its place was taken by an iceboat bearing the same name.

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