Mikhail DEYEV, Cand. Sc. (Geography), Moscow State University
One of the fathers of modern physical oceanology is Nikolai Nikolayevich Zubov, a man of versatile parts, a grand soul. He has lived a long and eventful life. Doctor of Geography, professor, engineer and rear-admiral of the Navy- the man has collected titles and honors galore. A mariner, researcher and brilliant teacher...
His curriculum vitae reads like a novel. Nikolai Nikolayevich Zubov was born on 11 May 1885 into a cavalry officer's family His father, whose first name was also Nikolai, served as staff-captain of a dragoon regiment and belonged to what was known as "the "service class", that is depended solely on his pay as a career soldier. Upon graduation from gymnasium (grammar) school, the boy was enrolled in a military school in St. Petersburg to follow in his father's footsteps as career army officer. But the fate decreed it otherwise.
An avid reader, the little boy was carried away by Moby Dick, a captivating marine novel of the 19th century American author Herman Melville. Moby Dick was a true epic of the sea and sea adventure. Although the main and its elements hold irresistible attraction to many in their childhood years, only few will venture to tie in their lot with the sea god. But Nikolai Zubov did: at sixteen, in 1901, he declared his firm resolve to join the Navy and became enrolled in the Naval Cadets Corps (school) of His Majesty's Fleet.
Every officer in Russia had what was called testimonial papers with his service record put down, military school including. Everything was in there- promotions, distinctions and reprimands. Besides, cadets received a circumstantial character reference each year, long before becoming commissioned officers. Here's a passage from Nikolai Zubov's reference: "...Shows brilliant aptitudes, excellent memory. Kind and considerate, strong willpower. Quite agile and impressionable. Reverential and kindly towards his superiors. Gets along with his comrades well and influences them in a positive way. Much attached to his mother. Quite conscientious in his duties, neat and orderly. Reads a good deal and has excellent command of speech."
And here's what Nikolai's graduation reference said: "Firm in his character makeup and of strong willpower. Has it easy in influencing his comrades. Straightforward and aboveboard. Good-hearted and obliging, but always with a sense of dignity Most positive comrade. Fine talents, diligent enough."
Like all naval cadets, Nikolai pictured himself an officer in full trim - posh uniform, golden epaulettes and all. He was eager to see that day. But meanwhile, he had to apply himself good and hard: classes, drills and sea voyages to learn the ropes. And short furloughs in between.
Nikolai was going on nineteen when he was commissioned midshipman, the lowest officer's rank in the Russian Navy of that day. His class was graduated ahead of time because of the outbreak of the Russian-Japan war of 1904- 1905. In his autobiographical
notes Nikolai Zubov devotes but three lines to that period: "In 1904 I left the naval cadet school and was assigned to Rozhestvensky's squadron. As midshipman on the destroyer Blestyashchiy took part in the battle of Tsushima. Wounded, was long on convalescence." Zubov was in for war decorations-the Order of St. Stanislav 3rd Class, with swords and bow, and the Order of St. Anne, 4th Class, with the monogram "For Valor". The Tsushima splinter lodged in his head made itself felt for the rest of his life, for fifty and some years.
Violent headaches compelled Senior Lieutenant Nikolai Zubov to send in his papers eight years after the war.
But his life on the civvy street was not long - in 1914 the First World War broke out. Joining the Navy, Zubov was put in charge of a destroyer-he must have been the youngest ship commander in the Russian Navy A few months later the young seaman received a new appointment, that of a submarine flag- officer in the Baltic Fleet. In October 1915 his submarine Keimann seized a German steamship and convoyed her to Abo, the Swedish name of what is now the Finnish port of Turku. For this operation Captain Zubov merited another war decoration-St. Anne Order, 3rd Class, with swords and bow. He was promoted in December 1915.
In those years Nikolai Zubov turned to the theory of seamanship and navigation. Among the works he wrote then was a handbook on tactical navigation, the first ever manual on maneuver in sea battle conditions (1916). The entries in his service record book end on November 1, 1916, with the following words, "... Destroyer Moshchny taken under my official command on September 29 this year..."
Captain Zubov had shown interest in hydrography and in hydrology of the sea and oceanography long before he bade farewell to his seaman's career. In 1910 he completed a course at the Hydrography Department of the Naval Academy and then carried out measurement and sounding works in the Barents Sea and off the shores of Novaya Zemlya. In 1914, as he left the Navy for a short time, Captain Zubov went to Norway to attend an international course in oceanography at the Geophysics Institute in Bergen. The course was directed by Bjorn Helland-Hansen and had such prominent seafarers among its lecturers as Fridtjof Nansen and Wilhelm Bjorkness, fathers of the sea science. Small wonder that a few years after, Nikolai Zubov came to head the hydrological department of a floating marine research center, the PLAVMORNIN, Soviet Russia's first oceanological institution * .
Soviet oceanology was still in its cradle then-no competent personnel, no equipment and no instruments for research voyages. Neither was there a proper research vessel, not counting the makeshift schooner Perseus, converted for the purpose by a dedicated bunch of enthusiasts. Their selfless efforts helped escalate the Soviet science of the sea to the forefront of progress. Here are some of the cohort working shoulder to
* See: A. Shumilov, "Flying the Perseus's Flag", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1996. - Ed.
shoulder with Nikolai Zubov: the future members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences hydrobiologist Lev Zenkevich and hydrophysicist Vassily Shuleikin; the hydrobiologist Veniamin Bogorov and the geologist Sergei Obruchev, later corresponding members of the Science Academy. Dr. Semyon Bruyevich (chemistry) is the acknowledged founder of the school of Soviet hydro- chemists, while Dr. Maria Klenova (specializing in geology and mineralogy) laid the foundations of a new science, geology of the sea. * Such research scientists as Alexander Shorygin, Vladimir Yashnov and Boris Flerov became Doctors of Biology, and Tatyana Gorshkova - Doctor of Geography
The voyage on the Perseus was crucial for Nikolai Zubov's further life. In 1924 he published his first article on oceanology; and in subsequent years as many as thirty works of his saw print. In 1932, setting out on the small sail- and motorboat Nikolai Knipovich, a sea party under Nikolai Zubov sailed clear of the archipelago Franz Joseph Land from the north, a pioneering feat in the history of arctic navigation. Our hero accomplished this bold, daring voyage in the ice-filled Arctic Ocean with flying colors, and that on a small wooden coracle of a boat. He fulfilled his purpose in confirming the forecast about the favorable ice situation in an area where no other research vessel had ever ventured before. During that voyage Zubov corrected FridtjofNansen's error: back in 1895 the Norwegian explorer had mapped two islands, Eva and Lyv and named them for his wife and daughter. However, it was actually one island with a low isthmus in the central part. The Russian explorer, always showing much reverence for Nansen, left the old names, Eva-Lyv, only adding a hyphen in between.
Three years after that odyssey Nikolai Zubov headed a high-latitude expedition on the icebreaker steamship Sadko. She reached a record high latitude in a free navigation, 82 0 41'.6 N (87 0 E). "Before us, it was only Nansen on his Fram who worked in the central part of the polar basin," Zubov recalled. As a matter of fact, the Fram was adrift, squeezed tight in the floes. "But he had no research gear as ours. And so we have obtained the world's unique collections of marine organisms, bottom sediments and water samples."
The results of the Sadko expedition were staggering: the steamship covered three thousand miles north of the latitude of 80 degrees. The voyagers were the first to go beyond
__ * See: M. Tsiporukha, "By the North Enchanted", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1998. - Ed.
the continental shelf and carry out a comprehensive oceanological mission in the arctic seas. They discovered the islands of Neprimetnye and Ushakov and erased blank spots from the maps of those desolate, never-visited parts. Here the Russian explorer showed his valor to advantage. For this mission the Soviet government presented him with a personal car (private cars were owned only by few in those times).
The name "natural scientist" seems to be out of use nowadays. But this is what Nikolai Zubov really was: a natural scientist by God's grace: he could discern something unusual in the commonplace and infer trends and regularities. A broad mind, he was a man of astounding erudition and analytical talents, and was never tired of wondering, a faculty that, in Albert Einstein's words, is at the core of any scientific discovery.
We can cite many examples of Professor Zubov's acumen and sagacity of a natural scientist's: for instance, his method of dynamic calculation of oceanic currents; the notion of hibernal vertical circulation and ventilation of benthic water; the phenomenon of compactification attending the intermixing of water with different temperatures and salinities; the ice-drifting rule, and many other things. The dynamic charts he suggested for various regions of the World Ocean have given ample food for dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of dissertations.
In 1932 Nikolai Zubov published a booklet under the somewhat longish title Hydrological Works of the Marine Research Institute in the Southwestern Part of the Barents Sea on the Research Vessel PERSEUS in the Summer of 1928. This was one of the first major works in Russia on physical oceanology. Professor Zubov set forth at least four or five most-important findings, each worthy of a doctorate. As Academician Alexei Treshnikov wrote later, "Besides the basic results on the hydrology of the Barents Sea, N.N. Zubov outlines in this work postulates many of which were subsequently developed by him and his pupils into rigorous theories
which have become the basis of oceanology." The words "the basis of oceanology" carry special meaning. Julius Shokalsky, Honorary Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences and an authority in this field, used the term "oceanography". But Zubov was the first to put into use a new, more relevant term-that of "oceanology" and, insisting on the new name for his science, he sought to stress the intrinsic essence, the hidden mechanism of oceanic processes (for "logos", as we remember, means concept, teaching).
Nikolai Zubov has solved many problems, and he has put as many for the next generations of scientists to solve. That is why his works have lost none of their validity today. No doubt, the latter-day works are quite on a par with the present level of the ocean science, and so one gets the impression that all outstanding problems have been taken care of. Not at all! The involved mathematics of such studies creates the illusion that any parameters of the oceanic medium can be computed. Yet it turns out much otherwise in actual practice because of too many unknowns.
Our hero called suchlike studies an idle "exercise in maths". Now and then he was reproached for a simplistic, schematic approach - what Nikolai Zubov called "bosun's oceanology" in jest. Any theory, even the most complicated one, he argued, should be outlined in clear and explicit terms.
I consider myself Nikolai Zubov's pupil, for I am a pupil of his pupils, his "grandson", so to speak. Perhaps I may sound too subjective, too personal about it, but I am certain: Zubov's works, though not adorned overmuch with maths, are remarkable for their profound insight into the physics of phenomena-an approach proper to a real natural scientist. Simplification to bare outlines only helps get a better understanding of such phenomena and their substance.
A word from Academician Lev Zenkevich:
"N.N. Zubov combined a dazzling talent with amazing diligence and an ability to work... I do not know any other oceanographer who could have produced so many fundamental works, not compilations containing more of other people's thoughts rather than the author's. Every book written by Nikolai Nikolayevich is an original creative effort, a fruit of grand thought and grand talent."
These lines point at what was most peculiar to Zubov - creative and fruitful application.
Yes, he was not easy to deal with: his colleagues spoke of his high-principled, adamant stand in scientific disputes and his exacting ways that knew no leniency. Yes, he liked it when others would note his accomplishments, but he never appropriated as his own what other people had done, and put his name to materials that were really his, his only.
A researcher's talent is a rare gift, as rare as that of a teacher's. Nikolai Nikolayevich Zubov combined both. How lucky were those who learned from him! His first pupils were initiated into his methods of hydrology on the high seas still on the Perseus research boat. In 1932 Zubov set up the first department (chair) of oceanology at the Moscow Institute of Hydrometeorology (now it is in St. Petersburg), and he founded the same department at Moscow State University two decades later, in 1953. In 1944-1948, as director of the State Institute of Oceanography, Professor Zubov organized his famous "Fridays", the weekly seminars for oceanologists at that and other research centers. Just go ahead and ask any oceanologist who remembers those days, "Who is Zubov?" - "O my, this is Nikolai Nikolayevich!"
Here's what one of his pupils, Yelena Krysteva, recalls:
"He would often address us with the words, 'My children!'... We, the children of the war-time and initial post-war years, needed that kind of address badly He felt he was a father to us, and we - his children. His opening lecture to us, the first class of geographers-and-oceanologists at Moscow University, Nikolai Nikolayevich began with these words, Ч cannot teach you the sea science. But I'll try to teach you how to work.' Only a true scientist can say like this, one who is conscious of the immensity of his science and, consequently, of science at large. And Nikolai Nikolayevich could 'infect' us with it, all of us. This is amazing indeed, for some of us were not so much clever, intellectually. Still, Zubov 'tossed in' a divine spark of interest and, by his mere presence, influence and mind blew it into a glowing ember..."
Nikolai Nikolayevich Zubov left this world in November 1960 and was laid to rest in the Novodevichy Convent's cemetery. Forty years have passed since then. Gone are the ships named after him, and so are many of his pupils. Yet his books are much alive - marvelous books that rear new generations of those enchanted by the sea. Such books as Sea Waters and Ices (1938), Ices of the Arctic (1945), Our Native Seafarers, Explorers of Seas and Oceans (1954), among others, have become classics and the best monument to Scientist, Teacher and Man.