The Search for Levanevsky

© Viktor Yeletsky

The following is an account of the flight of Sigismund Levanevsky, "The Russian Lindberg" whose aircraft disappeared somewhere in the Canadian High Arctic in 1937. Despite a massive search no trace was ever found of the airplane or its six-man crew.

by Viktor Yeletsky

The radio message received from Levanevsky in N-209 at Yakutsk on 13 August 1937 after radio message number 19 about the failure of engine number 4. They intended to land in map 34 (Canadian Archipelago). The message read: "I am going on two, at lower altitude, we see ice mountains ahead."

The crew saw land and reported this. The next day at 12:25 p.m. wireless operator Solovei in Yakutsk received the number 83 on Levanevsky's frequency 2654, which was repeated three times. Thus, they had landed, established their position and passed the coordinates on the radio. Vague signals with "RL" call sign on the frequency of N-209 had been received by many radio stations around the World, during a month and a half. On September 30, 1937 coordinates "North 83, West 179" (could this have been West 079) were again received by the motor vessel "Batum" in the Sea of Okhotsk. And in Kuibushev's region. "Send help, we're on 96 degrees."

The key words "Canadian Archipelago", "ice mountains forward" "83-rd degree" give reason to believe that the aircraft N-209 landed on the northwest coast or one of the many fiords of Ellesmere Island (83 07 North latitude) of the Canadian Archipelago. Ellesmere Island is a very large island with glaciers up to 2500m high. The Northern part of Axel Heiberg Island is situated Southwest of Ellesmere Island 250 km's farther from the North Pole (81 23' North latitude).

The mountains are not higher than 1800m. Alaska's coast and mountains are situated 70 North latitude, much farther to the South. N-209 could not have reached Alaska's shores after the failure of number 4 engine and p
ossibly a second engine failure, against a strong headwind without refueling. Levanevsky and his crew would have understood this. If N-209 reached the Western shore of Ellesmere with its long fiords it may have been possible to land on old raised beaches which reach up to 200m above present sea level in the Canadian Arctic. It is also possible that they would have been able to land on ice in the many fiords, as this area remains frozen year around. Having studied the map of Ellesmere Island, the most obvious place to land N-209 is the south shore of McClintok Inlet. The inlet is 5-6 km wide and nearly 50 km long. There are several long inlets cutting deep into the coast of Ellesmere all with glaciers and high mountains. The mountains and glaciers on Ellesmere can be seen for many kilometers while approaching the island.

The possible landing place of N-209 on the shore of McClintok Inlet (N82 32' W76 00') is covered with uninhabited mountains with glaciers of the British Empire Range and Challenger Mountains. There should be metal or other material left by the crew to lighten the aircraft when they tried to take off. Metal detectors could be used to survey the potential landing and take off area. If the aircraft tried to take off, it may have gone into the ocean or onto the ice and then melted through over time. The aircraft N-209 may be on the bottom of McClintok Inlet, not far from the place it took off from.

Modern geophysical methods should be used to search the area of the ocean floor and potential landing areas. The underwater search is much more difficult, but the following methods should be tried. Side-sonar, magnetometer or gradiometer and infrared camera. Anomalies could be confirmed by mini-sub with infrared camera, magnetometer or gradiometer with directional and position control. If the magnetometer does not work as we have experienced during search for N-209 in Sebyan-Cuel Lake in Yakutia Mountains in 1986, we may need side-sonar underwater infrared camera, magnetometer or gradiometer with mini-sub. Possibly newer technology will be developed such as under water or under ice methods or other devises that can be used by aircraft or helicopters to locate this aircraft, including biolocating methods


Return to top of page
Return to Aklavik page
Return to Stories page