On January 15, we could have celebrated the 90-th anniversary of Yury Zhegalov – wonderful geologist and author of a large section the Commander Islands in XXXI tome of the USSR Geology. The tome was released in 1964 and included geological descriptions of Kamchatka and Kuril Islands.
Not one decade was spent in collecting materials for the fundamental the USSR Geology edition. In the beginning of 1950s Oceanology Institute of the USSR Academy of Science organized a complex of ocean research using Vityaz vessel. In 1953 during its 14th voyage the ship consecrated on deep water trenches. Several reaches were made from Kamchatka to the islands to learn more about connection between Kuril-Kamchatka and Aleutian trenches. The researchers discovered that the narrow trench, which stretches on one side of the Aleutians, continues near the Commander Islands and turns into Kuril-Kamchatka trench. The researchers also determined the shape f the islands as a geological construction. It turned out that the one side of the underwater trench is over 7000 meters high and is very steep up to 30-35 degrees. They also determined for the first time the morphological link between the Commander Islands archipelago, the Aleutians and Kamchatka. Today these facts are well known to any schoolchild form the Commander Islands, but we seldom realize that it was a real scientific breakthrough in the 1950s.
Yury Zhegalov was one of the researchers of the epoque. He grew up in Moscow. After graduating from MSU Geology School, in 1953, he left for the Far East. He worked in Kamchatka Geological Expedition as a collector, geology technician, geologist, party chief, head geologist and head of the expedition (in 1959).
In 1958, Zhegalov became the head of the Commander Islands party. It included geologist L.M. Bagdasaryan, head collectors D.V. Bogdanov, N.S. Shutko and V.A. Samoylenko, geophysicist technician P.M. Dushko. The party left Petropavlovsk on May 15th and two days later the ship came to Bering Island. A lot of snow made the participants to change their plans and they researched Nikolskoye area, Ary Kamen and Toporkov until the first days of June. Only on June 3rd the party left to work farther from the village. The island had no free horses and probably the participant had to put a lot of effort to get two of them. There was only one motorboat owned by local fur factory.
To come to Medny Island they had to wait for the same direction ship of the Border Service. That year transportation issues prevented the party form researching many rock outcrops approachable from water only.
Still the main goal was fulfilled. The The whole territory of the islands was geologically scanned with scale 1: 200 000. The report was made in 1959 in co-authorship with Victor Vdovenko. The stratigraphic scheme made by Yuzef Morozevich on basis of scanning form 1903 was changed a lot. Zhegalov concluded that “the two islands are large anticlinal folds of north-wester outstretch. That is to say that their structure largely determine their configuration”.
Magnetic sand on Bering Island, calcigerous tuff and limestone, peat, coal lanticuls, two bodies of white hydrous sulphate of lime on Medny Island, diatomites, building rocks near Nikolskoye and many more were found as well. Mineralogical collection formed. Beringites were found in the same place, where Morozevich had found them half a century earlier – near Steller’s Mountain. Zhegalov found that there are close to spessartite.
The Commander Islands expedition was the first and the last for the researcher. In 1966, he became the head of Geological Screening Expedition of Kamchatka Territorial Geological Department. In 1972-1974, he managed a group of Soviet geologists in Tanzania. In 1984-1985, he was the head geologist of Center Kamchatka Geological Expedition. For years of work he was granted a medal “For zealous labor”, order of the Red Banner of Labor, 100th V.I. Lenin anniversary medal, sign “Excellent Exploration Surveyor”. Friends knew Yury as an experienced field worker and merry chap.
Natalya Tatarenkova, head of Historical and Cultural Heritage Preservation Department
The article includes materials from Mountain Herald of Kamchatka (#3, 2010) and (#4, 2014), A.A. Smyshlyaev, Kamchatka geology. Gold. Platina. Diamonds: History of Geological Research on Kamchatka (1999), Kamchatka Geological Routes. Memories and diaries of geologists (1999).