The Spit of Two Pilots  (Kosa Dvukh Pilotov russian name of the island) is a long narrow sandy spit completely surrounded by the waters of the Chukchi Sea (actually it’s an island) and stretched along the coast of the Chukchi Peninsula.

 In 1933 the spit was named in memory of American pilots who died here in 1929 - pilot Ben Eielson and his flight mechanic Earl Borland. The story of their death is a tragic page in the history of development of the North.

At the end of 1929 American entrepreneur Olaf Swanson’s schooner "Nanook" was captured by ice near Schmidt Cape, Chukotka (at that time - North Cape).
 

Soviet ship “Stavropol” (skipper Pavel Milovzorov) found itself in the same situation, quite close to Swanson’s schooner. One day local Chukchi told Milovzorov about “Nanuk” and he made a visit, having become acquainted with Swanson and his crew. Swanson’s daughter Sigrid was a journalist and after the meeting she sent a telegram to New York Times. The newspaper informed readers about the meeting and that the merchant fleet of two states that did not have diplomatic relations then established these relations itself.
 
Almost simultaneously two rescue expeditions were organized - Soviet and American.
 
To assist “Stavropol” passengers and free skipper Milovzorov from wintering, two USSR-177 airplanes (Junkers B-33 type, pilots M. T. Slepnev, V. A. Galyshev) were sent from Vladivostok. From Vladivostok to Providence Bay (selected as a flight base) airplanes were delivered by icebreaker “F. Litke”, just returned from a trip to Wrangel Island.

"Alaska Airways" company (managed by Col. Ben Eielson acting as CEO and pilot) arranged Olaf Swanson’s return trip to America on his request. At that time Ben Eielson was a steep polar ace and a very famous person in America.
 

Brilliant polar pilot Karl Ben Eielson, a Norwegian by birth, participated with Wilkins in a historic polar flight over the polar basin from Cape Barrow to Svalbard Island. Then he participated in the Antarctic expedition, discovering several unknown islands. All that time he dreamed of making an unprecedentedly daring flight from Alaska to Norway along the northern coast of Siberia. For this purpose, he trained himself in blizzard conditions flights, transporting enterprising gold miners, mail and cargo.

In November, Ben Eielson has managed to make successful flight to the place of forced wintering of American schooner. But during the second flight he did not return to base...

Eielson's Plane - Hamilton

One can imagine the circumstances of the plane crash. On November 9th, 1929, Eielson, cutting the snow accumulations with “Hamilton” propeller, flew along the northern coast of Chukotka, struggling to make his way west through a snowstorm. He was sure that he would see Swanson’s schooner, but crashed in low visibility and at very low altitude to the high shore of the Amguema lagoon. At 13:16 the watch aboard of "Hamilton" stopped when it hit ground and airplane fell apart.
 


From the very beginning American pilots Yong, Crossen , Guillaume and Canadian pilot Reed arrived to Cape North in mid-December were looking for the missing plane . One of them (Crossen) noticed an object resembling a wing sticking out from under the snow, flying over the tundra near the Amguema River.
 
pilot Joe Crossen
 
 
Head search operation Soviet pilot Mark Slepnyov
 
Search for pilots in the area noticed by Crossen had been organized by the international team - the American schooner, the Soviet ship and Chukchi village of Wellen.
 
Eventually a protocol of joint work has been developed and signed by representatives from USA, Canada and USSR. Mavrikiy Slepnev was elected as a head of the search operation.
 
 


The snow cover at the crash site was heavily compacted by winds. Excavations were carried out with a hand saw. Any other method was impossible; snow’s hardness was like it was a rock. Saw cuts were made, snow layer by layer removed, until tundra soil reached. The thickness of the snow cover reached 2 meters (6,56 feet). Search was carried out for about two weeks in Arctic winter conditions. People used to live in tents and snow caves. Frost-bitten and weakened team members were evacuated when it was possible.
 
On February 13th “Stavropol” sailor Jackopson discovered the body of the flight mechanic Borland, and after 4 days Eielson’s body was found as well.
 


The bodies of the dead American pilots were placed in the cockpit of USSR-177 airplane with the mourning cloth, in condition as they were found, and delivered to Cape Severny aboard of “Stavropol”.
 
 
On February 27th, corpses after thawing and medical examination by a mixed commission from USSR, USA and Canada, the pilots' bodies were sewn up in a “Stars and Stripes” canvas and transported aboard of “Nanuk”. At “Nanuk” corpses were officially passed to senior American pilot Yong, the  USA representative, who delivered sad cargo on his plane to Alaska. Pilot Slepnev and flight engineer Farikh , at the invitation of the Governor of Alaska, accompanied the Americans on their plane.
 
On March 4th, 1930 planes were preparing to fly to America.
 
In the photo: Crashed pilots Carl Eielson and Earl Borland before loading on an American plane. In the oval: pilot of the rescue expedition pilot Slepnev

Three airplanes made a circle above the Cape, headed to the Americans’ place of death. After 45 minutes of the flight cut-through trenches in the snow became visible below. Those trenches cut through the entire area where the tragedy erupted ... The remains of Eielson's plane finally swept by snow.
Families of deceased pilots were waiting for them at Fairbanks, Borland’s wife with two children and Eielson’s father...
Eielson’s father expressed the wish that the Soviet flag be laid on his son’s coffin, along with American and Canadian flags, since his son died on Soviet territory. At the moment when Soviet flag been laid on the coffin, US military guard for the first time in the history saluted to USSR red flag. It was flag of the country which had no diplomatic relations with USA until 1933.
 


Several objects in USA have been named in honor of Carl Ben Eielson: airbase Eielson, Liberty SS Carl B. Eielson, national park Denali’s observation post.
Also campus building of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, a peak in the Central-West Alaska Range, an elementary school on the air base Grand Forks in North Dakota, high school at Eielson base and primary school in Fargo, North Dakota.
During his lifetime Ben Eielson received the Roughrider Award and the Harmon Trophy. In 1985 he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio.
 

 
In honor of the Soviet pilot M.T. Slepnev who led the Soviet rescue expedition USSR postage stamp and Russia postal envelope were issued. Several streets in Russia are named after him: Moscow, Kingisepp, Rostov-on-Don, Yaroslavl, Sevastopol, Korolev and in Ukraine: Donetsk, Kamenetz-Podolsky, Krivoy Rog, Odessa. His name was also given to a street in “Aerodrome” suburb of Gatchina. Memorial plaque was installed in the same suburb.

The outstanding pilot Mavrikiy Timofeevich Slepnev (1896–1965), after graduating from the Military Engineering Academy, used to fly to various parts of our country: over the sands of Central Asia and the snows of Yakutia. He made the first passenger flight over Hindu Kush Mountains to Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. After Arctic events of 1929-1930 he was taking participation in the rescue of “Chelyuskin” MV. Among the first seven Soviet pilots he was awarded by the title Hero of the Soviet Union. He was buried in Moscow at the Novodevichy cemetery.
 



The monument “The Two Pilots Spit”, in memory of the American pilots who died in a plane crash in 1929, was erected in September 1987 at the Schmidt village (North), close to area where to schooner “Nanuk” was ice-covered. The author is an amateur sculptor Yuri Alexandrovich Dunaev, an air traffic controller at the Cape Schmidt airport.

A fragment of the Hamilton aircraft has survived up to today at the crash site. There is a memorial sign in the form of a propeller blade (from IL-18 airplane) near it.
A plate with an explanatory inscription is attached to the blade. The memorial sign was made and installed in 2016 by Viktor Korotkov (local hunter). He learned about this story from a literary almanac and found American pilots' place of death.


 

Commemorative sign at the site of the deaths of the pilot Karl Benjamin Eilsen and his flight mechanic Earl Borland.

 

Commemorative plaque.

 

Fragment of the Hamilton plane.

 

GPS data provided by Viktor Korotkov:

Coordinates of the memorial sign by the router «IRIDIUM GO»:

N  68,2512º
W 177,7301º

Coordinates of the memorial sign by tracker «Bushnell»:

N 68º15'04,40"
W 177º43'48,32"


P.S.  the distance from the R207RRC expedition camp to the memorial sign site is about 11 km.