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Edtollite - New Minerals With Some Tragic Roots & A Great Legend

I have just been updating 2 new minerals recently added to the e-Rocks database and made a sad but interesting discovery about the name.

Edtollite and alumoedtollite are comparatively newly IMA approved minerals pending publication.

Edtollite Minerals
Edtollite Aluminoedtollite


Both minerals were discovered in material collected at the Tolbachik Volcano in the Far-Eastern Region of Russia.

You can see from their naming that the minerals are closely related, this by the interchange of Fe(III) and aluminium (also Al3+) in their respective structures.

Edtollite K2NaCu5Fe3+O2(AsO4)4
Aluminoedtollite K2NaCu5AlO2(AsO4)4


Eduard Vasilijevitsj Toll, was born in 1858 in Reval (nowadays Tallinn in Estonia ) and sadly died in 1902 (aged 44) at an unknown location in the Arctic Ocean.

Eduard Toll


Toll was a Russian geologist and polar scientist and belonged to a noble family of German-Baltic background. He was married to Baroness Emmy von Toll.

He was a close relative of the Middendorf family, and one of the Toll's teachers was the academic of the Imperial Academy of Sciences Alexander von Middendorff (see middendorfite).

Toll graduated from the University of Dorpat (now Tartu) as a zoologist in 1882; as a student, he traveled to the Mediterranean to study natural history and geology in both Algeria and Balearic Islands of Spain.

Post graduation Toll took part in several Arctic expeditions and surveys in the period 1885 to 1900. A great part of his work was charting and exploring new lands within the Arctic.

Toll explored the Great Lyakhovsky Island, Bunge Land, Faddeyevsky Island, Kotelny Island, as well as the western shores of the New Siberia Island.

In 1886 Toll wrote that he had seen an unknown land north of Kotelny, guessing this was the so-called "Zemlya Sannikova" (Sannikov Land), land that merchant and hunter of polar foxes Yakov Sannikov (1749-1845) had claimed to have seen during an expedition in 1810, but who's existence was yet to be proven.

Eduard Toll was one of the first to report in detail the abundance of Pleistocene fossils found within the New Siberian island of Bolshoy Lyakhovsky.

Under the peat covering what he described as "perpetual ice" - permafrost, Toll found fragments of willow and the bones of mammals, including a shoulder-bone from a sabre-toothed tiger.

In 1893 Toll led an expedition of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences to the northern parts of Yakutia, during 367 days the expedition covered 25,000 km, of which 4,200 km were up the rivers, carrying out geodesic surveys ( the science of measuring the size and shape of Earth)  en route. Following the expedition Toll was recognised by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Toll's Disappearance

From 1900 to 1902, Toll led an expedition for the Petersburg Science Academy to the Nysebir Islands with the aim finding Sannikov Land  

It was during this expedition in August 1901 the ship "Zarya" (translated "sunrise") headed across the Laptev Sea, searching for the legendary Sannikov Land.

Eduard Toll - In Fur Expedition Ship "Zarya"


Due to particularly harsh weather conditions the expedition had to spend two winters in the region around the Nysebir Islands. In the end Toll took the ill-fated decision to travel on to Bennettøya by sledding and kayaking, taking three expedition members with him.

The ship tried to follow to rescue Toll, but could not reach Bennettøya due to sea ice.

It is believed Toll chose to escape south to the continent, but there were no traces of the four men were ever found.

In spring 1903 two expeditions were sent to search for Toll, nothing was found, though on Bennetøya. They did find diaries and other artefacts from the Zarya expedition, proving they had made their destination and moved on.

The Legend of Sannikov Land

Map of Eastern Siberia, compiled in 1816: Circled in the Arctic Ocean, is a legend, 'Land seen by Sannikov'


Maybe because of the loss of Toll and more likely other intervening events in history nothing further was done to trace Sannikov Land until the 1930's.

The legend however was built up by the publication of a novel entitled Sannikov Land in 1926. 

In this work Russian geologist and science fiction writer Vladimir Obruchev  (Obruchevite) told the story of this island  in which it provided the last escape for the Onkilon tribe driven from the mainland by other Siberian peoples. The Onkilon were thought to be extinct, but were rediscovered by an expedition looking for Sannikov and then became stranded on it.

The plausibility of civilisation in such a cold place was provided by Obruchev; the island was a crater of a volcano and therefore warm through geothermal effects. 

The setting also hosts a tribe of Neanderthals, mammoths and other ice-age animals. The climax of the novel is when the volcano erupts and destroys the land. An original plot? 

Returning to the facts, Sannikov Land was eventually proved not to exist in 1937 after a search by the Soviet icebreaker Sadko was commissioned and found no trace of the land. 

As it happened this expedition also did not go as planned, with Sadko, becoming itself trapped in the ice in the the New Siberian Islands area. It was not until August 28, 1938, could another icebreaker Yermak free the ship, but the legend in science was over.

Some historians and geographers, considering the "solid" observations of Sannikov and the presence of shallow sand shoals in Sannikov Land's mapped location, suggest that it did actually exist once, having been destroyed by coastal erosion and further submerged. This would be in keeping with many other islands in the New Siberian Archipelago. This process continues.

Another hypothesis is that Sannikov Land might have been a mirage of Bennettøya, another phenonemon in the Arctic region.

As a footnote to this legend a feature film was made in 1973, called "The Land of Sannikov," and based on the Obruchev book. Having lived in the west and been brought up on films like "One Million Years BC" (1966), and "The Lost World" (1960) Here too the plot might be a little familiar!

Sadly I can't muse about a mineral called "Welchite" after Racquel Welch, the female star of 1MYBC: the nearest I could get is Welshite - really not the same, although also with some schoolboy appeal.

The Land of Sannikov (1973) - appears to co-star Ronnie Wood!




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