End of the Line

Near La Perouse Strait, off Sakhalin Island, 20 August 1904, 1630 hrs.

After surviving The Battle of the Yellow Sea, the captain of the Novik believed that his crew and vessel could better serve the Tsar and mother Russia by joining the Vladivostok squadron, rather than sitting out the war interned in some neutral port. Believing that the Japanese would have the Tsushima Straits closely guarded he decided to take the long route around Japan in his attempt to reach Vladivostok.

As Novik rounded Yakushima, south of the Van Diemen Strait on 19 August, she was spotted by a Japanese merchant vessel. Admiral Togo received this information after some delay allowing Novik to escape well to the north before he was able to get Chitose and Tsushima to join the hunt.

Next morning Chitose and Tsushima were together in La Perouse Strait. Chitose had been searching the strait for two hours by the time Tsushima arrived and as Novik had not been seen Tsushima was ordered to look into Korsakovsk, a Russian port on Sakhalin Island, just north of the strait. By 1600 hrs she was in sight of the place and could see smoke rising from the anchorage. As the Japanese had expected, Novik was there. In spite of using economical speed, her wide detour around Japan had forced her to put in for coal and water, and at sunrise she had begun to take in the necessary supplies. Novik's crew had picked up the Japanese wireless transmissions as they searched for her, and funnel smoke from Tsushima could be seen as she approached. Her captain, who had intended to run La Perouse Strait at night, decided to put to sea at once for fear of being trapped in harbor.

As Tsushima closed Korsakovsk her captain spotted Novik steaming south for La Perouse Strait. Signaling her sighting to Chitose, she put on full speed and headed to cut the enemy off. At 1630 hrs Tsushima opened fire, Novik replied with spirit, and a sharp action ensued. The battle was, however unequal. Tsushima was larger and better protected, and against Novik's six 4.7" guns she carried an armament of six 6" and ten 12-pounders. She was, moreover, fresh and undamaged, and the advantage told quickly. In a little over half an hour Novik was forced to turn back and head for Korsakovsk. Tsushima's shooting was good; she had knocked out half of Novik's boilers as well as inflicting five hits on the waterline that flooded Novik's steering compartment. As Novik turned away Tsushima gave chase, but not for long. Novik was not yet defeated. She returned fire, and at 1740 hrs struck Tsushima with two hits on the waterline that flooded two compartments and caused such a list that Tsushima was forced to give up the chase and stop for emergency repairs.

While Tsushima was stopped Chitose joined her, and together they watched the port all night. At dawn the next day Chitose closed the port in order to complete the job at hand, only to find Novik beached on a sandbank with boats and launches busy removing her gear and crew. During the night Novik's captain had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to save her. Novik's steering gear was smashed beyond repair and the searchlights outside the harbor told him that another cruiser had joined his adversary. Escape being impossible, he decided to sink his ship in shallow water. With the destruction of Novik the Japanese put paid to the Russian First Pacific Squadron.