5 August: The land of terrible death
It was the fifth day of the expedition, the vessel had got over 698 sea miles. Night wind had completely blown away the mist and at 8:30 a.m. the first boat set its course to Vaygach Island.
Vaygach has great natural diversity, but it is also rich in historical-cultural monuments and artifacts. Vasiliy Matonin, an associate professor of the Institute of Social Humanities and Political Science, who carried out some research work during the landing, says, - In Nenets language the word "Vaygach" means “alluvial”. This characteristic does not correspond to the rocky landscape of the island. One of the island’s names is Vay-Khaps – “land of terrible death”. The name Vaygach became known in the west only after the expedition of Barents.
Vaygach is a center of sacral Nenets topography. The historical-anthropological group found the sanctuary Kheve-Neve, a vertical rift in the northern part of the island that represented “a sign of the femininity". In Nenets culture the masculinity is traditionally connected to the south.
Nenets holy places are often located on river and lake shores, on mountain tops, near big stones. On Vaygach Island reindeer sacrifices to the gods were frequent in historical times and the employees of the meteostation, situated on the island, informed us that this practice continues to this day.
Among other things we found a small cemetery.
We saw there five clearly visible graves. And Vasiliy Matonin told us about them: Coffins were not used and the deceased were wrapped up in a blanket. The body was buried in stone chippings at a depth of 50 cm above the permafrost line. On the edge of the cape the holy place of 60 cm rises over the surface of the island. Two graves have small eight-pointed crosses on them signifying Orthodox Christian burial places. Nenets people believe that it is necessary to put something near the grave, that’s why there are some metal covers of barrels left on the graves and between them.
At the end of the landing time the political research students joined us to interact with the people on the island, as they had lectures and group work on board in the morning. In spite of the fact that the presence of polar bears kept us on the chain near the rangers, all members of the expedition managed to see interesting places, take photos of wonderful landscapes and talk with the employees of the meteostation about their life on the island.
On returning to the RV Professor Molchanov we participated in a game show. Do you remember that acquaintance meeting at the first day of the expedition? We spent the rest of the evening getting to know each other better. All departments made their group’s presentation. We sang songs, recited poetry, and organized a psychological game. In general, we spent the evening having fun and being creative.
At 3:20 p.m. the RV Professor Molchanov pulled anchor and set its course to the Yamal Peninsula, to Litke Island, where the Marresalya station is situated. We are going to the North and soon will enter the drift ice area.