Expedition Diaries 2015

Day 2

Day 2

Looking forward to the expedition

If you have taken part in the expedition once, you will never forget this experience. What is more, you will be looking forward to new expeditions.

So, Anna Trophimova, the NArFU graduate who is now getting her Master degree in the Institute of Natural Sciences and Technologies (her specialty is “Ecological Risks Management in the Arctic”) takes part in the fourth expedition already. She says: “Once it happened that I have come back from the expedition, spent one week at home and joined another expedition. After that I was really looking forward to another expedition, and I am not the only one. I think this is really cool”.

But another really cool thing is that all expeditions are different. The AFU-2015 program includes several brand new departments. One of them specializes in soil chemistry. The head of the department is Tamara Levandovskaya, associate professor of the Chemistry and Chemical Ecology Department of NArFU, and the counselor and the mentor of the department is Sergey Goryachkin, the head of the Geography and Soil Evolution Laboratory in the Geographical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow). It is unusual that the large territory of the Arctic region, for instance of the Franz Josef Land archipelago, was not previously visited by soil scientists. So the presence of this department in the AFU-2015 expedition seems more than natural.

In the morning on July 2 the RV “Professor Molchanov” approached the Solovetskie Islands. The monastery was clearly seen from the vessel decks. It would be inhumane to deprive the members of the expedition who are not involved in the field work of the excursion around the Solovki, especially those who have not been there before. The landing started soon after 10 and by 5 in the evening all scientists and “tourists” were supposed to get back to the vessel.

The soil chemistry department chose a hill side by the brook flowing into the bay to be the research area. The difference in height between the top and the bottom is about 12 meters, 4 soil samples were taken there (the samples are 30 x 30 cm in section and from 30 to 50 cm in length). They studied the soil composition differences in layers, or, in other words, soil horizons. And the differences are really remarkable. For instance, in the sections close to the hill bottom there are only 3 soil horizons and in those closer to the top – 6. Only those samples in which the horizons are clearly seen and which were covered with vegetation were taken on board the RV “Professor Molchanov”. But it is necessary to dry the samples first to conduct chemical analysis and the complete analysis will be carried out in autumn on the mainland.

Google Earth Inspection

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Together with the soil chemistry department, the cartographo-geodetic department started their research. The head of the department is Senior Research Associate of the Geography Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, associate professor, Ph. D. in Geography in the specialty geoecology, Silvia Kostovska.

She says: “Our task was to conduct mapping and to compile a plan direct-to-scale. At first, our map was supposed to have a scale when 1 cm equals 5 meters, but we managed to make 1 cm equal to 2 meters”.

The sea level is the zero level for this map. The work was conducted with the help of tachymeter, this devices allows to make precise measurements not only in horizontal but also in vertical plane, and the electronics eliminates the errors which may occur due to human-factor.

This department will work during all landings in team with different departments. For instance, during the landing on Kolguev island they will work together with the geobotanics department. The current problem is the absence of maps, or, more precisely, topographic plans, especially of the Arctic territories. All the images which we have nowadays have very low GSD. Besides, the field work is also conducted in precisely defined territories, so we need detailed maps of these territories, so mapping must be conducted there.

But the group of Silvia Kistovska has their own task. They try to define how precise and detailed the images of Google Earth are and whether they can be used in research.

No smelt

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But the first day of field work was successful not for all members of the expedition. The task of the biological department and of its member, Sergey Morozov, a specialist in evolutionary biology of Helsinki University, is catching rainbow smelt. This fish is very important genetic material and it is cheaper even than mice. Liver is the most valuable material for further DNA extraction. The liver will be later transported to Finland for further genetic analysis (smelt in the Baltic sea is absolutely different). The main task is to compare the relatively Southern fish populations to those which live in the North, from the Novaya Zemlya to the Franz Josef Land.

Unfortunately, his day was a failure. Sergey sadly admitted: “We expected to catch from 20 to 50 fish, but I caught absolutely nothing, only one herring absolutely useless for me. It is hard to say why. We asked the local fishermen but they said that there was no smelt there in July, it would return in August”.

But August is too late for Sergey, so his only hope is further landings.

Also on July 2 the historical and cultural department started their work with local population surveying. Do people like to live in the North? Do they want to move to other regions? Do they want to move to another city of the same region? If they want, but they can’t, what prevents them from leaving? Or whatattracts them in this severe region? There is a list of questions the answers to which will help to define the degree of inter-ethnic tension (including problems with migrants and activity of religious sects). But the work has only started. The most interesting survey results are expected on Vaygach and Sosnovets Islands. As for Solovki, the oldest resident, who the AFU sociologists wanted to meet so much, went fishing, though he is more than 90 years old. Maybe he knowswhere the smelt is…

Peter’s yacht

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The Solovetskiy monastery inspired the members of the expedition to go on excursions. And there they met their colleagues, the participants of NArFU ecological summer camp which is held in Solovki the second year in a row and probably will become a “brand name” similar to AFU.

In the Prosperity bay, where the founders of the monastery, Savvatiy and Herman, arrived long ago, you can now find a sailing yacht “Saint Peter”. This is a copy of a yacht built in 1693, it was dedicated to the Peter the Great’s visit to Arkhangelsk. In August of the same year the tzar set sail for the yacht’s first voyage. The route of the second voyage was from Arkhangelsk to the Solovetskie Islands. The yacht was caught in a storm and almost sank. But they managed to reach the Unskaya bay close to the monastery and survived. In acknowledgement of that Peter the Great rewarded not only the skillful sailors, but also the monastery.

The boat was restored by a group of enthusiasts, among them is Svetlana Tyukina, rector’s aid at NArFU, the participant of the ecological summer camp. This year on August 1 “Saint Peter” will set off to its first voyage from the Solovetsie Islands to Arkhangelsk and back. What is more important, this time it is not only a sailing yacht, but a real research vessel.


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