A polar bear with a cub came to the Flora Cape 20 minutes after the last motorboat left for the vessel. There was an announcement about it on the radio, when the expedition members started their dinner. Everybody forgot about their food and rushed to the bridge as the arc of vision is wider there and the binoculars are good (especially the captain’s one).
And they noticed a polar bear snuffing the rock where the expedition members took pictures not so long ago, at the foot of the rock the cub was totally at a loss. It’s amazing! The day before yesterday there was the alarm and evacuation in the Russkaya Bay, but the polar bear had been seen only by two guards. This time none of the guards noticed the bears, but all expedition members had a chance to take a look at the master of the Arctic. What would have happened if they had appeared a bit earlier? And how do the ornithologists of the national park feel while they conduct their observations in a small house on the Flora Cape since the end of June? However, the ornithologists complain mostly about the wind at the Flora Cape, not polar bears.
The expedition has nothing to complain about. Though the landings at Heiss Island with its technopark of the Soviet period and at Champ Island with its spheroliths were cancelled, the expedition managed to accomplish a lot of tasks. And right before the beginning of the journey back home, the Arctic sent the expedition her final sign: the polar bear and its cub went along the emerald-green coast gradually disappearing in the fog.
There is no mistake about the emerald green forest. Lee Smith’s expedition was the first to arrive at the Flora Cape in 1884 and they gave it this name as they found the vegetation here to be miraculously lush. The place itself reminds of Ireland. Grey rocks, black boulders and crystal-clear brooks form the landscape here.
But the similarities are not complete, as along with the mosses the area is covered with snow and there are a lot of icebergs in the bay. The rocks also differ from the Irish ones. When the motorboat engine stops near the coast, all sounds at the Flora Cape unite into buzz, resembling either a waterfall, or a railway station. This buzz mostly consists of bird cries, large amount of them is flying in the fog at the rock top. The rocks are so huge and enormous and the place itself is so mysterious, that some just sit on the ground and watch the rocks, quietly whispering something as if praying.
Back to rock 1
The manmade Arctic doesn’t cause the desire to pray. It has another task: to be described in every detail, as we have already mentioned previously.
But there are very few remains left. Elwood settlement founded by Frederic Jackson expedition which spent three years from 1894 till 97 at the Flora Cape is completely destroyed, only the foundation of one house is left. The so called Albanov’s cabin is also in ruins now – the building collapsed because once a helicopter landed too close to it. No artifacts left after Lee Smith’s expedition on the “Eyra” steam yacht that discovered the island itself (today it is called Nordbrook Island) and the Flora Cape, apart from the yacht which sank not far away from here. They say that divers come here to look for the yacht, but so far their attempts failed.
If we don’t take the ruins into account, the main cultural sights on the Flora Cape are memorial signs: pillars, crosses and obelisks. The most valuable one is a memorial plate saying: “Here the Russian flag was raised on August 9, 1901 during the first ice-breaker “Ermak” testing under the command of flag officer S. O. Makarov”.
In 1990 the Complex Sea Arctic Expedition found this sign lying on the ground and there had been some concerns that it will be thrown away in the framework of the “Arctic Clearance” program. However, it did not only “survive”, but was installed on the iron bar, this is definitely good.
We shouldn’t forget about the black basaltic cube where 25 years ago there was an inscription “GERTA 1914”. Today it is impossible to distinguish it, and the cube will be remembered by the expedition members because there they saw the polar bears for the first time. And as we don’t know their names, let’s call the polar bear Gerta, and the cub – 1914.
In order not to forget.
Before seeing the rocks at the Flora Cape, the expedition members had a chance to look at another rock –Rubini rock. This is the largest colony of birds in Franz Josef Land. It is hard to say how much knowledge and skills in music the person who named this place after the Italian tenor had. The cries of birds definitely have nothing in common with opera. And the place itself is less magnificent and mysterious than the Flora Cape. The smell of birds’ manure was spreading above the calm sea and little auks were sitting on the rock.
The house close to the third rock
Rubini rock is situated in the Tikhaya Bay, the first capital of Franz Josef Land archipelago (from 1929 till 1960s) is situated on its coast and is also called Tikhaya Bay. There the RV “Professor Molchanov” was met by its namesake, Alexander Molchanov, the second year student of NArFU. He takes parts in the “Arctic Clearance” program so they were more interested in another vessel, “Mangazeya”, which is supposed to take the collected litter away. But there are only 5 people living on Hooker Island, so they are glad to have any guests.
Molchanov tells a lot about Tikhaya Bay. There is the Dogs street which is called so because there are about 10 dog booths there which appeared here long ago when there was a polar station here. It is impossible to survive at the polar station without dogs: they can help to fight off polar bears and can be used as a means of transport. Besides they were used for pulling the hydrological booth along the ice while the scientists were collecting the samples of sea water (rosettes with bathometers had not been invented yet).
Angrey Kunnikov is the head of the environmental education department of the “Russian Arctic” national park. The students treat him with respect and address him as Andrey Vasilievich. He spends here the fourth summer in a row, so he has the right to choose his aids. At the final stage, he tries to scare the applicants as much as possible. Life in closed communities, especially in severe Arctic conditions, is extremely hard. It is impossible to avoid conflicts. There is a legend popular among polar explorers, that in case one person is against the whole group, this person is simply killed and their death is explained with polar bears or other accidents. Kunnikov says to his applicants that he takes those who misbehave to the glacier and leaves them there to freeze to death. Those who don’t get scared are hired.
Their main task is the clearance of the Arctic. The expedition was surprised how clean the Tikhaya Bay was. Andrey has put a lot of effort to organize a post office in the Tikhaya Bay. This is not the most Northern post office in the Russian Federation (there is another one at the Heiss Island), but still quite remarkable. All expedition members crowded there: everybody wanted to buy souvenirs or to send postcards.
Andrey lives at the post office, the students live in the house nearby. There is a hall, a kitchen and a common bedroom for six people in the house. An exchange program is planned for the following year: students from Arkhangelsk will go to Sevastopol, and students from Sevastopol University will come here, to the Tikhaya Bay.
Their tasks, though, will be the same – the clearance of the Arctic. The boys manage to do that quite successfully. However, to collect litter and to take it away are two different things. Vessels come here very seldom, and they need special equipment. Now they do not have the equipment that is why the bags with litter are still on the beach. And they have been here for more than a year. There is little hope that it is possible to take it away at a time. Well, at least the students have something to do here.