Expedition Diaries 2015

Day 16

Karmakulov brothers

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The vessel approached Malye Karmakuly, the motherland of Tyko Vylka. The settlement is really small, there are only 6-7 houses on the cape open to all winds. Two members of the expedition, Vidas Kryauchunas and Vitaly Spitsin, were supposed to stay there for two months to conduct field work.

As for Ilya Konstantinovich Tyko Vylka, an outstanding Nenets artist, he was born in Malye Karmakuly, on Southern Island of the Novaya Zemlya. One of his pictures was shown to the expedition during the lectures: the Nenets people rescue the karbass of Alexander Borisov, the artist from Arkhagelsk who will later rescue Tyko Vylka by distinguishing his talent and sending him to study in Saint-Petersburg. In the picture we saw some small men and the Northern lights in the sky. In reality the picture was different: there were mountains, the sides of which were covered with dingy snow, the mountain bottom was covered with moss, barrels, columns and odd obelisks. Black rocks, which smell of birds’ manure, surround the entrance into the bay. The boatswain made everybody leave the beam and let the anchor, a lot of little auks swimming around the vessel scattered. There was no fanfare. Two motorboats were floated off.
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One boat was for Karmakulov brothers themselves (Vidas and Vitaly are addressed with this nickname almost all the time), another boat carried guns, food and the necessary equipment. The guys waved with their hands, the motorboats floated around in the lap of honour and headed for the shore. And the expedition rushed to the restaurant as it was dinner time. There was a note “Karmakulov brothers” on the door of Vitaly and Vidas’s cabin, later there appeared an addition – “We will miss you” – and a smiley face.

We wish them good luck in Tyko Vylka’s motherland.

How we make it in America

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It is fine to be sad sometimes. And sometimes to have fun. It is very sad to leave your colleagues on an unfriendly and gloomy shore. But it was so nice that there was another birthday on board the vessel: Daniel Powers from the US turned 27 on July 16. That day he also gave a presentation about his job. He graduated from prestigious Middleberry college, Vermont in the specialty “Molecular biology and biochemistry”. Now Daniel works at the far end of the continent, in Alaska in CCHRC — Cold Climate Housing Research Centre as a project manager.

— One of the main reasons why I work here, — admits Daniel, — is that the Center is focused on applied solutions for the challenges which have become urgent due to the global climate change. These solutions are mostly very simple and can be easily implemented within limited time.

Indeed, speaking about “sustainable development” and suggesting real solutions are two different things. As a typical American, Daniel is very practical and pragmatic. His employers’ approach is also aimed at practical application. So, this is not a purely scientific center, it is also a development and testing laboratory, an industrial group and an educational institution. Depending on the project character all sorts of investments (state funds, private funds, etc) are raised.

CCHRC offers different interesting products. For example, a ground heat pump gets warmth from the soil and with its help heats floor or water in a water heater. Though it is more expensive than an average water heater or heat-insulated floor, if you plan to live in that house for, let’s say, 6-7 years it pays off.

Another example is a mobile testing laboratory. 9 wall samples are installed on the wheeled platform. The CCHRC representatives go with this platform all around Alaska, offering everybody who plans to build their own house, to choose the walls which are suitable for the climate conditions of a particular place.

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For example, the town of Quinhagak is famous for its strong winds and snowstorms. CCHRC has developed a multi-angle house designed the way that when the door opens as little cold air and snow as possible gets in.

Some mundane issues are also solved by the organization. For example, a lot of Northern citizens still don’t have proper drainage systems in their houses, so they use buckets and pour their biowaste outside. Due to permafrost it cannot soak into the soil, so it flows into water basins, the water from which is used for drinking. It all has negative impact on the population health. This is a really serious issue and CCHRC is trying to solve it.

When Daniel was asked if they had any clients in Russia, either in Siberia or in the Arctic, he answered shortly: “None”.

It’s a pity because our researchers in Malye Karmakuly may need smart and eco-friendly houses. 


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Updated 03.07.2015