Expedition 2019 Diaries

Day 19. Conclusion

Day 19. Conclusion

They say you cannot enter the same river twice. I would say the same about the sea.


I wrote last year that you could never leave the Arctic. You can only land and then return. After my second voyage I can only agree with that. But each time you come back you continue and do not start, as you have your previous experience.


Each expedition is unique, says Andrei Bezgreshnov for whom that was his 44th one. I have done just two. As unique as they were, I should say that they are routine work with lectures, sampling, meals, sauna and landings on Svalbard.

Before the expedition I had been afraid of this routine.


On June 22, when we started the expedition, the day had just began to get shorter. We were heading to the midnight sun. It is on our way home, July 6, that we noticed the border between day and night.


Emerald Sea. Long and gentle waves if there is ice. Gray arctic sky. Worries and icebergs. Ice fields. It is only the sea that can be unpredictable when scattered fragments of icebergs and out-of-coast annual ice form an impassable jam. The ship is maneuvering, cutting the ice, which gnash on the stern. Finally, in the morning, we reach the open water. The expedition members take selfies with icebergs and sing Celine Dion at the monkey island. Only the captain is gloomy.

- Life is expensive in the sea, - he says.

It took us five hours to go through the ice that thickened around Professor Molchanov. If you declare SOS in a critical situation, many will come to rescue but it would finally cost about 100-150 million rubles. This summarizes the residual value of the vessel, insurance for each member of the expedition (about one hundred thousand rubles), valuable property and much more.

- But when it comes to people’s lives… - starts the captain.

«You don’t think about money», - I finish in my mind.

And the sea romance disappears.


«The sea is an element. This is a power that must be respected. Power of nature. The sea is material, unlike air» (Natalya Kukarenko)

For me, the sea is strong and unattainable. I noticed how many shades it has: from bright turquoise to marsh. This is all unusual, not like at a resort, for example. And the sea is great. (Natalya Ignatova)

Sea air is love. The Arctic Sea is love. In the most difficult days, when the atmospheric pressure dropped to 750 or the wave rose to 3 meters (just imagine), I went out to the monkey island. I felt better there after overcoming myself.

But with storm grade 7, just as we left Svalbard, I just wanted to lie down and sleep. Some of us slept a day, others two. Some could not eat. Rolling felt stronger when we were sitting or standing.


Some days looked just one like the other especially if there were no landings. Andrei Bezgreshnov says you need to be a self-sufficient person if you want to find sense in the expedition. When we felt like being distracted, we played board games and watched movies. When we wanted to be alone, we went to the open deck. Sometimes I wanted to see the future and I climbed on the bridge. Horizon, the landmark of Professor Molchanov, is the metaphor of the future, according to Brynjar Bandlien.


Expeditions are difficult for a journalist, because you always risk to lose inspiration. You understand what you are to write and how, but you cannot. You don't even want to. Your favorite creative work becomes routine. I knew that this could happen and prepared a plan of texts in advance.

But you cannot foresee everything ashore. There were days of disappointment in my own reports and days when text appeared with no effort.


It all changed on Svalbard.

Jump into my car, I’ll show you my apartment and tell you what life is like here,”- said Lena Zhichkina. I had met her during our first landing in Barentsburg. I was among the first to land. I managed to talk briefly to the guide Denis, and then I saw a girl in sports trousers, a checkered jacket and a sports cap, it even seemed that she “USSR” on it. She looked like a Norwegian. I rushed to her: “What is your name?” “Have you been here for a long time?” “What is your profession?” “Where did you study?”. She understood quickly that it was not so easy to get rid of me and invited me at hers. An incredible journalistic luck to meet a real person who has her own story and is ready to share it. While the expedition is disembarking, I have time to talk to Lena. There are things I will not publish, she told them to be because she trusted me.


An expedition is teamwork. I had already understood that last year. And even if our tasks were different (I cannot compare my work with research activities), we work together. Scientists agree to give comments, journalists help them when necessary.


The Arctic is not as cold and indifferent as human indifference can be. Why go on a sea expedition, especially to the Arctic? It makes you understand how responsible or indifferent you are. How independent you are. It makes you understand your human nature. That sounds too solemn but many expedition diaries and essays speak about it.


I saw the preparations for the expedition that took ten months. Is it more difficult to go on an expedition or to prepare it? Here is the answer of Alexander Saburov, director of the NArFU Arctic Center for Strategic Studies:

- Preliminary work is always the most difficult, it determines by 90% the success of the expedition. We began work in September 2018, almost immediately after returning from Novaya Zemlya. We planned the itinerary, the terms of the expedition, scientific program, landing points. Then there was a long work with the participants, obtaining all the necessary work permits in Svalbard.

The greatest difficulty for me is to be able to respond quickly and flexibly to changing conditions, weather conditions, take into account the diverse interests of all members of the expedition, to ensure the harmonious interaction of all scientific groups and the crew.

I can say that the expedition was a success. We took all the necessary samples, made all the planned landings, we did all in time.

It was my first great organizational experience, and I see how we can make the next expedition better. Now my only desire is to prepare the next expedition at a higher level.

I would like to thank the participants for their patience, understanding that the Arctic is a constantly changing environment, especially the sea. Here often things can go quite differently from what had been planned. It requires understanding from everyone.

Special thanks to the crew of the vessel for their professionalism and understanding. They agreed to stop and sample even if it had not been planned.

I liked our multicultural environment, I would even compare it with Noah's Ark. At first, I didn’t know how everyone would communicate, each participant had their own traditions, there could be cultural or language barriers. But people started the dialogue immediately and became a good team. This is, indeed, an international expedition, without any conventions.


The expedition was going to its end, and my diaries written in cloudy, rainy and stormy weather, too. I met people, enthusiastic and talented researchers who seemed curious and interesting to me. I met nomads and stalkers, residents of Svalbard, who trusted me, a stranger, and told me even more than they were going to. But my main character is the sea. Icy. Emerald. Eloquent. The charming Arctic Sea.

Perhaps it is worth taking a break. I have things to do on the shore.
The expedition began...

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Updated 26.08.2019