June 11. Day 5
Bely Nos (in Russian “bely” means white and “nos” means nose).
Day 5, evening. A bit running ahead of the story
By the evening my nose is not white at all. I feel that by the end of the expedition I will have real Arctic tan: a tanned face and sunburnt ears. Actually, I got the larger part of solar radiation while we were getting back to the vessel. On our way back we had to change the motorboat, so we were crawling from “Fregat” into “Zodiak” as if we were not scared of cold water, even though the waves were very close to us. The sun was reflected in the waves and water splashes, and all these reflections were shining brightly. I am actually scared of looking in the mirror now… But this is the end of the day.
Day 5, morning
We are finally landing. In the morning the sea was not absolutely calm, but almost. The first motorboat leaves having the guards on board. Bely Nos is the territory of polar bears, though they do not come here often. There is still a lot of snow on the coast. It is crucial, however, that one of these snowbanks doesn’t get up and doesn’t start smelling about. A polar bear doesn’t have a very good eye-sight, but it can smell a seal under ice which is one kilometer away. But I’m not talking about polar bears now, though it is possible to talk about them a lot. We should always be cautious, especially during field work.
Tamara Molodtsova from “Russian Arctic” national park notices some suspicious steps on the snow:
- We should check them, just to be sure.
Nickolai Bibekin, the head of the meteostation, warmly welcomes us. He says that there are no polar bears around now, but there was one in May: it appeared on May 10 and stayed around for more than two weeks.
- The bear was young and curious, it came every day and explored everything. It was especially active on May 21, probably, wanted to greet us on the Day of a Polar Explorer. The polar bear migration route lies 10-15 km away from Bely Nos, they have not come here for 10 years.
By the end of May the dangerous guest left and wasn’t seen again.
Groups of expedition participants start coming ashore.
Mashka, Knopka and the lemmings
There is a real beach near the meteostation: the sand is packed and covered with seashells. Sandpipers are running around, they do not come very close, but also don’t run away. There are a lot of holes especially near the meteostation. As you walk along the footbridge, lemmings spread out, but not all of them. Some leisurely walk away. Probably they feel pretty safe here.
We were told before about two local dogs that they “tried to attack the polar bear”. So we expected to see two shaggy monsters. From afar the dogs really looked like monsters. But the closer they came, the smaller they looked. A dark-brown dog which name is Mashka approached us first. We even thought that it was a puppy. It was hard to decide for her what she liked best: the sandwiches or cuddling. Knopka which came later preferred sandwiches. Knopka turned out to be Mashka’s daughter. But the only similar feature they have is ears.
4 people live and work now at “Bely Nos” meteostation: the head of the station, two engineers-meteorologists and a mechanic. Another 3 employees left for Saint-Petersburg to pass the university exams as they attend extra-mural courses there. Nickolai, the head of the station, and his wife Valentina came to work to the Arctic from the Altai mountains.
- We lived in the countryside there, I worked at the local meteostation. 8 years ago I filled in an application as we wanted to work in the North. Our applications were approved and we were offered to work at Kanin Nos, – says Valentina. – Our relatives were shocked, but our daughter had already grown up and we wanted some change in life.
The Bibekins had worked at Kanin Nos for 7 years, and one year ago they moved to Bely Nos. They like it here, otherwise they wouldn’t have stayed for so long.
- The life is calm here. I knit, sew and embroider. In summer people here pick up mushrooms and berries. Nobody cared about the bears. Now we don’t know what to do. Well, I think we’ll still go mushrooming, - Valentina thought a little and smiled again.
… and dived into the Arctic ocean
Alexander Tokarev from Saint-Petersburg shoots a panoramic or spherical or 3D video about the expedition. There is a special device with the help of which a user can control the location of a viewpoint and look at any direction they like. There is special software for such videos, or you can watch them on Youtube and Facebook. Of course, there is special equipment and software to create such videos. It is very important to conjoin the image which, in this case, is shot simultaneously by two cameras. Alexander promises that in a couple of days it will be possible to see the first results of his work. After the expedition there will be a 6-minute-long video. Similar panoramic videos have been created for the Hermitage, Mariinskiy theathre, the Solovki, but no video has been shot like this, in “the field”.
- At work we had to decide who would go to the Arctic and who – to the Solovki. Of course, I was very enthusiastic about the expedition to the Arctic as I was really eager to work there.
Alexander has lived in Saint-Petersburg for a long time, but he was born in Urengoi:
- There we also went to the tundra, so I can’t say that it is not familiar to me. But I actually expected the vegetation here to be lush.
Liudmila Beldiman, a botanist, said after the landing that the vegetation is really poor. That is why she together with the ornithologists analysed what geese were eating in the area.
Geese were flying around, especially before noon. As soon as I set my camera for short-distance shooting to take pictures of the people or vegetation, there appeared large flocks of geese spectacularly flying above the antennae, “Molchanov”, the ruins which have remained here since GULAG. Of course, I don’t take offence at them, I even managed to take pictures of several flocks.
In1930-s there was a concentration camp at Bely Nos. There are several half-ruined brick buildings behind the meteostation. Judging by the amount of chimneys, there was a drier in one of the buildings. There used to be barracks and stone-pits where the prisoners worked in the Eastern part of the cape. As the head of the module in the cultural landscapes study, Liudmila Drachkova says ore prospecting was held here. Ore was found, but its amount is not sufficient to mine it. That’s why the prisoners mostly broke stones. By the way, this time the module managed to find the stone-pit and to describe all the buildings around the meteostation.
- We found two artifacts, they are a stove register and a wooden hanger. They both date back to the camp times.
The module participants only didn’t manage to cross the brook which was flooded. Only the natural sciences module was brave enough to cross it.
As for the insects, it was possible to study 6 stations. Andrey Przhiboro commented that they were almost the same, but still he got something. And we saw a bumblebee. It seems that there is enough vegetation for it. The most noticeable plant is a dwarf willow with fluffy green buttons. I also saw bright pink saxifrages and small dark blue forget-me-nots.
The best impression is wi-fi!
Three of us were coming from the meteoground to the house. Near the wall there was a man who was hiding from the wind and talking on his cell phone. He was talking on his cell phone! Is there a connection? We all took out our cell phones… (why do I always have it with me? I have a camera). No connection. Our colleague mumbled humbly that he was talking via wi-fi.
Some minutes later there were about 10 people standing on the porch and near the living quarters with a sign “Sea Hydrometeotation Nr. 2 “Bely Nos”, they all were very concentrated and were typing messages. Someone sighed with disappointment: “I can’t send the pictures”.
Valentina approached me:
- Come with me, let’s drink some tea…
Someone knocked at the window. The boat was coming to the coast…
WhatsApp worked best via wi-fi at the meteostation. It is not without reason more popular in Yakutia than other social networks. They are so slow… I even got the message that it is -1 at night at Vaygach, but on Monday afternoon it will be +19! I really want the mosquitoes to wake up on Monday, and not tomorrow, when we plan to land there. Tomorrow the air temperature is expected to be +4 and the sea is expected to be calm.
Before the traditional evening meeting everybody is pouring themselves a cup of tea. After hearing what the name “Vaygach” means, some choked over, some made a dreadful face. “The Island of terrible death” or “The Island of death” – this is how the Nenets people called it. It was not common to live there. Vaygach was and is still considered to be a sacred place.