Expedition Diaries 2016

June 13. Day 7

June 13. Day 7

I found a tangerine in my backpack today in the morning. I took it yesterday with me to the landing and forgot about it, so I ate it before breakfast. Starting from today the breakfast time has changed – it is now at 7:30, which is half an hour earlier.

Morning. We see the first ice

We are in the Dolgaya Bay. If there is a landing, it will be held after lunch. There are separate pieces of ice floating in the sea. They say there is a lot of slushed ice in the Kara Sea. “Professor Molchanov” is now at the northern part of Vaygach, it is chilly outside. The waves seem to be harmless, but still there are some, that is why Konstantin Zaikov, the head of the expedition, doesn’t want to risk. We are in the Arctic, and though the shore is not so far away, we’d better wait until the sea is calm. And there are good chances for that: the sky is almost clear, the sun is shining.

But we don’t have any connection again, so we can’t send the previous day diary. Dmitry Kovalev, who is responsible for the connection, explains that it is harder to catch the connection with the satellite if the vessel is not moving. It is possible to do that only in a particular position, and though the vessel is anchored, it is still spinning a bit. So we get the connection only when it reaches that particular position.

We should be conscious about the journals where we publish our works

Lectures are held again before lunchtime and the landing. Alexander Cherkasov, the director of the International Network Center for Basic and Applied Research, tells where university lecturers and researchers would rather publish their works. Alexander comes from Sochi, the Arctic for him is a dream which came true, now he wants to visit the Antarctic.

Alexander subdivides all the journals which publish scientific articles into 4 groups:

  • Of the first rank: the journals which are included into WoS, Scopus data bases (Those who need that know what it is, as for the others – it is just really cool).
  • Of the second rank: Journals which are included into open full-text databases.
  • Of the third rank: Journals which are indexed within the national framework.
  • Of the fourth rank: Self-published issues.

The last are not worth paying attention to. As for all the rest, you’d better have either masthead or the whole article in English. This is the requirement of modern science and you can do nothing about it.

The more prestigious the journal is, the more requirements it imposes upon the author. To publish an article in a prestigious journal the author should have published something in other prestigious journals. This is a vicious circle for young researchers. Alexander advised to pick a journal which was included into Scopus not so long ago (and this is already very cool) and which publishes more than 30 articles at a time when you decide to publish your first article. There are some journals which publish 5-6 articles at a time, and if you are not a profound researcher with certain academic standing and publications, you will not succeed. To pick a journal, it is also necessary to pay attention to its impact-factor which indicates whether the journal is popular in the data-bases. The impact-factor depends on citing. Every researcher wants to be cited, otherwise what you publish the article for.

These things seem to be very specific but they are important for university staff who are required to publish a certain amount of articles in a certain period of time. Not all of them get into Nature or Science at once.

To turn round the corner

After lunch the wind stopped blowing, the ice also disappeared. The Dolgaya Bay became absolutely calm. Our group went to take a look at the trading post which had been created here right after the Great Patriotic War. Trading post is a conventional name. The bay used to be often visited by fishing boats as it is closed and calm. In the 1940-s several Nenets families were invited to live at the trading post to help fishermen. It used to be a hospital, or to be more precise, a village first-aid station, though it was called a hospital here, here used to be also a school in which, according to the documents, there were 5 pupils: 4 girls and one boy. But the trading post in the Dolgaya Bay didn’t last long. It stopped working in the 1950-s, the Nenets families got back to the mainland, not to Varnek.

There were several buildings at the trading post, now they are mostly in ruins. There is only one intact wooden house for hunters and fishermen, and they still visit it as the place is perfect for hunting and fishing, there are lots of geese here.

We wanted to visit this wooden house. The first mate Sergey Khokhlov left our group on a sandy beach in the bay, looked at the steep shore and advised us to go to the left as it is pretty flat there.

We all started walking in the water. Now all expedition participants put on rubber boots or wading boots to take part in landings, no boots are allowed. We often recall the AFU-2015 participant from Alaska who wanted to go to the shore wearing an overcoat, shorts and flip-flops. The crew at once told him to go and change, and though they were speaking Russian, he understood them well.

Some words about Vaygach

There is no precise information about who discovered Vaygach and when. It has been mentioned in written chronicles since the XV century. The Europeans “believe” that the island was discovered by Steven Barrow, an Englishman, and Willem Barents, a Dutch, but this happened in the XVI century. However Vaygach used to be a sacred place for the Nenets people and their predecessors for many centuries. They called it “Khabidya Ya” which means “sacred land”. The sanctuaries were located here, the idols were installed. It is interesting, however, that no one had lived on the island before the 1920-s. Vaygach Idols are also of interest, they have a long history. There used to be one of the two main Idols – Khodako – in the North, and the second one – Vasako – in the South. Both capes used to be called Bolvanskiy (“bolvan” means a statue, an idol), the Northern and the Southern correspondingly. There were many wooden and stone idols, sometimes even idols made of metal are mentioned. The idols had faces of men, women, children, had four or seven faces, had sharp or flat heads. The church was against idols, they were destroyed, and still appeared again. A lot of idols and the items sacrificed to them remained intact till the present day. According to archaeologists, some of them date back to the XIII or even the VIII century.

Absolutely different stones

Little stints were “jingling” and dancing at the shore, not paying any attention to us. I even managed to shoot a video of little stints dancing. After visiting the wooden house, we went to look for the local cemetery. We walked quite a lot, found a nest with four eggs in it, the parents were very angry at us, but we still couldn’t find the cemetery. The groups were talking to each other via walkie-talkie, geese were flying around, it was getting hotter in the sun. June seems to be hot at Vaygach.

The landscape in the Northern part of the island is at the same time similar and different from the Southern. Stones are layered here. Sharp plates are lying on the ground or form something similar to stockade.  Denis, a student, said that judging by the appearance, the rock here is older than in Varnek or near the mines, and its composition is also different. But probably not so much. In the 1920-1930-s prospecting was held successfully in the North also. It was even planned to build a settlement here. There is a half-ruined wooden house in the Khudaya Bay remaining after the geological expedition. There are also three wooden boats from the trading post in the bay.

We finally managed to find the cemetery, there were more than a dozen graves there, all of them were covered with stones and long stone plates. There are even the remains of wooden crosses. There is an inscription left on one of the signs: the first word looks like “Alexey” and the last one is probably “died”. There is not so much information about the cemetery, it is hard to say whether it dates back to the pre- or post-war period. It should be figured out later.

Birds of a feather flock together

— Ira, would you like to go and count the birds? – these were the first words which I heard as I got back to the vessel dreaming to take off my rubber boots and to fall asleep for a couple of hours, but Konstantin Zaikov had other plans. I looked around, at my boots and the tripod, then I realized that I won’t need my tripod!

— How much time do I have to relax?

— Well, about five minutes.

It is pure happiness to spend 5 minutes without rubber boots. But I made this decision judging by the weather conditions: for me it is ok to get wet or cold or something like that, but I worry about my equipment. At 5:30 pm there were almost no waves, the sun was bright and I thought that it is a great opportunity to go on a boat “trip” to look at the birds and to take pictures of them.

So, we met:

  • common mergansers — a lot;
  • eider ducks (mostly couples) — a lot;
  • king eiders — 12 birds on our way back;

  • bean geese, white-fronted geese (they prefer to stick together) — a lot;
  • barnacle geese — more than any other species;
  • glaucous gulls (they look very arrogant sitting on the rocks) — there aren’t many of them, but they strike the eye;
  • snowflakes (it is easier to hear them than to see) — several birds;
  • kittiwakes (in the Panama Bay) — a flock;
  • a white-tailed sea eagle (large and beautiful, eats fish) — only one.

There was also another arrogant seagull with black wings sitting among a group of glaucous gulls and of a similar size. It was also only one.

At first we saw a lot of eider ducks, then bean geese and white-fronted geese. But mostly glaucous gulls  attracted our attention. They have such a large beak, so probably they are scared of nothing. They crack other birds’ eggs fearlessly and shamelessly.

There were also small snowflakes flying around twittering. They were so joyful, but they are land, not sea birds.

Common mergansers flap their wings faster than other birds when they fly up from the Dolgaya Bay sea surface. White-fronted geese are also called “sailors” as adult birds have a striped pattern on their belly. Sailors today flock together with bean geese.

We went ashore several times. The first one was not far from the trading post. The rocks are beautiful there and the steeps are tricky. Layered stones flake, especially as you step on them.

The second one was near a picturesque island where the rock plates are black, like coal.

The third time we went ashore was near a newly-built wooden house. There is a lot of drift wood there, it seems that all logs and stumps from the surrounding area are brought here. Looking at the drift wood I said that it would be nice to bring something home from Vaygach, as something can be cut out of this wood.

Konstantin immediately found a nice one, so I am bringing a stump of unknown origin with me to Arkhangelsk.

And we also had a fourth stop.

Saturn. Panama

There was something large and orange lying on the beach. We came closer:

— This is a lifeboat, like one which we used for the safety training. Maybe, it’s ours?

We decide to go ashore. There is a lifeboat for 52 people lying on the beach and there is a sign on its side which reads “GSP SATURN PANAMA”. It looks fine, if we don’t take into account a dent on the beam. But still it is bit spooky.

— Maybe there is someone inside? — asks somebody.

— Let’s check!

— But do not forget about polar bears. This is exactly what they are waiting for.

One of the hatchways is open, Igor Matskevich, a guird, looks inside.

— It is empty!

There are new seat belts above the seats. It seems that no one has ever used this lifeboat, it was just carried away. But this is still not very clear how it could have happened. However, it is very relieving that there is no tragedy behind this lifeboat. I wonder how long it has been lying here? The food packages inside are mostly spoiled though they haven’t expired yet as well as the medicines in the first aid kit – the expiration date is October 2016. No man or polar bear has explored this lifeboat before.

The shadows get longer, the waves get higher, our boat is heavy, so we decide to get back to the vessel. We go very slowly and close to the shore to avoid any risks.

At first I thought that it is the reflection of the sun, or of the islands, or anything else. But there really was a narrow, almost covered with water and very tricky stripe of land between the islands.

— Look, there is a sand bank! – shouted the first mate Khokhlov.

While we were going back to the vessel, I realized that I want some juice or berry juice. These thoughts even made me forget about the geese. I drank some juice during dinner and then I thought that I can do without some yummies for a week. Someone was looking for Coke about midnight. Of course, food at “Molchanov” is great, but there is a problem of lack of choice: to get and eat something as soon as you want it. After dreaming about juice, I thought that I should have taken a jar of jam with me. And a basket of cookies. And my cat.

There is a storm today in Arkhangelsk, the southern wind is blowing with the velocity of 20-25 mps. I hope, it won’t reach us.  My brother found a passenger vessel in a bay in the north of Vaygach via marinetraffik.  He asked me if that was our vessel. Probably, yes. I think there are no other passenger vessels in Vaygach bays.

Half of my drawer is now filled with stones. I took some green stones with white spots as I have never seen them before, some round white stones as they match the seashells and a small crab claw. Mum, I will bring you some seashells from Vaygach.


June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7
June 13. Day 7

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Updated 20.06.2016