Expedition Diaries 2016

June 14. Day 8

June 14. Day 8

We don’t have any connection again. Dmitry Kovalev said that our course is not very “suitable” for that as the deck structure screens the aerial, and there would be no connection until we change the course. I am disappointed as I spent all day at landings, after that I summed up the day results, started writing the diary at midnight and finished it about 4 am.

Partly a hare, partly a cheetah.

At first, I couldn’t concentrate because of the engine noise, at 2 am the sun was too bright, and then the hustle and bustle started on the vessel as Sofia Rozenfeld, an ornithologist, was to stay at Fedorov meteostation which is located in the North of Vaygach Island, 40 sea miles away from the Dolgaya Bay. And she was to stay there not alone, but with three barrels of petrol as she would hold aerial survey of birds at Vaygach. She needs the petrol for a plane which would come to the station from Naryan-Mar.

The stop was made at night and was limited in terms of time, so only Sofia, Igor Matskevich, the guard, and three “loaders” (two students and a historian Nikolai Danilov) were taking part in the landing. Yesterday during the meeting it was said that Artem and Valera, two students from Severodvinsk, must be deployed for running errands as they are “fast and agile”. The students don’t mind at all. The previous day they were running around climbing the hills and watching the territory while the historical and cultural module was searching for objects of historical and cultural value. They also took pictures of the lifeboat.

Nickolai Danilov said that while waiting for another barrel, he was able to walk around and talk to the meteostation employees. The Island is really inhabited in that area. In spring there were a lot of arctic foxes which were bayed by the station dogs. One dog even ran away to Varnek – it disappeared from the station, but later it appeared in the settlement. A cat was taken from the settlement to the station: it used to belong to no one there, but here it is fed well and cared about.

Geese here walk around and hiss angrily in case anybody trespasses on their bounds. Nickolai was even told that they could pinch. Hares also run around here, one was even hopping 15 meters away from Nickolai, so he even managed to notice that the hare was shedding hair:

- It was covered with brown spots, as if partly it was a hare, and partly a cheetah.

On the watch.

The station inhabitants have very dangerous neigbours: not far from the station there is an abandoned frontier post, but it is not actually abandoned. As soon as the border guards left, polar bears occupied it and live there since that time.

The landing was a success, the students even waited till breakfast and only after breakfast went to bed.

Starting from today, at 7 am a watch for listing birds and sea mammals is established on board. To do that, you need to be on watch and to write down into a special journal everything which you manage to spot. The equipment used for the watch is the eyes, binoculars and a clock. It is not actually a clock, but a portable meteostation, that’s why it is possible to put down not only time, but air temperature and humidity. A camera is also on the list of equipment, in case anything unusual appears around. Or anything usual, but in the excessive amounts.

We already had something unusual today.

- The bean goose was strange, said Irina Pokrovskaya thoughtfully.

- Why do you think so?

- It was far from the coast, but still it was a bean goose.

To write anything down properly, you need to identify the bird or the animal. We are all already more or less familiar with the birds, though we still might meet birds which are unknown to us. Ekaterina whose watch began in the afternoon, said that she had seen a bird which looked similar to a glaucous gull, but it was almost black.

- It was a great skua, - explained Irina. – It is a dark-brown monster, they are now migrating to the east. They were first spotted in the Kara Sea in the 1990-s. They feel too comfortable in their natural habitat – at the Faroe and other islands in the West Atlantic – that’s why they actively migrate. But there aren’t many of them, so they do not conflict with glaucous gulls. It is already nesting here at Vaygach. We found their nest at Hesmerk in the “Russian Arctic” National Park in 2014.

During 10 minutes which we spent on the bridge during the break between the lectures, we saw 18 guillemots and 4 kittiwakes.

- Probably their lunch break is over, - said Katya. – There suddenly appeared many of them. They come in waves: there are either none, or a lot of them.

- I would also like to see anything in the water. Everybody has already seen seals, but I haven’t.  

The educational program of the expedition goes on aboard. We have 4 lecture a day: 2 before lunch and 2 after. Nickolai Mikhaltsov from Novosibirsk State University spoke today about palaeomagnetism.  Everyone knows that the Earth has its magnetic field which protects us from solar wind. If there had been no magnetic field, our planet would have been similar to the Mars, just a bit larger. There used to be magnetic field on the Mars similar to ours, but 4 billion years ago it almost disappeared and the Mars became the planet which we know now.

The source of the Earth magnetic field are some physical processes which take place inside the planet. Nickolai Mikhaltsov said that there are the suppositions considering its formation which are rather probable, but it is yet impossible to check them.

Magnetic poles of the Earth are moving. Rock at the moment of its formation is able to magnetize and to remain magnetized in the course of time (it means that it has magnetic memory). Thanks to this feature it is possible to determine the way the continental platforms moved on the Earth surface.  The fact that continents move around the surface is familiar to the majority. Magnetic memory of rock helps to identify the latitude and the orientation of the continent, but not its longtitude.

The process of getting samples for palaeomagnetic research is not a simple one. The rock should have been exposed to the minimum postdepositional factor, in other words it is better if it hasn’t changed much since it appeared. With the help of a special drill samples are collected and their orientation is defined. It is necessary to collect rock samples of similar age from many stations: at least from 10, but 15 stations are more preferable.

After that the tests are taken with very sensitive instruments in special laboratories which screen the external magnetic field (inside the room the magnetic field can be 300 or even 1 000 times smaller than outside). Nickolai says that work in such conditions doesn’t have any impact on human health. At least, he hasn’t noticed it.

The shy fog.

Since afternoon “Molchanov” was being surrounded by fog, which was approaching slowly, gradually, pretending not to be interested at all. Though it is still possible to see the sea from the viewport, the fog has come very close. The wind is light, so it is highly probably that we will be surrounded by fog for a long time.

The route was changed due to the fog, the vessel is heading for the Northern Island. By 5 pm on June 16 we are planning to reach Russkaya Gavan’ Bay. Fastice is likely to be in the landing area. Today I found a book “A Guide for Hydrometeorological Stations”. All kinds of ice are described in it. Fastice is sea ice along the coast which remains fixed. Fastice has a special part which is called icefoot and connects strongly with the shore: it is a narrow ice line which remains motionless during tide and low-tide and which remains ashore even after the major part of fastice is carried away.

June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8
June 14. Day 8

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Updated 20.06.2016