Expedition Diaries 2016

June 21. Day 15

June 21. Day 15

The further we go to the south, the colder it gets, or it just seems to me so, probably, because there is no sun in the sky. There was too much sun in the north. When I get back, I can make jokes that I have spent three weeks on the islands. It is warm now in Arkhangelsk, the temperature is +23-25oC, but it’s rainy.

Non-specialists.

Andrey Przhiboro gave a lecture today about people who used to or still studies insects of the Novaya Zemlya and the neighbouring territories and about people who renew the collection in Institute of Zoology (Museum) of the Russian Academy of Sciences which was founded in the first half of the XIX century. The names are surprising sometimes. Andrey himself gathered information about these people.

The first biological expedition to the Russian Arctic under command of Karl Baer – a German-Russian zoologist – took place in 1837. The expedition was well-prepared and successful and was funded by the Russian Academy of Sciences. Two vessels, “Krotov” and “Saint Elisey”, set sail from Arkhangelsk to the Novaya Zemlya on June 22, and on September 11 they got back to Arkhangelsk, which means that all the research was held within only one navigation. The research topics were different: geodetic research, biological research, including insect sampling.

Such sampling was held mostly by non-specialists, not even zoologists, but geodesists, or even governors. Just fancy, Arkhangelsk governor is mentioned in the list of people collecting insect samples – his name was Ivan Sosnovskiy, the time and place of the collection corresponds to the time and place of his staying at the Novaya Zemlya. In my opinion, it is hard to imagine modern officials doing that.

The sampling also took place during the expeditions in which a famous Arkhangelsk painter Alexander Borisov took part. He painted a lot of pictures at the Novaya Zemlya. Some pictures were painted when it was -20oC outside. For example, he painted from nature full solar eclipse in Malye Karmakuly on July 27 (August 9) in 1896. A zoologist Sergey Timofeev took part in the expedition of 1900-1901 and also took part in insect sampling.

- What a coincidence! – said Marina Titova, - we are trying to find some information about Timofeev, but, of course, we didn’t even think to address Institute of Zoology. We should invite Andrey to the conference dedicated to Borisov which will be held in November.

We always hear Marina’s voice as she makes the announcements over the radio inviting everybody to the next lecture. She is getting her Master’s degree in Culture studies and works in Art Museum of Arctic Exploration named after A. Borisov. She was not planning to take part in the AFU-expedition, but during the Russian Geographical Society conference she learned about the expedition to the Novaya Zemlya and applied for it.

This year is the 150-th anniversary of Borisov and the 130-th anniversary of another famous artist – Tyko Vylka.

If we manage to land at Kolguev, Marina is eager to find some information about one person. Borisov mentioned in his books a guide of the Nenets origin whose name was Ustin Kanyukov. He took part in the expeditions to the Novaya Zemlya and helped a lot. Borisov also said that Ustin was a shaman from Kolguev Island. It is known that he had a daughter and was alive in the 1930-s, so it is probable that there are people on the island who used to know or still knows his family members.

Marina says that from now on it would be easier and much more interesting for her to hold excursions. Of course, she had read a lot about these places, had seen the pictures, but it is hard to talk about a place if you haven’t been there yourself. Though we haven’t visited “Borisov” places at the Novaya Zemlya, he still used to sail along these shores and dreamt about the Zhelaniya Cape.

Very large mosquitoes.

Irina Pokrovskaya spoke about some Arctic bird species and their behavior. Northern phalarope while hunting small sea living creature drives them to a whirlpool, sandpipers feed by means of sensing as their beak is very sensitive, so they dig it into something soft. Gray phalarope is a very “feminist” species: females are larger than males and their feathers are brighter which is atypical of birds. They protect their territory in an aggressive way. Males, on the other hand, build nests and breed chicks, females of this species are not faithful at all, so the chicks may have different fathers.

Then we heard an announcement that in 10 minutes I should be at the stern as we reached Fedorov meteostation in the north of Vaygach. There we were to pick Sofia Rozenfeld, an ornithologist, and her small and light hydroplane. The hydroplane was seen in the bay.

Julia from the meteostation met us on the shore, there were also lots of Arctic terns.

- They are like mosquitoes! – said Igor Matskevich, climbing up the hill. – They are also very irritating, but large.

- Yes, there are many of them now, the nesting period has started. And geese walk right in the station territory, - said Julia smiling.

At the nearby lake there lived a Tundra swan, but yesterday two mute swans came and kicked him away. Three bears have been seen nearby recently, one of them was walking around the station and took a goose nest which Sofia was observing.  

One thousand km in Vaygach.

With the help of the hydroplane Sofia conducted aerial bird surveys. They were held at Vaygach about 30 years ago. Within the 5-year period 150 000 km of aerial bird surveys were made in the Nenets, Yamal-Nenets and Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Regions. And about 1 000 km in Vaygach now.

- It is very interesting to study barnacle geese these days. Their amounts are rapidly growing, the colonization of new habitats takes place, there are more than 1 bln of them, I think.

- And what are the reasons for that?

- Agriculture in Europe is developing, they are well-protected there, here there are also not harmed. They nest here in their natural habitats – on the rocks. Today there are barnacle geese nests in every canyon. Their number is in question – we couldn’t watch every nest. I think, that there are many of them, but they still don’t settle in tundra, only in canyons.

The plane can fly above the valleys at the height of 30, or even 20 or 10 meters. In the mountain areas the flight height is about 100 meters, it also depends on the wind. Yesterday when we were getting back from the fly by, it was getting foggy, but we managed to return before it.

- We found a walrus rookery, there were about 200. Today we saw about 50 white whales. There are no owl nests, almost no arctic foxes. We saw no reindeer, though documents from Varnek read that there is almost a thousand. These animals are large, we should have seen them, or it is possible that they migrated during winter to the mainland.

- How many pictures have you taken?

- I haven’t counted, a lot!

It was dangerous to load the hydroplane to the vessel, so it was decided that the hydroplane flies to Varnek. The journey will take half an hour, and “Molchanov” will also come there by midnight. It is necessary to pick other expedition participants from Varnek. The bay there is closed, so the sea must be calmer.

- We shall go along the Vaygach eastern coast in the Kara Sea, - said Konstantin Zaikov, - the water there is yellowish because it is pretty shallow there. That’s why oil companies want to get there. However, there is another problem – there is an ice layer at the bottom.

In the evening we had Russian culture party. Pavel Kolodkin and Irina Pokrovskaya were reciting poems, Maria Novitasari sang and in the end we watched a movie called “Cool Guys from the Tikhaya Bay”.


June 21. Day 15
June 21. Day 15
June 21. Day 15
June 21. Day 15
June 21. Day 15
June 21. Day 15
June 21. Day 15

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Updated 20.06.2016