June 19. Day 13
The waves are large and the tossing is strong. We are going to the south, though from the viewport one can see snow-capped mountains. It has got colder. The weather is cloudy. Each of us has been given a “Floating University” sweatshirt. The sweatshirt is great, but it was too hot to wear it on board. Though today I feel great in it, probably I am just tired.
The hydrologists’ bear.
There was a polar bear at the Zhelaniya Cape! At a certain moment of time Alexander Cherkasov and me went in the direction of the old quay and climbed up to one of the old earth-and-timber emplacements. Suddenly I felt ill at ease. I got the feeling which you get when you know that you are being watched, or somebody else knows where you are. I always know that my cat is in the room, even when I can’t find him there. But this time anxiety dragged the heart-strings and I felt chill all over my back. I knew that there were guards at both sides, but the feeling was still there. I was looking around and felt that I am an alarmist.
- Alexander, can we go back and wait for the others?
The feeling disappeared only when I got into the national park car. Today Natalya Ryazanova approached me and asked:
- Have you heard about our bear?
- Which one? – the chill all over the back came back.
- At the Zhelaniya Cape. We were walking from the lake by the station to the distant lake, what was its name, Alexey?
- I do not remember exactly, - answered Alexey Sazonov staring at his laptop screen.
- Alexey, were you there also?
- Yes, - Alexey was as phlegmatic as before.
- We had to go in the snow, then we went through the water and over the piles of seaweed on the shore. The route on the map seemed much shorter than in the real life. I looked at the distant pile of snow and it seemed very suspicious to me. “I am sure there is someone”, - I told the guard, - I could see that Natalya was still worried.
Natalya insisted on observing the suspicious area through binoculars. The polar bear must have been asleep, at least it seemed not to have noticed the group. The group of 9 people went away quickly, not attracting the animal’s attention. On their way they even managed to collect samples.
Polar bears seem to send their representative to the Zhelaniya Cape to meet AFU-expedition every year. This year representative was a bit late and overslept.
The archipelago of white spots.
This fact allowed all the modules to conduct their field work properly. The geologists’ drill was working.
- Our drill hadn’t been to the Zhelaniya Cape before, - said Nickolai Mikhaltsov. – That’s why it agreed to work. But as soon as we finished drilling, it broke down again. Anyway, we managed to do even more than we had planned.
Entomologist Andrey Przhiboro told that when he had been getting ready to go to the north of the Novaya Zemlya, his colleagues had told him that he would probably have to deal with frozen ground. Their pessimistic predictions didn’t come true. We found a lake and rivers in Russkaya Gavan’ which had defrosted and it was possible to conduct field work there. There may be dozens of species in the collected samples. It was also possible to collect some at the Zhelaniya Cape.
A new rookery was found in Mac Bay, there live little auks, kittiwakes and auks. The further to the north, the more food there is in the sea, and, as a result, the amount of birds who feed at sea also increases.
Bird watch hasn’t taken place in Inostrantsev Bay for more than 50 years. We spotted a brant goose there. This species is enigmatic for the Novaya Zemlya: Irina Pokrovskaya said that according to the official data no one had seen this bird’s nests at the archipelago. Of course, they are nesting somewhere on the islands, but there are no documents proving that.
My personal “Day 13”.
Today my laptop broke down. The last couple of days it wasn’t working properly, and today it even refused to start. Though I am not offended, my laptop had a lot of adventures: it took part in three expeditions, fell down at the North Pole, I broke its screen in Tokio airport and tried to fix it in Okinawa. Dmitriy Kovalev said that it was probably dead, but I hope that a hard disk swap will help.
Some facts about the Zhelaniya Cape.
The Zhelaniya Cape is washed by two seas – the Barents and the Kara Sea. The Kara Sea forms Pospelov Bay not far from the Zhelaniya Cape and Natalia Bay to the south. There are also some bays in the Barents Sea side, which are separated from each other by the capes: Mon Cape, Johansson Cape, Mavrikiy Cape, Serebryannikov Cape. The bay shores are flat, the cape shores are steep. There are two relic lakes at the neck of land. Otradnoye Lake is fresh, its maximum depth is 3 m and it is the main source of drinking water. The central part of the lake is not frozen even by the end of winter. Anomal’noe Lake is salty. The Komsomoltsy river flows into Pospelov Bay.
The main cliff rock is heavily destroyed sandstone. Vegetation is very poor, vast territories are absolutely deprived of it. Mosses and lichens grow in the hollows. Saxifrages have started blossoming with small violet flowers here and there.
As for the fauna, polar bears (of course), lemmings (though they settle here not every year, sometimes there are lots of them right around the station, sometimes none), arctic foxes (come to the polar expedition members when there are no polar bears around) can be found on land, and ringed seals, harp seals and whales in the sea. There are also mysterious reindeer from the Novaya Zemlya which are included in the endangered species list, though it is still unclear whether they exist or not. The found antlers do not prove anything. Sometimes one can find reindeer antlers at Franz Josef Land, though they do not settle there for 2 500 years. Two years ago a picture of Novaya Zemlya reindeer was taken. I can say that they are rather small.
Average air temperature at the Zhelaniya Cape is –9,6°С. Average air temperature in August – the warmest month of the year – is +2,3°С, and in March, which is the coldest, is –20,4°С. Winds are mostly South-Eastern or North-Western and very strong, humidity is high, that’s why even when the temperature is above zero, it is rather chilly there.
The sea hydrometeorological station was built at the Zhelaniya Cape in 1931. In the mid-1980-s 30 people lived and worked at the station, but since 1997 its work has been stopped. In 2004 an automatic meteostation was installed here, once it was even broken by polar bears and later replaced with a new one.
There is a system of defense means dating back to the Great Patriotic War period. In August 1942 a German submarine approached the meteostation at the Zhelaniya Cape and started fire. The house and the library were ruined, the meteorological observation data for the previous periods were destroyed. But the polar expedition members managed to survive, they built a system of defense means which included 33 objects. Cannonry was also brought here, but it is not extant. I was told, though I am not sure that this is true, that some years after the war ended the residents decided to celebrate the New Year by shooting the cannonry. This idea was reported to the main land, and it was ordered to get rid of the cannonry. So, the cannonry was brought out to the ice and was taken away by the sea…
It is rainy and foggy outside, the Arctic let us conduct our field work, but decided to remind, that this is not a pleasure trip. A report session is planned for tomorrow, and we also plan to pass the Belushya Bay. I hope we will get the mobile connection this time.