Expedition Diaries 2016

June 18. Day 12

June 18. Day 12

Almost each educational module now has its nickname, well, and I will start today with a small historical reference.

The Zhelaniya Cape (“The cape of desire”).

The Zhelaniya Cape is located on Northern Island of the Novaya Zemlya, close to its most northern point. This is not the most northern point of the Novaya Zemlya, though it is often referred to as one. It was called 'Hoeck der Begeerte' by Villem Barents who came here with his third expedition to the Novaya Zemlya in 1596. The translation from the Dutch is not very precise as the concept of “desire” is mentioned in the original title in the context of “desired to reach”, but we can still see this name on the maps.

The Pomor name of the cape – Dokhody (the word has two meanings – “the place to reach” and “income”) – means more or less the same: it is a place which Pomor hunters reached while sailing along the western coast of the Novaya Zemlya. The Kara Sea starts to the east from this cape, the ice there is strong, so it wasn’t a suitable place for Pomor fishing and hunting. Pomor title has another meaning: income is guaranteed, if the hunt goes well.

What I will do this summer.

Five expedition members stay at the Zhelaniya Cape, they are the employees of the “Russian Arctic” National Park. Loading of food supplies, building materials and equipment for the whole summer started in the morning. Igor Kotrekhov, Tamara Molodtsova, Igor Molodtsov, Dmitry Ryumin and Liudmila Bildeman are staying here until September, though it is not settled yet, as vessels do not come here regularly.

A polar station has been at the Zhelaniya Cape since the 1930-s. Today it is a base of the national park. The base is located in a green building with a big shed.

We were carefully approaching it. Tamara and Igor noticed at once what was wrong. The door of the radio house was wide open, though in the end of the previous summer it was nailed with planks. Such doors and windows in the Arctic always look suspicious. Polar bears like to settle in abandoned houses, they may even sleep in beds. If there are several beds, they choose a double bed.

There wasn’t much snow near the base, so the door was soon open. The sun welcomed the hosts, however, it was dark inside and we didn’t manage to find the switch at once.

- The house is dry, everything is fine, - said Tamara Alexeevna. – I just can’t find a torch. Though it’s fine, there are candles somewhere.

Solar batteries are installed on the roof. It is polar day at the Novaya Zemlya, so this energy is enough to provide the base with electricity. Besides, there are wind generators there.

- Have you brought much water here?

- We shall try to save it! – answered Igor Kotrekhov sternly, but then smiled at once.

Water is taken from the lake on the territory of the station. It is poured into large water-bottles which can be brought, for example, in a tractor scoop. The tractor scoop is also a perfect means of transportation for a paparazzi with a camera and a couple of students, all pretty excited.

The lighthouse.

Some facts about the lighthouse at the Zhelaniya Cape.

It is located 80 m away from the shore.

The lighthouse total height is 13 m.

The construction is made of logs and wooden planks connected with metal clamps. The base is formed by 12 square concrete slabs. The lamp can be reached by climbing up the wooden ladder consisting of 3 cases inside the lighthouse.

The sign on the lighthouse reads that the lighthouse at the Zhelaniya Cape was built around the 1930-s. In Arkhangelsk I acquired data saying that it was built in 1956. I don’t know which date is correct. There are a lot of carvings on the lighthouse planks, some date back to the 1940-s. The lighthouse may have been built, and later rebuilt, but I am not sure.

Nevertheless, it is the most northern lighthouse in the Arkhangelsk region, and one of the most northern lighthouses in Russia.

Now the lighthouse isn’t lit, but it works. It hadn’t worked since 1997. In summer 2015 the experts from Arkhangelsk Hydrographic Base installed on it new lighting facilities and solar batteries. Photocells are also installed on it, so if the amount of light decreases to the certain level, it turns on automatically. The lighthouse must be lit during the polar night all the time.  The route from the Barents to the Kara Sea is shorter in the north than in the south through the Karskie Vorota Strait, between the Novaya Zemlya and Vaygach Island. Vessels go to Dudinka and Obskaya Bay via the north of the Novaya Zemlya. The lighthouse makes this route safer for transport.

Only the last group climbed up the lighthouse to take a picture of the area. Igor Kotrekhov was surprised.

- Usually, the first thing which all people who come here do is climbing the lighthouse, they don’t ask any questions.

There is a small rookery by the cape edge, on the Barents Sea side. I really wanted to see auks. My colleagues who visited this place took pictures and shot videos. But during the day I saw only kittiwakes around. My personal auk came in the evening, when I came to the cape for the second time. I managed to come 5 meters close to it. Then the bird flew away at once.

Last year the “Russian Arctic” National Park photographer Nickolai Gernet stayed at the Zhelaniya Cape. He was willing to take pictures of polar bears and expected them to line waiting for him to take pictures as soon as he stepped ashore. Polar bears must have felt it and ignored him. But then the bears felt pity for Kolya and came to the Zhelaniya Cape. Luckily they didn’t come today.

The modules conducted field work in different parts of the cape. The geological module went further away than the others. Among those who were at the station, some went to the base. They were lucky, as Tamara Alexeevna baked pancakes in the evening.

Everybody makes wishes at the Zhelaniya Cape or throws coins into the sea, into the area where two seas meet: you never know which sea your coin will get in – the Barents or the Kara Sea.

By the way, one person’s wish actually came true. He, or to be more precise, she wished to come back to the Zhelaniya Cape. As soon as we got back to the vessel, Konstantin Zaikov suggested going ashore again…

A bit of the Oranskie Islands.

We even managed to visit the territory of the Malye Oranskie Islands. As usual we visited a rookery. Guillemots here don’t get scared, they fly up from the water only when the boat comes very close. We go along the rookery. One of the small island sides is very steep, it is a nesting place for guillemots. They need water under their nest for chicks to fly away.

At the beach of the other island side there are stones underwater covered with slippery seaweed. It was very hard and scary to reach dry stones, I was especially frightened because I had a camera with me.

We found a polar bear bed on the slope which was still covered with snow. The bed was nice, the bear must have spent there much time lying curled up and then it just slid down the slope.

We saw three walruses basking in the sun. As the boat came closer, they got into the water, and we got away from them.

Both the Bolshie and the Malye Oranskie Islands have rich and varied fauna. One can find guillemots, little auks, kittiwakes and puffins at the rookeries. The total amount of guillemots, auks and kittiwakes (the most widespread species) is counted in thousands. Guillemots and kittiwakes prevail.

Some words about “Russian Arctic”.

“Russian Arctic” National Park was founded on June 15, 2009. The park territory included the northern part of Northern Island of the Novaya Zemlya, the Bolshie and the Malye Oranskie Islands, Loshkin Island, Hemskerk Island and some other islands. The land area of “Russian Arctic” is 632 090 ha, the water area is 793 910 ha. “Franz Josef Land” federal nature reserve is directed by the national park. 

June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12
June 18. Day 12

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Updated 20.06.2016