Expedition Diaries 2016

June 17. Day 11

June 17. Day 11

I woke up at 7 am and was absolutely sure that the vessel was heading for or had already reached its next destination. I looked out of the viewport, blinked as the morning sun was bright and saw that we still were in Russkaya Gavan’. The landscape was perfect: the slight gauze emphasized the beauty of the sky, the sea was absolutely calm, so the polar station reflection was very clear.

The glacier and walruses.

After breakfast the landscape beauty enhanced, so I brought my camera and started to take pictures right from the viewport.

Then clouds appeared, but they were also beautiful. We headed for Shokalskiy glacier from the station, it is located in the neighbouring harbor which still belongs to Russkaya Gavan’ Bay. The glacier is very productive, the area around it is full of ice, some pieces of ice are icebergs. The icebergs here look different from those which I have seen at Franz Josef Land.

Some facts about Shokalkiy glacier.

The frontal sight length is about 5 km.

The wall height is about 30 m.

Within a year 150 meters of glacier fragments in the form of ice pieces and icebergs slide into the ocean.

It is very quiet today, ice pieces and icebergs are almost still, only walruses lying on them move. They scratch lazily and move their head watching “Molchanov”. When the vessel is not moving, it is very quiet and warm around. But those who weren’t wearing hats had faced sanctions: they do not take part in landings. But now they are always wearing hats, even when they are inside: probably they are too frightened.

The calm and sunny weather which we had yesterday and which was perfect for field work is now moving to the North. Probably we will catch up with it in Mac Bay and Inostrantsev Bay – these are our plans for today.

It is striking how warm it is in the Arctic in the early summer. We even had a chance to go to the cellar in one of the houses in Russkaya Gavan’. Last July the majority of the houses were filled with ice.

Yesterday at the Bogatyi Island there was the mother of the bear cub and a walrus. When the walrus noticed that the people were leaving, it also started moving towards water. Walruses seem awkward only ashore, but in the water they are very dangerous. It can easily gore a motorboat.

We were lucky that while we were circling around the Bogatyi Island there were only pieces of ice around. For the first time since 1992 the bird count had been held on the island. The amount of guillemots had reduced, and of kittiwakes had increased. It is said to be a general tendency and not only on this very island.

In Russkaya Gavan’ both the geologists and entomologists were lucky when picking stations for work. Andrey Przhiboro collected samples from the lake and river bottom and has already found at least two dipterous bloodlines. But this is only preliminary data. As far as we can judge, entomological sampling has taken place in Russkaya Gavan’ for the first time. Nickolai Mikhaltsov collected training samples with fossil coral colonies on them. His drill broke down during field work, though today it started working again.

Some facts about Russkaya Gavan’.

The Bay is located between Litke and Schmidt Penninsula.

It intrudes into the island for 10 km.

The distance between Makarov and the Utesheniya Capes at the bay entrance is 8 km.

The bay was called so in the ХIХ century as there were a lot of Pomor traces in the area, but I don’t know exactly what they are. It is mentioned in the books that up to the 1930-s there were vow crosses on the shore. There used to be the Pomor camp not far from the location of the polar station.

The polar station was built in Russkaya Gavan’ in 1932 to conduct work in the framework of the “Second International Polar Year” program. At that period of time glaciologists worked there and Shokalskiy glacier was studied in the 1957-59 within the framework of “International Geophysics Year” program.

The plumber team and a skull on the mountain.

It takes about four hours to get from Russkaya Gavan’ to Mac Bay. Lunch and dinner are not rescheduled today as the landing schedule fits the vessel schedule. Before the landing the information meeting was held as usual, we were also told some facts about the Novaya Zemlya.

During the information meeting we heard some clattering outside and all rushed to the viewports. There was a lot of ice in the bay entrance area.

- Well, the landing would be cancelled, - on the one hand, I felt sorry, on the other hand, I breathed out with relief as I managed to sleep for 1 hour and a half only and didn’t feel fresh at all.

But the ice was located mostly at the entrance. The closer we got to the glacier – the glacier here is also pretty impressive – the clearer the water was. By midday the sun descended over the clouds, it got cloudy and very calm. Such cloudy weather is nice as the precipitation is not expected. The group of geologists went ashore, I put on my hat, as it is forbidden to stay outside without one, and went to the deck to take pictures of the ice.

The Novaya Zemlya glaciers differ from those at Franz Josef Land and remind me more of Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina. Of course, the one in Argentina is located by the lake, and the Novaya Zemlya glaciers are located by the sea, but still the surrounding landscape, the mountains look much alike. Though the water here is darker and the mountains seem to be gloomy. Some landscape elements look scary: for example, right opposite “Molchanov” one could distinguish the image of a skull. I thought it was a ghost skull. It had large eyes and a naughty smile. Actually, since 2013 I have been collecting “Arctic faces”. For some reasons the snow in high latitudes creates “anthropomorphical images”. I also saw horse heads, witches in pointed hats riding brooms, ladies with dogs. Or it is just my imagination. Though it was not only me who saw the skull.

As soon as the group of geologists got back to the vessel, another group went ashore. They were going to spend 10 minutes only there as they were to collect snow samples, it was the task of the Center of Arctic Shared Use. The amount of suspended particles will be analysed in the samples. However, collecting snow samples only sounds simple.

- We are a group of plumbers, - Yulia Andreeva and two more students were getting to the motorboat with their equipment: large tubes and three-liter jars. The snow is sampled with the help of a special aseptic tube and is tamped in a special aseptic jar. The samples will be analysed after the expedition. This is the fourth set of jars – they get 3 jars from each landing. While the “snow team” was packing their samples, Irina Pokrovskaya and me went closer to the rock. There are also shelves on the rock, and not all of them are empty. There is a small rookery of little auks in Mac Bay.

The birds were looking at us angrily chirping. A kittiwake was flying by with a piece of seaweed in the beak. It is the time of nesting, that’s why every other kittiwake is carrying some building material.

My jokes about plumbers came true. There is absolutely no litter and rubbish ashore, the water is clean, and accidentally I found a toilet brush!

When we were leaving Mac Bay, we heard ice clattering by “Molchanov” sides. But it was clear when we left the bay – as soon as the clattering stopped. I had an hour to sleep and I almost fell asleep in the common room.

An ancient organism or there used to be tropics at the Novaya Zemlya.

About 8 pm we reached Inostrantsev Bay. I heard that “it was very beautiful there and there was a glacier”.

We met again with the fine weather from Russkay Gavan’: the shining sun, no wind and smooth sea. The weather forecast says that such beautiful weather will be over soon, but now it is perfect, for example, for a voyage along the glacier. The glaciers are great here, and the plural of “glacier” is correct. The landing took place not far from the meeting point of a large and a small glacier. I spotted little auks among the pieces of ice, but as I tried to take a picture of the birds, the clattering started and the birds disappeared. The clattering took place at the large glacier, but I couldn’t see ice falling. Little auks got back to the surface, but I was focused on the glacier.

The landing point was suitable for the geological module as a sample collecting station for palaeomagnetic research.

- We can see sedimentary rock here, it has experienced little changes and is suitable for our research. Its age is about 540 bln years, - explained Nickolai Mikhaltsov.

This rock was formed in tropic latitudes, but not in the area of the Novaya Zemlya current location. It is hard to believe that the archipelago used to be situated in the tropics. But somebody laughed that “the sand on the beach is black, like on the best Hawaiian beaches”.

- Polar regions, especially in Russia, are still underexplored, they remain to be a white spot on the map. The history of local geological landscapes is important, we would like to continue our research as, if we don’t know how the Arctic was formed, we can hardly solve global geological tasks.

We left the glacier, our voyage was pretty long. Little auks weren’t paying any attention to us. I was always surprised at their ability to fly and change the direction simultaneously.

- Irina, look there!

Avalanching started on one of the mountains. To be more precise, it continued as the snow started going down from the lower part of the slope and it got there before we came to the bay – either an hour, or a week ago, it’s hard to tell. Avalanching stopped after going about 20 meters down. And we headed for the waterfall. It seemed to be so small, but as we reached it we saw that the river was pushing off red stepped slope and was rushing down, reached the snow and started flowing as a calm brook again.

But we didn’t reach the waterfall at once.

- Come here with the camera, you must take a picture of it, - Denis Avdeev was waving from the slope.

Denis was standing by a large flat grey stone.

- Can you see this imprint? It used to be a living being, I am almost sure.

We saw a precise imprint either of a plant, or of an animal, or of something else on the stone surface. We were sure that it used to be alive and that is was extremely old.

- Probably this is a representative of the so-called Vendian fauna, it dates back to the period from 750 to 600 bln years ago. Such creatures used to live in the ancient sea then.

- Denis, how did you know that you should look for it here?

- Well, you need to search for a special type of stones. Though they look plain, it is possible to find such imprints on them.

We found another three imprints of smaller creatures on another stone, they were less distinct, and the stone was smaller than the first one.

- The stones were probably brought here from the nearby slope as there used to be a glacier here. They aren’t rolled much, so their “journey” with the glacier didn’t last long.

I always wondered how the imprints of invertebrate organisms appeared on the stones. It took place in the sea, so were there special conditions that the organisms were “packed”, weren’t eaten and remained in the eternity?

- Lets’ take this stone to the vessel! – I was so impressed by the finding.

- I’m afraid the motorboat will sink. I will borrow the pictures from you later, - and Denis headed further along the slope.


June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11
June 17. Day 11

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Updated 20.06.2016