Expedition Diaries 2017

July 14. Day 7

July 14. Day 7

The fog comes when the vessel rides out. To my mind Arctic fog is alive and he is very bored, especially, in the sea.  However, we shouldn`t sympathize with the fog.  Everything can be hidden in coastal fog, e.g. polar bear.  They have fine sense of smell and can smell floe rat under the ice even at the one kilometer distance.

Vlada Peneva corrected me: the new type of nematodes was described on the north part of the archipelago.  For sure, in the near future new discoveries will be made at FJL. We just have to wait a bit.

Storm anyway

In the morning we had a little tossing. I have woken up because of feeling that I rolled on by bed and strange voice from the bathroom.   Lazily I stayed under the bedcover until I realized that it was my favorite Honduran cup. With the cup in my hand I understood that we had tossing and injured my leg at the same time. I decided to go to the restaurant because it is easier to undergo tossing on the lower deck. We were on the way to the FJL. Konstantin Sergeevich said that waves would be smaller when we reached archipelago water area. He kept his promise.  


We approached Northbrook Island about 11 o`clock a.m.  The glacier looked out the fog. It became very wet but warmer than yesterday. The Northbrook Island on south-western part of FJL was discovered  by Scottish researcher Benjamin Li Smit. Tomas Northbrook was a political actor at that time and a president and President of Royal Geographical Society.  The most popular place on the Northbrook island is the Cape Flora which was also discovered and named by Li Smit. It looks like that travelers were astonished with its greenness. In summer time it is really a green spot among others islands. Especially  for the Artic Li Smith built a steam yacht “Eira” 50 horsepower engine on which there wre two voyages to FJL.  On Bell Island there still exists the house that is the most oldest building at the FJL named “Eira”.

It was built by British to winter there. In august 1881 the expedition came back to Flora and found crashed house because ice floes from the sea broke down this house. It is still somewhere at that places.  The expedition from FJL went on boats to the  NZ. And Flora became a real arctic cross-road.  In 1894 Elmvud  base was founded by the British Frederik Jackson. This expedition worked at the FJL till 1897 and had luxury wintering: there was a floor cloth with Greek decor, members drank expensive alcohol and even Jackson with pleasure went out with a cup of coffee in morning.

In June 1896 on Flora Island came Norwegians Fritjof  Nansen and Jalmar Johansen after the attempt of the North Pole storm and wintering on Jackson.  American Walter Welman also approached the Flora Island to take on of the buildings remained after Jackson. In 1899 duke Luidgy Abrutsky left here warehouse, fuel and boats. His attempt to conquer the North Pole was also unsuccessful. One group of three braves died. Next year Duke returned to FJL and put up on the Cape Flora an obelisk.

The group of Entoni Fial expedition were evacuated from the Flora Island. The others participants who stayed  alive were lucky, they were George Brusilova and Aleksandr Conrad.  They approached the Flora Island and some days after the vessel “Saint Confessor Foka” of the Sedov expedition came at that place. And they took on board Albanov and Conrad.

It is believed that first lifting flag was during the expedition under the command of Iskhaka Islyamova in Flora Island  in 1914.

History of Tikhaya Bay

Just I have written about the Flora as it turned up that we are going to Tikhaya Bay in Hooker Island. Actually, it is situated near just a bit more central. Hooker Island was discovered by Dutch in 1879. At that time the vessl “William Barents” under the command of Antonio de Bruine. The Dutch didn`t have landing. And Josef Hooker is well-known botanist.  A lot of collections are being built up in Hooker Island more than in other places including botanic one. For example, the bluegrass was found only here in the whole Franz Josef Land archipelago.

Tikhaya Bay was named in 1913 by George Sedov. His expedition wintered and from this place started his unsuccessful his conquest of the North Pole.  This attempt was unsuccessful. Sedov has died and the place of his grave is unknown jet. This expedition could be estimated differently but his death turned Sedov to a hero. Linnik and Pystoshnij returned successfully to the mainland. As I remember, after the expedition Pystoshnij worked in Arkhangelsk for a long time as a pilot.

In 1929 in Tikhaya Bay was founded the first soviet polar station . There are many interesting stories connected with the station. One of the most heroical pages of its exploration history is wintering from 1940 to 1945 during the Great Patriotic War without any shift in work as well as provision. Moreover polar explorers not only survived but also sent the meteorological summaries during the whole year.  A part of the explorers were brought back with the icebreaker “Joseph Stalin”.

The polar station “Bukhta Tikhaya” (Tikhaya Bay) had been functioning until the end of 1950s, then it lost its significance after the new station on Heiss Island was created. On Hooker island’s base monitoring data was not accurate and there was a problem with drinking water there. The remnants of the station were used for many purposes by different research expeditions and in 2011 the base of the Russian Arctic National Park was founded there.

Another interesting place on Hooker Island is Rubini Rock. Firstly, it is spectacularly beautiful. It formed out of the volcanic columnar basalts (FJL is famous for them). They are of various shapes (columns, terraces, and so on). All the slopes are filled with sea birds: guillemots, kittiwakes and others, who nest here. Rubini Rock is the biggest rookery on FJL. It was named after Italian singer Giovanni Rubini. 

By the way there is a possibility that Hooker Island is not one island, but several ones hidden by an ice cap. It hasn’t been proved yet, so it is considered as a one island for now. Sometimes the situation can be vice versa. For example, when Nansen discovered White Land group of islands he named them Eva, Liv and Adelaide in honor of his wife, daughter and mother. Later it turned out that the islands of Eva and Liv are the one island. It was decided to name it Eva-Liv.

Before the first landing inspector of the Russian Arctic National Park Denis Mennikov gave us instructions, paying special attention to the fact that members of the expedition are now in the kingdom of polar bears. We should not forget about it. We remembered scary (and not only) stories about these creatures based on our own experience. The common point was that these bears appeared unexpectedly, they weren’t afraid of anything and were very curious.  

First landing

The fog disappeared approximately at 2 pm, the sun came out of clouds. We were slowly moving around the Rubini Rock, everyone was taking tons of pictures. I knew I had lots of photos of this rock which I had taken before during other expeditions, but still I couldn’t stop myself. It seemed different to me this time. The number of birds I think is smaller this year. Though maybe I am wrong. The sun is shining, the sea is of a very beautiful navy color, you can see icebergs from time to time and spectacular glaciers…

Not everyone had landing in Tikhaya Bay today. The first landing group spent too much time getting ready for it. Usually several groups can land during this period. It’s Arctic, the weather changes here tremendously quickly. If authority says: be ready on 10 minutes.. it is really 10 minutes, no more. 

There is fast ice near the Tikhaya bay coast. Though there is a seasonal base of the Russian Arctic national Park in this bay, and its employees, who were on this island (including the head of the polar station Andrey Kunnikov) helped us with landing. This group has been working here since the middle of June. This year there are more polar bears which may be connected to a long spring and plenty of snow and ice. These animals have already come to the base several times. In winter both bears and arctic foxes were the real owners of the station: some windows were broken, someone visited the warehouse with the museum exhibits (a tuft of wool was found there, also wires were spoiled).

Now everything is working correctly, including the northernmost post office. Don’t know who/what is going to come home first, me or the postcards I sent.

It seemed from the vessel that the entire bay is covered with snow, but it’s not true: there is a moss cover right near the shore and buttercup glade near one of the houses. We met Nikolay Gernet (a photographer) in Tikhaya Bay, he told us that here you can see even polar poppies and even saxifrages. He has a birthday today by the way, that’s why I brought him a full bag of presents.

Now besides Russian Arctic National Park employees the family of arctic foxes lives in this bay. One of them came to meet us. Andrey Kunnikov told that this season arctic foxes have posterity in the Tikhaya Bay. We haven’t seen the cubs yet, but already heard them. 

It was interesting for me to see what has changed in Tikhaya Bay since 2014, when I was there helping to open the post office. It has changed a lot: the polar station now looks very habitable in comparison with 2014. The real Eco path was created for tourists. You can walk on the stone and wooden pathways without damaging the vegetation. Some old buildings have been cleaned from snow and ice, there you can feel the old atmosphere. Also sort of an exhibition center was rebuilt there (once a polar bear broke into this building), where some items, found during the clean-up of Tikhaya Bay, are presented. I was amazed by sewage pipes of German origin (app. 1920s). They looked like new ones. Evgeny Yermolov oversaw the findings’ systematization. He told us that in those times there was a plan of creating sewage system and water supply system. This plan was not brought to life, but heat supply system was made. Though soon after it the station was closed.

Yuriy Karyakin, geologist who was mentioned in one of the Nikolay Mikhaltsov’s lectures, is working on Tukhaya Bay now. He showed me a map of Hooker Island of 1957 and told that now it’s not relevant. The area of glaciers has decreased and island now looks different than in the middle of the previous century. And there is a chance that Hooker Island consists of several islands. I think I have already mentioned about it.. Though it still has not been proved.

When we were returning to vessel there was a fog above the waves. It was not dense this time, we could even see iceberg in shape of a fish which was floating between the coast and “Molchanov”. The waves which looked peacefully from the shore turned out to be not as harmless as it seemed. I managed to somehow hide my face in the lifejacket and almost didn’t wet it out. I can tell you for sure: it’s good I have one more jacket and one more waterproof trousers. As well as hat, gloves and boots.

July 14. Day 7
July 14. Day 7
July 14. Day 7
July 14. Day 7
July 14. Day 7
July 14. Day 7
July 14. Day 7
July 14. Day 7
July 14. Day 7

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Updated 12.07.2017