Expedition Diaries 2017

July 19. Day 12

July 19. Day 12

My toy of a cat has more photos at the Franz Josef Land than me. I even didn`t have any photo on Sobachaja (Dog) Street. But today I have made a photo on this street. Anyway, he has more photos.


The expedition comes to the second part now. Today we have arrived at the Tikhaya Bay. In the morning the weather was cloudy and at night it was sunny! It was actually perfect to sit and enjoy the sky and clouds. It calms down and hushes. Especially when the black cloud get out from the Rubini rock. It looks like a column of smoke. As I stepped on the land I went directly to Nikolay Gernet, photographer and inspector at the national park “Russian Arctic”. He also watched the clouds and made time-lapse video of flying clouds.

The triceratops drifted near the Rubini rock. Nikolay said that some days later the triceratops looked like a fish then it was similar to an elephant with a trunk. It lost the trunk after the storm so that time it looked like a dinosaur.

We went along the coast near the airplane garage, the tractor and reached the Sobachaja Street.  Polar explorers had many dogs and human friends had even their own street. Now there are no dogs but there are doghouses with bowls and chains.

When comes arctic fox

We went in warehouse to look at new findings that would renew the exhibition collection of station and national park together with Natalia Butorina from econcenter “Reserves” and Vladimir Komov who has formulated the concept visit-center for “Tikhaya Bay”.

Natalia showed seledochnizu (plate for herring) and inkstand that was in perfect condition and at that moment arctic fox  came around. It stood near the door and looked at us as housemaster and we were guests.

Of course we didn`t expect to meet the arctic fox and no one took camera. It understood that it was a kind of surprise for us, just shrugged and ran to a group of people.

Ingo Weiss followed the arctic fox. The animal changed its direction and began to  walk up on stones. It bit a cable and tried to carry it with. This attempt was unsuccessful and disappointed fluffy animal disappeared at that moment. I flattered saying that animal was fluffy. Arctic fox in summer looks similar to ragged cat.

As Vladimir Komov complained that the arctic fox had tried several days earlier to destroy petrol pump and cables is nothing serious.

I don`t know how Ksenia will translate all the nuances about the arctic fox but maybe this story will help.

Mari from Estonia worked as landscape designer in 2013 on the Flora Cape. She couldn`t speak Russian at all but after spending 3 weeks on Flora island had learned a bit.

On the way back to the vessel the small boar was washed down with waves and on board of the vessel she was wet to the skin. Nikolay Gernet asked he if everything is well and said:

— Pesez? – said Nikolay and Mary agreed and nodded with her head. Nikolay supposed that she didn`t understood this game of words. Mary showed her notebook where it was written: pesez-1) arctic fox 2) everything is wrong!

Changes in the Tikhaya Bay

For 5 years on the Tikhaya Bay island was made a gigantic work. All rubbish was cleaned by hand. The difference between past and present is unbelievable. Andrey Kunnikov, the superior of the national park “Russian Arctic” base, said that he got to the Tikhay Bay incidentally. It is his merit that Tikhaya Bay looks now much better but I would also like to note that the conditions here are harsh.  The needed cargo was brought to the Tikhaya Bay in the board of Molchanov. There also was alternative energy system named solar batteries that would provide electricity almost the whole base. Eric Hoesli has been at the Tikhaya Bay already and said that the difference is huge.

Vladimir Komov and Natalja Butorina tried to find an idea how to present all exhibits of the Tikhaya Bay as well as history of the station in a very limited area. Also the desk about nature is needed. Natasha said that Tikhaya Bay is always changing and that`s why so unique. You never know what could happen: will ice cover the whole bay for 5 minutes  and will be storm after sunny day. Vladimir has told us that it is possible to hear song of little auks and glacier behind the rock.

Soil scientists were conducting research both within the territory of Tikhaya Bay Station and out of it. They did it to compare the processes which take place in soil in (with anthropogenic factors) and out (without them) of the station territory. Need to ask them about the results.

Andrey Kunnikov decided to take pictures of every angle of the station every day so that it will be possible to see how it changes during the season. In Tikhaya Bay, for example, in comparison with the last year, there is less snow and more vegetation. There are also more blossoming flowers. Buttercups and polar poppies are dominated forms of vegetation as well as saxifrages. Polar poppies are mostly high in length. I am always amazed how these poppies manage to survive in such harsh arctic conditions: wind is ruthless, lots of snow. Saxifrages at least are vining along the ground.

Vining plants can maintain warm temperatures (higher than average air temperature) inside its community, for example when it’s -10oC outside, it can be +10oC inside the plant community.

I was talking to Vlada Peneva about saxifrages when heard the scream:

— АААH! Arctic fox came to me! – Dmitry Nikitin stopped working and ran around screaming. The animal started darting around as well and was approaching to Dima.

— Our microbiological samples are spoiled! – this scream was even louder. But the last one was the most desperate:

— Why have I forgotten my camera?!!!

Meanwhile arctic fox jumped into one of the holes dug by soil scientists, wanting to meet them. He also liked Irina Pokrovskaya. He then tried to steal measuring tape, sniffed all the equipment, ran around and took a second try to steal the tape. When he failed he pretended he didn’t need it and took the direction to the station.

The conclusion is that when you want to see the arctic fox, it will never come. When your thoughts are far away from this creature and you are not waiting for it, the meeting will take place.

When I was standing with my back to the sea and of course right in that moment several walruses appeared near the coast.

— Wow! – exclaimed Dmitry Kovalev. – I have just seen a biiig head with tusks! Right near the shore.

There were two walruses. Firstly, they showed to us and then they took the direction to “Molchanov”.

The northernmost post office proceeded receiving postcards for further sending from our expedition members. Konstantin Zaikov landed here for the first time, though he had been here many times with the “Molchanov” vessel. He was showing Aleksander Cherkasov a postcard with the famous spherulites from Champ Island. He mentioned:

— Ira, it’s a picture taken by you! — I totally forgot that it is indeed…

Arctic fox returned to say goodbye when we were leaving the island.

To the west

We are moving towards Alexandra Land – the westernmost island on FJL archipelago. Our Swiss colleagues continue their work and take samples under the guidance of Elena Gusakova and Nikita Sobolev. Chantal Simmen – her thesis work is about plankton and how climate change influences it – before going to this expedition had time to work in Petrozavodsk in June.

— I was on a small vessel and there were only 12 of us, — Chantal even showed with her hands how small the vessel was. She’ll be staying in Russia for some time after the expedition to learn Russian in Arkhangelsk and Moscow.

In the evening, there was a theatrical contest. The best scenes were about robbers and saving from the polar bear. During the latter scene, the bear just fell asleep after listening to the lecture about Northern Sea Route...

Today I was frozen during landing for the first time of our expedition. I think I got used to a warm sunny weather without waves, but today the wind was really harsh. I didn’t put on the second shirt and now I’m sneezing. It was raining (in the Arctic!) in the evening and Jesus mentioned that he even had to dry his camera. He was helping to take the cargo from the vessel to the station and said he has got a lot of impressions. And there was tossing again. 

July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12
July 19. Day 12

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Updated 12.07.2017