The Northern Sea Route is still frozen in my thoughts. An abandoned building with orderly numbered memories in metal cases. No chairs. Just an empty shed with rows of films in cases. Tikhaya Bay on Hooker Island is in Franz Joseph Land in the Arctic was a meteorological base from 1929 to 1963. Germans were marooned there during WW2. I felt a weird sense of sanitisation walking along the timber walkways amongst the rocks. The remnants of the buildings have been preserved for tourists. Cups and teapots stood awkwardly on the wooden sideboard. Functionality ceased. Redundant. Tikhaya Bay on Hooker Island is in Franz Joseph Land in the Arctic was a meteorological base from 1929 to 1963. Germans were marooned there during WW2. I felt a weird sense of sanitisation walking along the timber walkways amongst the rocks. The remnants of the buildings have been preserved for tourists. Cups and teapots stood awkwardly on the wooden sideboard. Functionality ceased. Redundant. There are many Polar Stations in the The Taymry Peninsular on Pronchishcheva Bay in the Laptev Sea; the New Siberians – Kigilyakh Meterological station on Great Lyakhovsky, the largest of the Lyakhovsky Islands; Bunge Land; Chetyrekhstolbovoy Island. These decommissioned bases in the […]
Snorts and grunts... whiskers and tusks surged towards us with inquisitive urgency.
We were sitting in a small inflatable dingy in the waters around Cape Ostantsovy, a peninsula on Hayes Island in Franz Josef Land, the world's northernmost archipelago situated in the Barents Sea north of mainland Russia and east of Svalbard; and as yet - we hadn't been given our presentation on the 'walrus'.
I was quite startled to see this small group of animals powering ahead towards us. Bow waves, whiskers, and nostrils and flashing tusks. Perhaps we were unwelcome intruders in their territory? ... or...Perhaps we were welcome and this was the 'meet and greet' party?
Not that the subsequent presentations
Migratory birds… astonishing really! I’ve always had a keen interest in birds – with a small set of binoculars and Simpson and Day Bird book near the side door…but until this journey along the Northern Sea Route; I hadn’t really GOT it before. This time, I wasn’t just looking at the feathers… or whether it had a dark line along it’s eye… I was actually just trying to get my head around firstly how so many birds can survive in these conditions; and then how they migrated from one hemisphere to another along flyways… often without even a rest! How did they know how to do that? How do they know where to go? Some of the species I’ve seen on the tidal flats locally at home near Bribie Island have flown from north of Siberia where we were!!! OMG… For me – I found that just astonishing! Each species has a distinct path and schedule it follows. The parents have nesting areas; grow their chicks until they have enough feathers to fly; then the parents leave and head south to avoid the harsh winter… and then the chicks just somehow work out that they better fly south […]
Incredible pollution in the Arctic...
The USSR collapsed in the early 1990's. Weather and polar stations and bases were closed. People just left. I don't know how they left. Probably a ship arrived ..and they were instructed to just get aboard. I suspect from what I saw on МАЛЫЙ ТАЙМЫРthat all they boarded the 'rescue' ship with - was carried in a single bag.
What remains though...
“It’s a bird……” I crept carefully and quietly. “It must be asleep. ..Perhaps it is dead? ..Poor thing. ..Just sitting there on the cold sand. ..It might be playing dead??? ..It might think if it doesn’t move I won’t take any notice of it. ..It isn’t moving. ..Perhaps it is just frozen???” Shhhhhh I clumsily gestured to Max as I walked tentatively across the Arctic beach toward this duck. I bent over to look more closely at this frozen duck and OMG…. Two weeks attendance at the ‘Bird Club meetings’ after dinner did not prepare me for this! Nowhere in our log-book was this duck mentioned. I could not believe my eyes. I bent over and as gently as I could, nestled my thickly gloved hands around the sides of the duck and lifted it carefully up to show Max – who was by this time nearly beside me where we stood on Zemlya Bunge – or Bunge Land in the language of the Yakutian people is known as Ulakhan Kumalch – The Land of the Great Sand.; in the New Siberian Archipeligo between the Laptev and East Siberian Seas. Bunge, who I named after the Island upon […]
I’ve found myself sliding down into the Rabbit hole of Russian history; trying to gain an insight into why a frozen red book with the English title “Saint George” would be left abandoned on a table inside a Polar Station on Maly Taymyr Island in the Laptev Sea. Snowdrifts nestled comfortably on a lichen coloured fabric lounge. Metal ribbed heaters with severed rusted pipes, remained on guard under the windows, despite being decommissioned years ago. Floral wallpaper cracked and peeled off the freezing walls buckling in these extreme conditions. A spilled plate lay broken on the floor alongside books and a pair of gnarled leather boots. …Who once sat here?.. Sky blue shards of paint hung suspended in the three inches of slippery frozen ice down the hallway encroached upon by a snow drift, where a long eared brown dog and yellow and red butterfly painted on small child’s metal toy truck, lay trapped. A metal beaten wall plaque of a Greek-Roman god-like figure defiantly bared his strong muscles and skin to the frozen air. He stood beside a white and floral teapot without a lid. Pipelines and instrument gauges were lifeless. ….Why […]
The sea was a companion for me which was comforting. I found myself for hours just watching its changing moods and the way the light often danced with the texture of the wet surface.
At times the sea supported thousands of birds, walrus snorts and white tusks, and spouts from whales.... and at other times there were days where the barren expanse of the sea made its' powerful presence felt.
Wonderful childhood and teen memories of sailing blew through my thoughts as the ocean wind changed it's tone in my freezing ears.
I had a couple of spots - on the bow usually alone; that I loved to just stand and stare.... and feel the sea.... those moments brought such richness and happiness on this journey for me.
The Northern Sea route has only become passable as a result of global warming. Very few people have traversed the sea passage between Russia and the North Pole across the breadth of the whole of Russia.
Our journey commenced in Murmansk in the north west of Russia and we completed 4,950 nautical miles eastward to Anadyr on the far eastern coast of Russia 28 days later.
Click at the top of the Menu dropdown under 'Journeywoman' for the two pages of galleries.
“They look like sheep.. what do you think Max”, said Dr John aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy looking toward the cliffs and soft slopes of tundra Wrangel Island. “They’re Polar Bears”, said Max incredulously and asked Rodney Russ the Expedition leader of Heritage Expeditions to have a look for himself. Rodney at first thought they were lumps of ice and Alexander Gruzdev from Wrangle Island State Nature reserve said initially that it couldn’t be Polar Bears because there wouldn’t be that many… but there WERE that many! Within 15 minutes we quietly embarked into zodiacs to cruise slowly and quietly past this natural phenomenon difficult to adequately articulate. 181 – one hundred and eighty-one Polar Bears on the hillside around the carcass of a dead whale… with approximately 60 others walking towards the round-stoned beach. Rangers from the island confirmed the presence of 260 bears that day; one mum with quadruplets; and many with triplets. There seemed to be a second mum with quads, but upon careful inspection it can be seen that the mum is endeavouring to herd away the fourth from her own triplets. This Polar Bear feasting on a whale was an incredulous […]