Anadyr preparations March 17th - April 5th
Tuesday April 10, 2007 - 65.5842° N, 170.9889° W
Karl and I spent the month commuting back and forth between the town of Anadyr and our rented flat in Ugolnye Kopi.
Here are some of the issues we had to address:
- Met with the Chukchi guide and musher Nikolai Ettyne who was designated as our official escort for our trek across Chukotka. Nikolai is not required to escort us on the ground but needs to be kept informed of our status as we enter and depart from each village/town along our way. We will also need to be able to call him in the event of an emergency.
Originally from the Northern village of Nashken and well informed of the section Uelen-Anadyr, Nikolai helped us set up a final route plan and schedule.
- Met with the Chukotkan search and rescue and explained to them our planned schedule and route through Chukotka. They requested from us a signed letter for the Chukotkavia airline where we would guarantee that we would be responsible to pay for all expenses in the event of an airlifted evacuation anywhere along our Uelen-Omsukchan trail since we are going to cross very remote regions.
- Met with Gema Gi-Ukai, a Chukchi hunter and fisherman from Chuvanskaya who helped us establish a summer route plan for the section Anadyr-Markova-Omolon. (He was not too excited I must say, to see us attempt this route in Summer months, when it is very swampy, crowded with brown bears, and infested with huge amount of mosquitoes) …
- Met with the local journalists to conduct interviews for the local Anadyr Television News and for the national Russia Today TV show.
- Organized the shipping of our fully load sleds to Lavrentiya and some of our supplies to Uelen.
- Identified an ideal storage facility for the rest of our supplies, thanks to our contact at the Canadian construction company Ferguson Simey Clark who was gracious enough to offer us some space in a tight container, away from any potential rats.
- Attempted on multiple occasions to retrieve our confiscated technical equipment from the customs office, using multiple documents provided to us by Nikolai Ettyne.
- Placed an advertisement on the local television and contacted with the help of our friends Svetlana Gobuleva and governmental official John Mann, countless city, state administrative offices (e-g: Search &Rescue department, Agricultural dept, reindeer stations, port authorities) as well as gas, gold mining and construction companies to identify a potential satellite phone for us to borrow, rent or buy, and therefore allowing us to depart. In the end, we were able to successfully identify a Globalstar Russian Satellite phone that we are taking with us and which can only be used in the event of an emergency.
- Prepared a joint presentation for Goliath and Nexus expeditions which we presented at the school in Ugolnye Kopi. We have already been asked to present as well along the way to the students in the villages that we will be crossing.
- Spent time at the local game arcade where we could find the fastest internet connection allowing us to send pictures and emails back home.
- Worked through the complex Russian postal system to be able to send overseas disks of pictures taken around town. In comparison to last year, where our cameras were not returned to us until the day of our departure, this time, we were fully able to shoot wherever we pleased.
I very much enjoyed photographing the colorful city of Anadyr who has been recently renovated with the help of Governor Roman Abramovich administration and financial backup.
I often tend to compare it to either a giant Legoland with all of its freshly painted bright buildings or a mini Hong Kong, where one can only see buildings crammed together on a piece of rock. I also enjoyed taking shots of all the classic Soviet and newer murals that are quite visible across town. However, they were limits to this new photographic freedom we were experiencing and one day I came to realize it very clearly. While I was taking what I consider an artistic photography of a classic Russian coal smokestack with a Russian flag next to it, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and identify a border guard who asked me immediately to follow him to the nearest local administrative customs office for interrogation. Unbeknownst to me, when I was photographing the flag, I did not see that on the side of it and not present on my photograph, was the local administrative customs office. After an hour of questioning with multiple “interviewers”, I was asked to delete the pictures in question and free to go!
In between of all of the tasks mentioned above, Karl and I also took on the opportunity to visit a few old and newer friends, such as:
- attending a festive birthday party for our Aprasian journalist friend Vladimir Sinothkin in the communication building, as well as visiting Nail Buranbayev and Vita Anaka, a Baishkir-Eskimo couple who have become good friends of mine ever since last year.
- go ice fishing, graciously invited by our landlord/driver Pavel Yashkin. We left Ugolnye Kopi on a -30 celsius crisp and sunny Sunday morning at 7am to go and join hundreds of Anadyr residents screwing holes in the ice with massive folded 6 feet long screwdrivers and fishing for small yet tasty sardine looking fishes. It was a fascinating experience to see all of these men and a few women on the ice, somewhat together, yet somewhat isolated, each of them near his or her fishing hole in the middle of the hazy fog.
It was interesting as well to see all types of vehicles on top of this frozen bay such as brand new Japanese SUVs, police “Volkswagen looking” minivans, antic soviet snowmobiles and military vezedhods (“Go Everywhere” all terrain tracked vehicles), all used by Sunday fishermen transport themselves on to their fishing spots.It was also a great way for me to get re-acclimated with arctic temperatures and learn new ice fishing skills!Although, when I mentioned to Karl the benefits of this new experience that might come handy on our trek, he quickly responded: “Sure, I will let you carry the 20 lbs screwdriver on your sled!” Karl and I also took countless meals in one of the two cafes where we spent most of our days preparing documents, presentations and emails.
The reason why we could not spend much time in our flat between meetings is that Anadyr city is located on one side of the bay and the airport where we had our flat on the other.
Crossing the bay each way was costing us 300 roubles per head and this is why we were not prepared to do more than one commute per day. There is no bridge cross the large bay. In winter time, one can drive across the bay on a road literally built on the ice and take a barge in Summer time. In late Spring and early fall, the only mode of transportation to the airport becomes then either an helicopter ride or a ride on a van that has been modified with huge floating tires. Despite this inconvenience, the airport was built across the bay because it was historically an important military airport and the authorities wanted to separate that potential target from the civilian habitations.
Anadyr airport located in Ugolnye Kopi was in deed an important base for the US armed forces during World War II while fighting the Japanese forces in the Pacific and later on became an important location to keep Soviet MIGS during the Cold War in light of a potential strike on US grounds.
That’s it for now. I will send more later…