News from Russia – II

September 14 & 15, 2017

Yesterday was our last day in Tiksi. The iron and steel decor had become quite familiar to us. Bertrand, Marie, Evgenia, Maxim and Luc went to the polar station to meet the meteorologists that eventually will join us on the Somov for their annual rotation on the new Siberian islands. 
Victor Boyarsky, our legendary polar explorer, and Igor, our dinghy boat pilot and safety guard (in case of a sudden polar bear encounter), arrived late yesterday evening. Alexey Molchanov and  Nikolaï Ovsharov, joined us as well and, now with Aurora, they form the completefreediving team.
Eric Crubezy was the last to arrive in Tiksi and to join the expedition. He is a brilliant anthropologist and geneticist specialising in Yakoutian history who hopes to find traces ofhuman presence on the De Long islands. Finally the Pax Arctica team is complete and united. In the afternoon we checked out of the Hotel Arctika and were transfered to the polar station where the Somov helicopter, an MI-8, was waiting for us. With all of our cargo and the team, we had to make two trips.

The MI-8 resembles a military helicopter with two rows of seats facing at each other. Alexander, the pilotgave us the safety instructions and told us, in a very serious voice,  « Don't worry, it`s as reliable as a Kalashnikov (AK-47). »  He then proceeded to show us the life jackets that appeared to be vestiges of the `70s.
This helicopter will be very helpful during the rest of our trip, enabling us to land on the islands when the weather or geography prevents us from landing with our dinghys.
After a 7 min flight, the first group landed on the rear deck of the Somov at 6:30pm, and the second crew an hour later.
We were greeted by our captain Andrei DEMESHIN, and the crew has been very welcoming. We were shown our cabins and later had dinner together, our first meal on the red ice-class expedition vessel. It is so steady that it is difficult to know whether the ship is moving or not.

Today began with a cheery radio wake-up call by Victor. Then Serguei, our deck officer, directed a live safety drill on the deck with our life jackets and the procedure in case of emergencies, where we actually entered the 60-person capacity life-boats. Later in the day we were dusted with some snow flakes in a beautiful milky sky with the sun shining through.

 

After a day of sailing, the Somov made its firstemergency stop at the Kigilyakh meteorologist station on the Lyakhovskiye Ostratova Island to leave replacement heaters. Aurore and Alexey enjoyed some stretching and physical exercices outside in the sub-zero temperatures to prepare their coming arctic dives while the helicopter made its multiple trips back and forth between the ship and the island. What an uncommon and adventurous atmosphere !!!!