2005 SIBERIA & ALASKA

Author: Lois Gray Photos: Kay Gilmour

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NOTHING WORLD JULY 2005 Expedition Trip led by Zegrahm Expedition

Table of Contents Getting there ............................................................................................................................................. 6 Transport................................................................................................................................................... 8 Flowers and Landscaping ........................................................................................................................ 11 People Along the Way............................................................................................................................. 14 Historical Figures..................................................................................................................................... 23 Kamchatka Peninsula .............................................................................................................................. 27 Zhupanova River ................................................................................................................................. 27 Commander Islands ................................................................................................................................ 30 Severo-Zapadny Cape - Seal Rookery ................................................................................................. 30 Nikolskoye Settlement ....................................................................................................................... 33 Ariy Kamen Island................................................................................................................................ 34 Vitus Berring Gravesite ....................................................................................................................... 35 Back to Kamchatka Peninsula ................................................................................................................. 37 Ossoro Village...................................................................................................................................... 37 Karaga Island ....................................................................................................................................... 39 Glybokaya Bay Ghost Village............................................................................................................... 40 Lavrova Bay Gulag ............................................................................................................................... 42 Chukotka Autonomous Okrug................................................................................................................. 45 St. Peter Bay Hike ................................................................................................................................ 45 Zodiac Cruise to see Walrus ................................................................................................................ 48 July 4 th Celebration ............................................................................................................................. 51 Gabriel Bay Chukchi Peoples............................................................................................................... 51 Tymna Lagoon Bird Watching Hike ..................................................................................................... 55 Yttygran Chukchi Burial Grounds ....................................................................................................... 57 Arakamchechen for Walrus Watching ................................................................................................ 59 Arctic Circle & Date Line ..................................................................................................................... 62 Cape Dezhnev Burial site and Radioactive Lighthouse ...................................................................... 63 Lorino – Isolated & Desolate............................................................................................................... 65 Sea Day.................................................................................................................................................... 71 Alaska ...................................................................................................................................................... 74 Denali National Park............................................................................................................................ 74 Camp Denali ........................................................................................................................................ 75 Visit to Whittier, Seward & Home ...................................................................................................... 80

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Introduction A gray, cold sea lapped over the black gravel beach in lazy waves. The sky above was obscured by filmy dark clouds against an overcast sky. Beyond the beach, laid a grim gray town made up of crumbling concrete block apartment buildings. Dour, whey-faced soldiers and townspeople stood expectantly on the shore awaiting our Zodiac landing. Dogs, black, gray and white, slunk among the gathered people. Softly feathered gray and white gulls wheeled overhead looking for a handout. Here was a monochrome world and it remained colorless until the brightly costumed Kodiak peoples hove onto the scene. Their clothing consisted of tan-colored reindeer hide cassocks decorated in colorful bead-work designs. Their headgear was constructed of more multicolored beads trailing down around their faces and in their long dark hair. Their calf-high boots were made of hides as well with beautiful embroidery and bead- work along their tops. They carried skin denims and wore broad smiles of welcome. Pink salmon were floundering, racing, leaping from the seashore into the clear river that would take them to their home river headwaters to insure another generation of their kind.

Ossoro Village - Indigenous People As the townspeople and the alien visitors from the outside world gathered in a big circle around the Kodiak performers who would sing and dance their time-honored folk songs for us, we began to see other colors. Teenaged Russian girls were mingling with

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the crowd, wearing western garb with skirts of pink and blouses of deep red, jeans with chartreuse green tops, and running shoes in surprising colors. These girls were not yet interested in the folk program in full swing. They were searching for people with whom they could practice their surprisingly fluent English.

Ossoro Village - Nothing World Russian Girls Four girls located a couple of willing, even eager, conversationalists among us. As the group began awkwardly but determinedly to share information, the girls revealed that they already had career ambitions - the youngest at fourteen wanted to be a fashion designer, the second wanted to become a physician, a third aspired to a future in pharmacy, and the last hopes for a future as a travel agent! We all wonder where they can possibly hope to receive the training they will need. The girls pensively answered that they hope to attend university in Western Russia. One of the girls asked where her new friends live and one American lady tells her that her home is in a small town in Florida near Disney World. She then asked if the young lady is familiar with Disney World. She nodded her head and responded wistfully that she herself lives in "Nothing World". Here on the arctic coast of eastern Russia lapped by the Bering Sea, this teenager saw only bleakness, hopelessness, poverty, ugliness, harsh conditions, and loneliness. She

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and her friends were the minority in this village of Ossoro – 35% ethnic Russians and 65% Native Peoples – called officially "the small-numbered peoples'' because the populations of the various tribes are so tiny. The Kamchatka Peninsula is rightfully known as the most uninhabited inhabited place in the world. The collapse of the Soviet system brought many unwelcome changes to this part of the world. The far east of Russia has been left to its own devices and many have had to revert to subsistence living. Hunting and fishing sustain the native peoples and many of the poor Russians as well. Moscow is very far away and apparently none too concerned with this part of the country where criminals, political dissidents, and other “enemies of the state” were sent for punishment. Some who survived the harsh conditions and the draconian discipline of prison camps still live in here in Siberia. They reside uneasily beside the "small numbered peoples" who are beginning to revert to their former traditions after having endured decades of Sovietization. Many European Russians were sent here to work in the tiny villages to reimburse the government for their educations. Only a few of them have been receiving their employee salaries over the past years. Alcoholism stalks the hopeless and these people have fallen prey to what is perhaps a genetic predisposition as well. In the recent past, a few of the older inhabitants have begun to receive their promised pensions. But when money arrives in a village from any source, it quickly goes to buy vodka; the recipients spend the next several days drunk and numbed. Shamans are prevalent again, hunting and fishing have become the means of survival and interest in folkways has been reborn. Life is hard and there is little time left after subsistence has been satisfied. One of the girls announced with a laugh that her bright clothes were "made in China". She was aware of the outside world and its difference from her own daily life. Another of the girls had lived in a larger society in the east. Her father had practiced medicine in Kazakhstan before being transferred to this remote village. They were aware of the possibilities in other places than theirs but at present, these teens definitely saw their circumstances as "nothing world" and nothing more! Now consider this land from the point of view of tourists who have come to see Siberia for its unspoiled nature in the high Arctic. Of course, these same outsiders will be going back home to their material comforts, optimistic outlook, choices, and security. Many are old enough to have lived a good portion of their lives in such comfortable conditions. Their viewpoint will certainly be different from the Russian youth of Ossoro. To us, this "nothing world'' was magical, beautiful in so many ways, natural, educational, and exciting! We were profoundly appreciative of the chance to visit the

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Kamchatka Peninsula and the even higher Arctic Chukotka. We were filled with enthusiasm while we hiked and explored under the midnight sun'. We loved seeing the animals of this area in their own habitats; we eagerly listened to the lectures given by our naturalists, Russia scholars, birders, and the Russian liaison people. We discovered a world that was the opposite of "nothing'' because we went to see what was there, not to be disappointed in what was not. With all due respect for the sensibilities of that lovely young lady who feels hopeless in her "nothing world',' this journal will chronicle on my impressions of Siberia; to me it to be anything but a "nothing world". Getting there In some obvious and amusing ways, this voyage to Far Eastern Russian can be likened to a trip to Disney World. There are wild rides, tastes of some mystery foods, long walks and entertaining shows in the Magic Kingdom. In Epcot, there are a few painless history lesions, a taste different cultures, laser light shows and opportunities for shopping. In Animal Kingdom, you visit the animals in simulated natural environments and learn about their lives, their foods, and their reproductive strategies. At MGM Studios, you get to visit your youth's familiar characters. And in all the Kingdoms, you are delighted by brilliant and flamboyant flowers and gorgeous landscaping.

Russia and the Kamchatka Peninsula

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Reaching the Kamchatka Peninsula to begin the Siberian discovery trip entails an uncomfortable and an exciting ride on the charter flight from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk, the capital of Kamchatka, aboard a Russian Tupulov aircraft operated by Magadan Airlines. If you want to fly to this part of Russia, Magadan is your only choice. It's a four-hour flight in very uncomfortable circumstances. The plane was incredibly loud, much more so than any other flight we have ever taken. The seats were not really padded--just wooden benches with a little fake leather fitted over them. The seat-belts were primitive and the plane had no amenities at all save for the smiling stewardesses who did offer Russian food, juices and water. It really seemed like an old flying troop ship! However, we did arrive safely at the desired destination so not too much grumbling emanated from us passengers. Of course, we couldn't have heard each other had we been complaining because our ears were both stopped up from the strange pressurizing and from the constant engine roar. In contrast with Disney's effective crowd handling, we were treated to an incredible show of Russian bureaucratic inefficiency and red tape at the airport in Petropavlovsk. Even though we each had arrived on the Magadan flight and each had Russian visas issued from Moscow, the passport control process was insanely lengthy and pointlessly unfriendly. The dispiriting procedure may have been born of some still existent Russian

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paranoia about foreigners visiting their country. Or it might have been caused by the need for job justification and "make work''. There were also several soldiers and security people hanging about as well. Despite all this suspicion we encountered, no one ever put us or our luggage through an inspection. It was a strange process all the way around. After we finally got through the interminable control system we boarded buses for the 2 hour ride to our ship.

Transport The Clipper Odyssey

The Clipper Odyssey is a very comfortable ship and, to make it even more convenient, our cabin was on the same deck as the dining room. However, we took only the evening meal in the dining room. We ate breakfast and lunch on the deck above in the Lido Lounge. It was easier to control what we ate and the time it took to eat it when we dined there since it was cafeteria style. Besides that's where we could get the delicious lemonade and Diet Cokes!

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There are seven decks open to passengers on the Odyssey including the Bridge Deck which was open to us except when otherwise announced. The lounge where we had our lectures and our "recap and briefings" was quite large and had seating for everyone with sofas, individual chairs, tables bolted to the floor and banquette seating around the periphery. The Zodiac deck was number 5. From here, we disembarked on all shore trips off the back of the ship.

Our cabin contained twin beds, a desk and chairs, a loveseat and coffee table, plenty of closet space and a roomy bathroom. As is usual in these ships, woodwork was the dominant theme of the decorations and it was in good condition and attractive. The ship also had a small gym, a swimming pool, a small library and an outdoor deck over #5 for enjoying the Siberian sunshine! Because our weather was so moderate, the sea so like a mirror, and the wind nonexistent, we never had to put on our anti-seasickness Sea-Bands. Thus, we can't really call the ship journey a "wild'' ride. It was a very stable and relaxing cruise.

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Helicopter Some of our fellow passengers took a ride on a Russian helicopter to visit what was called "The Valley of the Geysers'' in the interior of Kamchatka. These machines were enormous and the folks said the ride was very stable and not alarming at all. Kay and I elected not to take that excursion because the price was so scary - $500.00 each for about six hours including the flight and the land portion. The intrepid travelers reported seeing nothing like the mini-Yellowstone they had expected. Instead there were some bubbling mud pots, some fumaroles, and one constantly spitting geyser that reached about 20 feet in height at best. They had lunch on the ground and some of the folks did see a bear from very far away! We did not regret that we weren't with them. We learned that day that we have been pronouncing "geyser'' incorrectly all these years. According to Icelandic, from which the word is borrowed, it should be said like "geezer'' as in "you old geezer.'' Dogsleds At one of the villages we visited, some of us felt more like being adventurous and took dogsled rides on a gravel beach with the sled equipped with wheels. Others went with the Chukchi fishermen out in a skin boat - a vessel like a very large canoe made out of walrus hide and whalebone ribs. There is a real skill to building these boats and since the people have reverted to fishing and hunting to live, the elders have been teaching the younger men how to construct them again. The tourists who dared to take the rides reported that the boats seem very stable and surprisingly maneuverable but very heavy to carry and to launch into the waves. Zodiacs Of course, the Zodiacs could be considered "wild rides", if the wind or water conditions were unfavorable. However, because our voyage was so serene, we never really had any excitement on the Zodiacs, except for one day when there were some large slow swells in the ocean that made our landing on shore a little bit trickier. One problem with swells occurs if the Zodiac gets sideways to the shore at which point it can be tipped over by the waves. The other situation is not so dangerous, just uncomfortable. That occurs if you jump off the Zodiac when the swell is rising at the shoreline because then you end up with a boot-full of water, wet clothes, and perhaps wet camera and binoculars. However, the real enjoyment of Zodiac riding is seeing the animals who live in and on the waters as well as seeing the land from a different perspective.

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Flowers and Landscaping One of the most impressive things about Disney World for most adults, especially those who visit without a child or grandchild in tow, is the beauty of the flowers which are everywhere in all four of the Kingdoms. It is obvious that the landscaping is well cared for and that fresh plants immediately replace older ones that become bedraggled or refuse to flower. All that work occurs during off hours too so the parks always appear at the peak of floral loveliness.

A visit to the "nothing world'' of Siberia in the summer is also a trip to a wonderland of the most improbable and gorgeous flowers! Mother Nature tends this garden world on the tundra, undergirded by permafrost - sometimes a few inches below the surface and sometimes a few feet, but always present somewhere in the earth. The "active

layer'' of this earth is that part which has melted sufficiently to support plant life. And what an abundance of plant varieties there are! Who would have thought that frozen ground with such a short, but intense, growing season could produce such stunning vistas. Most of the plants, both flower and berry-bearing, are very small; they look like bonsai forms of more familiar growth. There is so much variety in color that an artist would find a complete palette among them: yellow, salmon, blue, purple, red, orange, pink, lavender, white, even a chocolate brown. The flowers range in shapes from tiny bells, to five and six pointed stars, to round and fuzzy pincushions, to trumpets to cups. They are kin to roses, to lilies, to poppies, to azaleas and rhododendrons. The variety is simply astounding.

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Interspersed among the flowers some tall (meaning about 4 inches above the ground) and others quite short (meaning not even an inch above the earth), are ferns, mosses, sedges, willow trees , low bush cranberries, blueberries, and other fruits usually of interest only to the bears such as crowberries, soapberries, and bearberries.

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Thus, even though the "gardens'' are quite diminutive, they are spectacular in tints and diversity. And just as Disney must hire workers to keep the plantings fresh and healthy, so Mother Nature has her bumblebees (the only member of the bee family that can survive in the north country because of its special ability to become frozen and revive) and birds to pollinate her children and keep the generations coming. Imagine, if you will, lying down on a soft and springy bed of tussock grasses and looking out in front of you at this scene of tiny plants of myriad colors, every color you can imagine really. And this marvel happens every year for about 10 weeks as the plants struggle to complete their life cycle in the few days of warmth and long hours of sunlight.

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Even though Lilliputian, Mother Nature's arctic garden is as beautiful as any cultivated botanical garden you can envision. Its fierce tenacity in the face of such brutal conditions during winter makes the miracle all the more awe-inspiring and the beauty even more precious and perfect. People Along the Way At Disney World, the cartoon characters we have all known since childhood walk around among the crowds, adding to the delight of children and providing photo opportunities for the adults. But what a seasoned traveler learns to consider when in a foreign land among societies other than his own, is that the “familiar” may represent nothing more than his stereotyping of his own world. What he “sees” is being filtered through the eye of his own life's history and possibly may have nothing to do with the true reality of the event. And so it was in Siberia that we found people we felt we recognized from stereotyping during the cold war days. We visited three villages; one on the Kamchatka Peninsula, one in Chukotka, the most northern point on the Siberian Arctic coast and another on one of the Commander Islands. The little towns were Ossoro, Linoro, and Nikolskoye. Each of them was composed of about 35% European Russians and 65% "small numbered peoples'' akin to our North American Tlingits, lnuit, and Haidas. These people look very similar to our familiar North American "Eskimos'' (actually a misnomer) As we learned during the visits, their folkways and traditions are quite similar as well. The dancing was especially remarkable since all three groups had such similar dances, songs and rhythms. They were reminiscent of dance presentations we have seen on several trips to Alaska. While we think of dance as movement in the entire body, these dances seemed to utilize mostly the arms and head. The feet and legs were generally restricted to walking or stamping type motions. The arms were often uplifted, stretched out in front, waving in imitation of animal movements, and pumped to the rhythm of the skin drums. The dances were given names like "Women Sewing,'' "Salmon Fishing,'' "Reindeer Hunting". Another “familiar” stereotypical character from the cold war days of our youth, was the good Russian soldier, Ivanov. He was much in evidence in all three villages. He walked

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about among the townspeople and us in his camouflage uniform with a pale expressionless face. There were many lvanovs stationed in these tiny places with populations ranging from about 600 to 2000. Russian paranoia may not have dissipated much since the fall of the Soviet system; we found ourselves watched closely by the soldiers. Was it curiosity or suspicion? Russian and American Doctors In this case, the stereotyping was done on the Russian side of the coin. The surgeon we met in Nikolskoye both surprised us with an unexpected enthusiasm and disappointed us by falling into stereotypical behavior. While I stood way at the back of our group watching the first of our native song and dance performances (the better to avoid being drug into any "participation'' type activities), a man in an overcoat with Coke-bottle-bottom glasses approached me and hesitantly began trying out his English. In an effort to overcome our language barrier, we gave into the ineffectual but common practice of talking louder, performing charades and employing sign language in an effort to better communicate. After being astonished to learn that he had read and loved Jack London and Mark Twain (in English and in Russian), I was not so surprised to finally understand that he was an educated man, the town doctor and surgeon in charge of the hospital of this small village.

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Dr. Valery Alexandreyevich was a likeable person and he was so sincere in his love for American stories that the English professorship in me quickly responded to him. We actually became so animated in our efforts to "discuss'' the literature that we got too loud and a member of the Zegrahm staff came over to suggest (embarrassingly enough) that we keep our voices down so as not to drown out the young Aleuts who were performing for us. We both blushed deeply at her reprimand and stayed a little quieter for a while. At some length, the "show'' ended and the Doctor and I said our goodbyes with big smiles as I began to wend my way back towards the Zodiac landing. Kay and I were walking through the village mulling over what we had experienced there in Nikolskoye, when suddenly we saw someone in front of us fall down. One of our fellow travelers tripped on some stones on the downhill path and in trying to maintain her balance, her feet moved too fast and she ended up falling face down without even trying to break her fall with hands or arms. She did what is called a "face plant''. Kay ran immediately to her and began to calm her and keep her still until an assessment could be made of what injuries she had suffered. She was bleeding profusely, apparently from the nose and some facial damage she had suffered. Soon members of the expedition staff were on the scene and immediately got the ship's physician, Dr. Chris Hall, on his way to the accident site. Kay meantime had evaluated the patient and stabilized her neck and head. It was discovered that she had indeed broken her nose and sustained a long laceration down its bridge. She had knocked out her two front teeth and bitten through her bottom lip. She also had several facial abrasions that were oozing blood quite briskly. But she had not broken her neck or her back so that was the good news. However, it was clear that some of her wounds would need suturing and the nose needed to be put back in position and taped. The medical team of the Clipper Odyssey had things well in hand and sent for a backboard to carry her onto the Zodiac for the ride to the ship where Dr. Hall had all the supplies, equipment, and medicines he would need to care for this lady. This is where Dr. Valery greatly disappointed us by falling into a stereotypical misconception that he could not be dissuaded from believing. He repeatedly tried to get Dr. Hall to let him take the lady to his hospital where he, a surgeon, would care for her. Even though there were several fluent Russian speakers with our group who tried to explain to him that Dr. Hall did not need his help and that he indeed was responsible for her care, Dr. Valery was disconsolate about the refusal. Suddenly, he came over to

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me and began to bitterly gesture and speak his belief that the reason Dr. Hall would not allow the lady to be taken to the Nikolskoye Hospital was because he would then forfeit his fee for service. He also knew that Kay is a doctor and he thought she would be getting money from the patient too for the first aid she had rendered. I explained as best I could that such was not the case but he just kept shaking his head in sad disbelief. Even when I asked one of the Russian speakers to explain that no money would exchange hands between the patient and either physician, he just continued to rub his thumb and fingers together in the international sign language meaning "money.'' He persisted in his impression that American physicians are the stereotypes he has been propagandized to believe in rendering no care unless the fee is paid. In spite of our differences at the end of our meeting, I am going to attempt to send some American short stories in English to Doctor Valery because he seems so eager to learn to read and speak English more fluently. The ship will visit that village again and they will bring the books to him if I can get them to Zegrahm. I plan to send him short story collections by Bret Harte and Stephen Crane. Fellow Travelers and Staff We were a large group of first time visitors to Siberia. There were 108 passengers from all over the United States plus other nationalities including Belgians, Dutch, Scotch, English, French, Argentinians, and even two Russian tourists. Most people were amazingly well traveled and many had been on several Zegrahm trips (one couple had been on over 40 trips with them). As one would imagine, people choosing to visit Far Eastern Siberia had probably been just about everywhere else in the world first. Kay and I felt positively parochial compared with most of these folks. Because the ship was large enough to easily house our group and because Zegrahm arranged the Zodiac tours so well, we never felt crowded. Since there were diverse interests among us, landings were divided up according to tastes. Thus, if you wanted to go birding, you waited for the announcement that birders should now proceed to Deck 5 for Zodiac boarding. On the other hand, if you wanted to do a long, strenuous hike, you waited for the "long walkers'' to be called. There were other options also, such as naturalist hikers, beachcombers, middle length walkers, and the like. With the passenger complement divided in this way, no one felt inconvenienced.

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As is usual with a big group like this one, people did form smaller cliques who usually ate together and sat together during lectures and happy hours. But everyone was friendly and welcoming to everyone else. We particularly liked a Scotch couple (George and Jean D.) with whom we often ate and hiked. George is a geology professor at the University of Edinburgh and was a mine of information regarding all the mountains, rocks, and terrain we were seeing. His wife has a droll sense of humor and was just so enthusiastic about all the tundra plants - a passion we shared. Similar in function to the workers and docents at Disney World, these guides to "nothing world'' are determined to show visitors every wonderful and unexpected aspect of exotic Siberia. They wanted to be sure that tourists didn’t miss anything! There were five components of staff on our Siberian adventure, The National Audubon staff, the Smithsonian Journeys Staff, and Zegrahm staff. In addition, we had the Clipper Odyssey crew of officers, able-bodied seaman, cruise director, hotel and kitchen workers and the cabin stewards. Still another group was comprised of Sergey, the liaison official between Zegrahm and the Russian government, Sasha, the Russian fish and wildlife officer, and another Sasha, whose role was never clearly defined for us but who definitely was a representative for some department of the Russian government. The mysterious 2nd Sasha did not stay with us for the entire trip; he just up and disappeared at one point. This disparate group worked amazingly well together even though their allegiances were different. All seemed focused on us travelers having an enjoyable and meaningful experience in Siberia. Because there were so many individuals, there's no way to describe each and every one of them, so I will discuss just a representative sampling from each component. We also enjoyed being with Roger Harris and Meryl Sundove from Audubon Society whom we had met on the 30-day Orion cruise “Lost Islands of the Atlantic”. They were their usual delightful company and shared their enthusiasm for birding and flower discoveries with us. Smithsonian Journeys sent two excellent Russian speakers and experts on Russian history, society, and ethnography: George Munro and Ronald Wixman. Though their expertise overlapped somewhat, they could not have been more different in style and temperament. George is professorial and reserved. His lectures were formal and fascinating. He did like to start and punctuate his talks with jokes which revealed

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aspects of the Russian personality as well as the mind sets about the “small numbered peoples. George was an effortless hiker who was always helpful to fellow walkers on the rambles. He is married to a Russian lady and lives part of the year in Russia. He is hopeful about Russia's future and somewhat tolerant of her past but feels that presently her condition is teetering on a fence and could fall either way--towards more democracy and capitalism or backwards toward more authoritarianism. Ron Wixman is a Brooklyn native congenitally obsessed with Slavic culture and Jewish participation in that milieu. He has lived in the Slavic countries for many years, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary Romania and parts of Old Yugoslavia. He also speaks Russian and several other Slavic languages fluently. He looks like an older Billy Crystal and has a rambling, witty, and distinctly Jewish one-liner style of lecturing. He too is basically optimistic for Russia but also acknowledges the same problems that George identifies in realizing her potential. We had 3 of the original Zegrahm founders on board: Peter Harrison, Shirley Metz, and Mike Messick. Peter is the author of definitive reference books on seabirds of the world (he is absolutely brilliant in identifying the seabirds and most others as well) and he is a raconteur par excellence. Most of his stories involve his own life which has been fascinating. He has the Irish way with English and is a very engaging and emotional speaker. His lectures were always the best attended and he himself is obviously the favorite among the experienced Zegrahm travelers. Shirley Metz is Peter's wife and what a happy couple they seem to be. In 1989 she became the first woman, and one of the first Americans in history, to ski overland to the South Pole, a journey of over 800 miles. She has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records , and in 1989, the Soviet minister of polar research and exploration bestowed his country's prestigious Polar Award upon Shirley, the only woman to receive this distinction. She is an effortless hiker and often led groups of us on various explorations. Mike Messick is about 40, making him the youngest of the founders while Peter at 63 is the oldest. Mike embarked on a full-time career in adventure travel shortly after university graduation and has since visited more than 170 countries around the world. He has conducted research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He is a member of The Explorers Club, holds a U.S. Coast Guard captain's license, and has his scuba instructor certificate from NAUI. He has the usual cheery deportment of an expedition

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leader and is quite well organized and safety conscious. He ran the "recap and briefing'' sessions and made all the announcements for the expedition. He is very personable and well liked too. We enjoyed his breezy style and his rousing demeanor. He and the captain of the Odyssey worked well together in planning safe landings with interesting things to see and do once ashore. Mark Brazil is an Englishman who now lives in Japan and teaches at a university on Hokkaido. He also maintains a home in Dunedin, New Zealand. He is a tall fellow who habitually wears some sort of scarf arrangement that looks vaguely piratical. The difference in how he looks with his headgear and without it is really surprising! Actually, the improbable scarf arrangement is more fetching. Mark is also a true bird expert who can identify black spots in the sky in a flash and with great assurance. Meantime, less accomplished birdwatchers can barely even see the sky dots he's identifying as this or that bird. To watch Peter and Mark birding together as we did on the sand spit at Timmus Lagoon is really quite amusing. There is definitely some competitiveness going on but also great collegiality. Peter, the shorter of the two, was hopping from tundra tussock to tussock hissing through his front teeth the names of the birds he was seeing, "Red phalarope on pond at 3 o'clock.'' Mark, the taller, was striding majestically through the same terrain. He would announce magisterially his own sightings, "Brandts coming left, l female and 1 male!" Meanwhile, mosquitoes were feasting on all of us and creating dark curtains before our eyes, further making bird identification impossible. Peter and Mark scorned the bug- repellant head nets that most of us sported and barely bothered to swat at the pesky biters. What a pair they were! Among the Russians, Sergey was quite clearly the go-to guy for the whole expedition. He is a young entrepreneur who has purchased his own boat, the Typhoon, and has become a promoter of travel in this part of his country that he so obviously loves. He was raised in coastal Siberia and cares deeply for the "small numbered people'' who live there.

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He is unashamedly emotional in his admiration for their tenacity and integrity and he is devoted to helping them preserve their way of life. Sergey has a crew on board his own vessel which stayed with us the entire trip, scouting appropriate landing sites, looking for wildlife on the beaches, and transporting our garbage to acceptable dump sites. He also led the long and strenuous hikes, fondly named “Sergey's Death Marches''. He is, no doubt, an example of Russia's positive hopes for a better future. My hero on this trip, though, was without doubt Sasha #1! He looks like Yul Brynner except that he is much taller, stronger, and bigger! This man hiked effortlessly up hills and down and must have had "seven league boots" because he could cover so much ground so fast that he seemed atomic powered, except those great strides looked as though they cost him nothing in energy or effort. Sasha was always with us on shore, accompanying one or the other of the groups and yet seeming to keep an eye on all of us. He was the wildlife officer and his apparent responsibility was to keep the animals safe from us as well as us out of danger from the critters. If anyone approached an animal too closely or even impinged on a place where the animals were congregating, Sasha was there to stop that behavior immediately. Of course, all of the travelers were respectful of the animals and really gave him no trouble on purpose. Cautions were necessary only when someone strayed too close in an effort to get a closer picture or just got carried away with the thrill of seeing the animals!

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The reason Sasha became my personal hero was because he saved me from injury and maybe worse on one of our hikes with Sergey. We were scrambling over rocks and tundra on the uphill trying to reach a view-point in a beautiful setting when it was necessary to cross a rapidly running stream. The wet rocks we could step across were widely separated and on the way across I slipped and got a boot-full of water and began to really lose my footing. The next step would have been over the down-stream waterfall and down some pretty gruesome looking craggy rocks! I thought I was a goner for sure when suddenly I was lifted up bodily and placed on dry ground on the far side of the stream. Sasha had grabbed me around the waist and transported me to safety in a split second. He did that even though he was standing on the slippery rocks in the middle of the stream! Needless to say, I showered him with profuse thanks. He is very shy and speaks no English and acted as though what he had done was no big deal. Perhaps to him it wasn't, but to me it was pretty damned impressive and absolutely necessary!

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Educational Aspects Even a place so obviously dedicated to entertainment as Disney World also provides some education along with the amusements. "nothing world'' is filled with lots of history and many things completely unknown to us in the West. Our excellent lecturers and naturalists certainly saw to it that we came away with new insights plus helpful and entertaining knowledge! We didn't come away with just little factoids and snippets of fun facts; our program was designed to give us context and understanding as well. Historical Figures The two most prominent historical men in this area of the world are Vitus Bering and Georg Steller. Since we were in the Bering Sea, heading for the Bering Straits, and aware that the land bridge which supposedly carried the first humans to North and South America is called Beringia, we were all already at least familiar with the first of these men. Because all of the birders knew that one of the "Holy Grail'' birds we were all wanting to see is the Steller's Sea Eagle, his name was also not unknown to us. Also, we hoped to view the endangered Steller's sea lion as well. However, most of us did not know of the connection between the two men or much about their adventures together and separately. So we knew we had much to learn! Vitus Jonassen Bering Captain (Komandor in Russian) Bering was a Dane who served all his professional life in the Russian Navy under Tsar Peter the Great. He had joined the Russian Navy in 1703. He was born in Denmark in 1681 and died on December 19, 1741 on what is now called Bering Island in the Commander Island group. Bering was the most important figure in Peter's Great Northern Expedition and his intrepid voyages explored much of the Russian Far East and Alaska, revealing that Asia and North America were separate continents. In 1735, after several more or less successful explorations and voyages, Bering went overland from Moscow in western Russia to Okhotsk on Russia's eastern coast—a trek of nearly 3500 miles. There he engaged the services of local craftsman and had two ships built: the St. Peter and the St. Paul, so that he could conduct further explorations of the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Far North regions of Asia and North America. He also founded the present city of Petropavlovsk in 1740. Bering and Aleksei Chirikov (captain of the St. Paul) left for the American coast in 1741 and though they became separated by a storm, each of the ships sighted and landed on parts of the Alaskan chain of islands.

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Storms eventually ended this expedition and the two ships reunited at the uninhabited Commander Islands. The St. Peter was shipwrecked and Bering became deathly ill as did 28 men of his company. They eventually died of what Steller diagnosed as scurvy and were buried on the Islands. The only surviving carpenter was able to build a second St. Peter, albeit much smaller, so Chirikov and the other surviving sailors returned safely home, but for one more sailor who died one day out of port. We were told by our trip historians that Bering died of scurvy though Steller tried to prevent his death (and that of the other crew members) by having them eat vegetation found on the islands. But Bering absolutely refused to eat the bulbs. According to an encyclopedia I consulted when writing this journal, in August 1991, Bering's body was returned to Moscow and examined by forensic pathologists who concluded he had not died of scurvy but of some other disease. The body was then sent back to the Commander Islands and he was reburied there. The value of Bering's discoveries was not recognized for a very long time, but Captain Cook later on proved the accuracy of Bering's observations. Today his name is common currency because it is attached to so many geographical sites in the Pacific far north: Bering Strait, Bering Sea, Bering Island and the Bering Land Bridge. Georg Wilhelm Steller Dr. Georg Wilhelm Steller was a German, born in 1709 -- died on November 14, 1746. In addition to his education as a physician, Steller was also a botanist, zoologist and an explorer. After completing his education in 1738, Steller went to Russia to work at the St. Petersburg Academy of Science. He was appointed naturalist on Bering's second voyage to Kamchatka, charged with the mission of charting the Siberian coast of the Arctic Ocean and also with locating an eastern passage to North America. He also traveled overland to Okhotsk and there met Bering for the first time. While the ships were being built for the voyage, Steller explored Kamchatka Peninsula, describing and drawing the flora and fauna he saw there. He also founded a school for native children. He was then called to the ships to begin the expedition. It was ill-fated as has been reported in the section on Bering and the crew shipwrecked on Bering Island where Bering and the other sailors perished. Remarkably enough, Steller had conceived the idea that the officers and crew should be eating vegetation to both cure and prevent scurvy. After Bering died, Steller and the remaining crew settled in to

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survive the battle with the winter. One of the weapons they used in that fight was eating the recommended vegetation in teas and as an uncooked food source. Steller went on with his observations. He named many animals and birds of that area since he was the first European to see them: Steller's Jay, Steller's Sea Lion, Steller's Sea Cow, the Northern Fur Seal, the Sea Otter, Steller's Sea Eagle, Steller's Eider, and the Spectacled Cormorant. Following his remarkable survival and return from the Commander Islands to Petropavlovsk, Steller spent another two years with further exploration and observation on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Though Steller himself did not make it back to Moscow, his journals did and were published to much scientific acclaim. Captain Cook himself also used Steller's journals in his own voyages of discovery. Perhaps that is why he was so adamant that his men eat vegetables so that they could avoid scurvy. Unlike the obstinate Bering, Captain Cook believed the intrepid doctor's ideas about the importance of this item in the diet of sailors. Perhaps he did not know about Vitamin C, but he knew the vegetation held some sort of preventive for that dread disease of sailing men. Birds and Animals One of the most striking things we learned about both flora and fauna of the Arctic regions is that the higher you go in latitude, the fewer become the number of individual species but the more numerous become the individuals within each specie. A basic rule of thumb says that at 60 degrees of latitude there are about 60 species each of plants, of birds and of animals. At 80 degrees, that reduces to 20 of each type. At 90 degrees (North Pole), there are none. For us, one of the "holy grail" bird species was the puffin and here we were treated to two species: the horned and the tufted. We learned that these birds can carry 61 fish in that parrot-like colorful bill. The orange and yellow bill is girded by "plates" of more vivid coloration which are molted after breeding season. We also learned that they practice a type of weaning of their chicks called "abandonment". Yep, that's what it's called. When summer ends, the parents simply fly away leaving the bewildered chicks in their below ground nests. As the chicks get hungry, they finally realize that Mom and Dad are not returning with breakfast any longer and they begin to try their wings and their unpracticed hunting

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skills. Puffins obviously do not pass on their survival skills through any direct teaching. That hard-wiring of instinct provides the necessary knowledge for these beautiful birds.

The Route Just as in Disney World, you can go from the Magic Kingdom to the World of

Tomorrow, to Frontier Land, we were exploring "nothing world" by landing on various beaches on the Kamchatka, as well as some islands off the coast of the peninsula, and some little towns and villages on both as shown on the accompanying map. We do know that we left from Petropavlovsk, the capital of the province, and went north up the peninsular coast, then

crossed over to the Commander Islands, and then sailed back to Kamchatka. We kept leapfrogging up that landmass and finally sailed up the coast of Siberia into Chukotka on the mainland. The Kamchatka Peninsula is a huge dependency dangling off the Siberian part of the Asian continent. It is as large in area as France, Germany and Switzerland combined. The Peninsula is an integral part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire'' containing as it does over 170 volcanoes, some 35 of which are considered active. Mountain scenery is the norm on this great expanse and the most picturesque of them display the typical conical perfection of volcanoes all over the world. But Kamchatka is home to more wild birds and beasts than human beings because it is a very harsh place to exist. The national park on the peninsula is home to the Russian Brown Bear and harbors Russia's largest concentration of this mega-bear.

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Kamchatka Peninsula ZHUPANOVA RIVER

Our first landing after leaving the capital city was the Zhupanova River. We were off on our first Zodiac cruise while others opted for the helicopter tour of the geyser valley. The Zodiac tour's most exciting sightings were a Steller's Sea Eagle on her nest and a young brown bear we surprised as we rounded a bend in the river. The eagle was a very large bird, probably about 20 lbs. in weight, with a heavy yellow bill and a brown head. She resembles our bald eagle except for her much larger size and white streaks on her wings.

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The bear was at the shoreline when we happened upon him and he was not pleased to be startled by us. He rose up and stared at us then quickly disappeared behind the first row of underbrush on the shoreline. We were all amazed that the crew then let us off the Zodiacs for a birding walk just a bit further down the shore. For better or worse, we did not see him again. We got our first experience of walking in the boggy marshes and it was tough going since our feet sank pretty deep and had to be pulled out with each

step. Disaster befell one of our party; he stepped too close to one of the little ponds we kept skirting and found that the land fell away under him. He ended up going in up to his waist and thus destroyed his new digital camera and his binoculars. And this was day one on our first shore excursion! What a way to start the trip! Next we were taken to a salmon processing plant along the shoreline. The workers leave their homes behind to live at the plant for three months during the salmon runs. They work 24/7 during this period of intense activity, buying fish of all types from the area's fishermen. Salmon is the most prized and expensive fish, but others are processed here as well. The site of the fish processing plant was pretty bleak. It sat on the end of a low spit of land jutting into the Zhupanova. All the buildings looked very ramshackle and temporary. Many seemed constructed of just tar-paper and bits of driftwood. There was a community outhouse complex at the rear of the campsite area. Food was prepared and served from a communal open-air dining pavilion.

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