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Blog Kytalyk 2013: 2 May

Expedition to Chokurdakh (Sakha Republic) 23 April - 5 May 2013

 

2 May, Kytalyk

Picture 15 cropped smallOur group just before leaving the camp. From the left: Roman Petrov, Luca Belelli, Ron Lootens and Ko van Huissteden.Final day at the camp, fortunately we have just a minor tasks to complete. The sustained southerly winds have brought a sudden snowmelt, as today our feet sinking deeper into the snow and our boots have become snow packed and wet.
 
We make some improvements to the energy supply system of the tundra tower, double check the regular functioning of the whole tower and download the very first flux data of 2013. Everything is fine.
 
Meantime the silence is broken by the sound of an approaching snow-mobile announcing the arrive of Valerij. The picture of the aligned sleighs in front of the house waiting to be loaded speaks for itself, the fieldwork time is coming to the end. We just have some time left for one last check at the lake tower, so Ko and I jump on a snowmobile and return to the lake side tower so that we can be reassured that all will be well when we return in summer.
 
Back at the camp we get ready for the return trip to Chokurdakh, putting on very warm clothes although after few kilometres it is already clear that they are not justified due to the change in the weather. The favourable change in temperature allowis us to expose a few extra centimetres of skin on our faces, with the increase in temperature we have the added advantage that it is easier to use our cameras while wearing our lighter gloves.
 
The tundra passes by the sides of the sleigh as we repeatedly bounce on its wooden boards, we try to hold ourselves up loading all our weight onto our arms. The lakes are still entirely covered by a thick layer of snow hiding the shorelines, however the snowmelt has already uncovered some tussocks of Eriophorum and the highest thin branches of willow trees.
 
Along the route we cross over some frozen rivers with steep banks, the rubber belt of the snowmobile sinks into the deep snow and only with the engine at full power it is possible to reach the top of the steep banks. During one of the last crossings Payday Loans we even have to jump off the sleigh, which seconds earlier dropped into the deep snow almost rolling on it's side and caused the snowmobile to remain stuck half way up a steep bank.
 
Chokurdakh is now close and when we overcome the last steep lake bank, we can already see the first scattering houses of the village and the two snowmobiles suddenly stop. Cigarette break,...right here,..right now...Valerij and Kostia take a break as if to recompose themselves before entering the village.
 
Picture 16 smallA pingo along the way back to Chokurdakh. (Photo: R. Petrov)Behind us there is a massive pingo, one of the most interesting for its shape, towering over the tundra. Engines start up and off we go, the two drivers gain rapidly speed, the sleighs beat violently on the bumps of the track made harder by the passage of many snowmobiles travelling to and from the village.
 
The last kilometre of our return journey rattles our bones more than during the whole trip. Fortunately our collective yelling of complaint to the drivers prompts them to slow down to a reasonable speed just as we approach the border of village with partially snow free roads. Two dogs escort us up to the vehicles dump, which flows on the left hand side.
 
On the right we catch a glimpse of the rubbish dump reminding us how places like Chokurdakh are undeniably associated to some degree of environmental impact and problems of ecological sustainability, the solutions of which has been, so far, postponed to the future. Nevertheless the size of the problem appears paramount, even if only witnessed for a brief moment.
 
The snowmobiles move forward between puddles and at one point the snowmobile gets stuck in the mud. We continue on foot for the last few hundred meters. The first water pools have already formed on the icepack of the river Indigirka and Valerij says that soon wild geese will arrive completing their spring migration.
 
Tomorrow we'll catch the plane to Yakutsk and some of us will come back in June, when at that time migrating birds will fly over the green tundra. We hope that till then our towers will have continued to monitor the "carbon breathing" of this extraordinary ecosystem.
 
 
Luca
 
 
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