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Kytalyk 2013: No Arctic research without local assistance

(Photo: Ko van Huissteden) View from the lake flux tower at Kytalyk station over the thawing ice of the lake(Photo: Ko van Huissteden) View from the lake flux tower at Kytalyk station over the thawing ice of the lakeIn the office of the Wildlife Conservation Committee in Chokurdagh we are negotiating with Sergej Illich about diesel and fuel wood, and transportation. Illich has a very long list on his desk – with names of many people who will visit Kytalyk station this year – including dates of arrival and return. We, Dutch researchers from VU University in Amsterdam, and Wageningen University, Japanese from Hokkaido, Swiss from Zürich. A group of German ornithologists is already at the site.

For all these people, Tatyana Striukova and Sergej Illich from Wildlife Conservation do the logistics, in close cooperation with IBPC in Yakutsk. Of everything is paid for, but with the growing number of international researchers this is a formidable task. Transporting people in small boats eighty kilometers up river, transporting loads of food, fuel including firewood for the stove, and scientific instruments. They also hire a cook for us. Since we started work at Kytalyk in 2003 and 2004, it has grown really big – and also the number of running ecological experiments has expanded in this outback of Siberia. Without all the help from the people in Chokurdagh, this never would have been possible.

We head off in a small speedboat on the wild Indigirka river. Fortunately the wind is favorable. When there's too much wind from the north, boat traffic would be too dangerous because of the high waves on the river. Then turn left, to the Berelegh river. At the confluence there's a pingo (ice mound), where a fisherman lives who stores his fish in an ice cellar inside the pingo. We often stop there for some bread and stroganina – slices of frozen fish. This time not – Wanja, our driver, is hasty, the boat has to return again to pick up our equipment. After three hours bumping on the waves we arrive at Kytalyk Station.

The first walk is to our lake flux tower. Plants have started greening quickly after the last few days, with temperature up to 28 degrees. Now it is cooler, but the weather is fantastic, windy and sunny , and no mosquitoes yet. We did set up the tower up in April at two kilometer distance from the station, at the edge of an expanding thaw lake. At that time we barely could distinguish the lake bank under the thick snow cover and I'm curious to see if we did not make any fatal mistakes by putting the tower in the wrong place. Fortunately everything is alright. The tower has not been shoved away by moving lake ice, nor was it put up in some pool in the center of an ice wedge polygon. Moreover, everything appears to be working!
Written by Ko van Huissteden