Friday, 30 August 2013

Anadyr, the colourful capital of Chukotka

If any place qualifies as being at the end of the world, it is certainly Chukotka.

The region of Chukotka is located in the extreme northeast of Russia, on a volcanic treeless tundra with a coast overlooking the Bering sea; after decades of isolation and abandon, the region of Chukotka finally called the attention of planners, business men and financial power.

Airview, with the port down left.

Located at the mouth of the Anadyr River, Anadyr is an important sea port on the Gulf of Anadyr on the Bering Sea, and the easternmost town in Asia. A modern airport serves several cities in the Russian Far East, like Khabarovsk, but also offers flights to Moscow or even to Nome, Alaska.

Отке улица (Otke Street)

Anadyr has been rebuilt from the old ugly five-story boxy soviet blocks, repainted in bright lively colours and renewed with new buildings and avenues, the seaport repaired and modernized.

Compared to the previously muddy unpaved streets and dilapidated buildings, a great progress has been accomplished.

The new Anadyr, with wide avenues and coloured buildings, some green patches, and a transport system.

Coordinates: 64°44′ N, 177°31′ E, the easternmost town in Russia and Eurasia.
Population: ~ 11 000, mainly Chukchi and Inuits.

This is somehow the russian counterpart, on the other side of the Bering sea, of Alaskan towns like Nome .

"Peeling and cracking five-story Khrushchev-era pile-dwellings, huts and sheds where people also lived. The streets were crisscrossed by sewage and heating pipes". 

Well, aparently Anadyr did change from that horrendous era of misery and decadence.

Otke Street, one of the most concurred in town.

Anadyr was founded on August 3, 1889 as Novo-Mariinsk,  and renamed on August 5, 1923, in memory of a Cossac site of mid-XVII century. For many years, it was just a Russian post for sovereignty purposes, where some military forces dragged their miserable existence, lacking the basic conditions for civilized life.

Modern times came long after the end of the soviet era.

A sunny spring in town

Boat bar in downtown Anadyr

The new Chukotka Hotel and the modern supermarket, in Otke Street.

Houses of the russian new rich, with a view to the Bering sea.

Nice new housing on Otke Street

But the most amazing is the new

Holy Trinity Cathedral :

Built on stilts over the permafrost, it's the largest othodox cathedral in Russia.

The building material was siberian pine and siberian larch wood; other wood like cedar and elm where used in the interior. Basalt helps the insulation and copper covers the roofs.

The cathedral's rich Iconostasis, in blue and gold, follows the Andrei Rublev tradition.

The main door, carved in fragrant spruce wood.

The Cathedral was built on a flat small promontory that is now the town center, at the crossing of Otke and Lenin streets.

The new center, with the cathedral, the Culture House and a huge statue of St. Nicholas. The idea was to create a sort of Kremlin, but something is missing - History, maybe.

The new Culture House and Museum

The new Culture House and Museum´s architecture may be not everybody's taste.

But it was a most important improvement in town, bringing a library, hall, museum, and cultural life that was missing in this far east remoteness.

Pride of the museum - the art of bone carving.

The settlement of Uelen, by the arctic sea,  is famous for the quality of bone carving.
You can find whale and walrus ivory handicraft by native Chukchi people at the museum and shops.

When the weather is fine, the best walk for local residents is along the Anadyr estuary, which surrounds the town on all sides.

Panoramic street down to the river and port.

The port, some years ago full of rusting hulls, also benefited from new painting - even the cranes are colourful now...

Anadyr river basin is quite rich in salmon, and the salmon fisheries are one of the main business here as well as an important means of subsistence.

Every year, on the last Sunday in April, there is an ice fishing competition in the frozen estuary waters of Anadyr River's mouth.

Chukotka region

The country through which Anadyr river passes is thinly populated, mainly by Chukchi and Eskimo populations, and is dominated by tundra, with a rich variety of plant life, wild forests, cold seas, deep fjords and spectacular rocks and mountains.

Chukotka is located on the very northeastern tip of Eurasia, between the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, sharing a maritime border with United States' Alaska. About half of its area is within the Arctic Circle, where polar nights reign in winter and the Northern Lights brighten up the sky during the long winter season.

Reindeer, upon which the local inhabitants subsisted, were once herded in large numbers. As the herding of domestic reindeer has declined, the number of wild caribou has increased.

Chukchi girls.

Anadyr port, and the Bering sea at dusk.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Troll station, Antarctica: obviously, Norwegian

Troll Station is a Norwegian research station in the north of Antarctica, 235 kilometers from the coast in the eastern part of  Queen Maud Land.

The sector named Dronning Maud Land was annexed by Norway on the 14 January 1939.

Troll Station is Norway's only all-year research base in Antarctica, and is supplemented by the summer-only station Tor (just a small container shelter and lab).
Troll is operated by the Norwegian Polar Institute (Polaristitutt) and also features facilities for the Meteorological Institute and the Institute for Air Research.

Troll station opened as a summer-only station in 1990 and was taken into use as an all-year station in 2005. Norway sent two major expeditions to the territory in the 1940s and 1950s.

Location: 72° 01′S, 2° 32′ E , some 3800 km from the Souh Pole.
Occupation: 8 to 30, max. ~ 60 research crew.

The main building consists of improved red containers assembled on stilts. Other countries had more imagination in creating special buldings.

Contrary to most other research stations on the continent, Troll is placed on a snow-free slope of solid rock breaking through the ice sheet, the Jutulsessen nunatak, 1275 meters above mean sea level.

The main building has eight bedrooms, a gym, a sauna, a large kitchen, a communications center and office spaces available for overwintering.

Several separate buildings that house laboratory supplies store, aggregate plant and garage, as well as a the auxiliary with room for eight people listed in safe distance from the base in case of fire or other accidents.

With luck, an outdoor bathtub and a sauna heated by excess heat from the power generator are available luxuries.

The station is also equipped with several vehicles like snowmobiles and tracked-tractors.

A researchers' convoy, pulled by belts driven by tracked vehicles.

The station under tempestuous catabatic winds.

The Polar Institute runs the research station and conducts meteorological and atmospheric measurements.

The base has a meteo station, a radiation source for measuring including UV radiation, and a field station for glaciological, biological and physical field program.


Troll Station is presently served by Troll Airfield, a 3000 meter long airstrip that was built on blue ice, 7 kilometers north from the research station.

The airfield runway has capacity for large planes like H C-130, Ilyushin 76 or even (recently) a Boeing 737.

Troll airfield's path must be regularly maintained using icescraper and snow clearing machines, but the dominant wind direction from east helps to keep the path free of snow most of the year.

Being located south of the Antarctic Circle, Troll has midnight sun in the summer and polar night during the winter.

Austral Auroras, or Southern Lights, can be seen here in the antarctic winter, March to September: