Sunday, 20 January 2019

Lake Jack London, in far eastern Siberia's Kolyma Mointains: probably the most beautiful in the whole world

The grandest beauty sometimes arises where you least expect. In this part of Siberia, a century ago, lame and squalid prisoners of the gulags were punished with forced labour by a regime that did not tolerate dissidents; they built here the "road of bones" on hundreds of skeletons - a repulsing ruin of the Soviet regime that still winds through a deserted and frozen landscape of rivers and mountains, taiga and tundra.

    Camp Dalstroy, a gulag on the upper basin of the Kolyma in the neighbourhood of the abandonned mining village of Sinegorye,  rose up to 200 000 prisoners packed in abject conditions. They worked in the Uranium and Gold mines and building the tragic road R5O4 to connect Yakutsk and Magadan.

    - but also here in the Kolyma ridge exists a blessed lake, a place of most harmonious nature and beauty like few in the world, a heaven: the lake Jack London, close to the source of the river, north of the harbour city of Magadan.
    This mountainous area, reaching its highest at Pik Aborigen (2 300 m), is now a large protected nature reserve. 

    Lake Jack London
    Озеро Джека Лондона
    Coordinates62° 04′ N, 149° 31′ E
    [same as the Faroe Isands or Ålesund]

    The waters of Lake Jack London are located at an altitude around 800 m. It's much smaller than the most celebrated Lake Baikal, but quite long - some 10 km from tip to tip, and about 50 m deep.

    Low banks, with forested soft slopes - mainly larch, dwarf pine (Pinus pumila) and spruce - that end in wetlands or less often in sandy beaches.

    Why 'Jack London' ?
    The Russian geologists were highly educated, and Jack London was famous worldwide at the time, in the beginning of the 20th century. Those who led the first expeditions to the Upper Kolyma - where they would discover the gold and uranium mines - finally chosed their favorite author to name the Lake, in 1932, under Peter Skornyakov's proposal.

    Reminds of a fjord in Norway.

    Colours are intense in the warmer season, a feast to the eyes:


    Birches, Poplars and Fir trees join the dominating Larches to a warmly coloured forest that contrasts with the pristine blue water.

    But these are very cold lands. In July, temperature can reach at most 12ºC, in Winter it frequently drops to -30ºC.

    Perfect reflections

    Blizzard over the waters still increases the sheer, exquisite beauty of the scenery:

    And at twilight, a sublime irreality breathes out over the place.

    A rarity can be found near the lake - the Yagel Forest - a tundra-like layer of moss and lichens up to 30 cm  tall.

    This part of Siberia has almost no native population, and there is almost no reindeer grazing. As a result, the “yagel forest” resists. 

    It's like virgin terrain, a primeval Earth ground.

    A bit more visisted, a few sand beaches attract fishing or adventure excursions.

    Seen from above, the lake displays a boomerang-like shape, with several capes and a few islets.