The police shine up and welcome me to high Arctic.
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From the crowd, a Chukchi man with a big smile approaches, it is Vlad Kavry, who hugs us as a bear. He is in charge of the polar bear patrol and invites us to stay with him. Finally out It is clear sky and the temperature drops below minus 10 degrees. Today we will check three areas for polar bear feeding spots. Instead of seeds, these are full with dead walruses, which all have died of natural causes.
In historical time there have not been any walruses along this part of the coast, but suddenly 40 fat saturated beasts turned up on the beach in the village of Ryrkaypiy. First everyone was happy, but after a while the local government realised they had a problem. The smell was daunting, the sound enormous and dead walruses were found here and there.
In the end of October, the walruses disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared. The stinking dead animals had to be removed before the polar bears were lured to the village. It was here at Ryrkaypiu, that a year-old girl was killed, about two years ago, on her way home by a polar bear.
Somebody had left some garbage in a container and the bear could not resist the smell. When Masha Kymylkut passed the container she realised a polar bear just a few metres from her. She panicked, and started to run which triggered the bear's hunting instinct and within seconds she was killed. Before the sun is up, we head out along the coast with the Umky-patrol. We are about to visit some of the feeding spots where the dead walruses from Ryrkaypiu had been transported.
No sign of polar bears, but everywhere there are tracks of arctic fox. The bears will come any day, as soon as the bridge of winter ice is formed from Wrangel Island to the mainland coast of Chukotka. Normally, the bears should have been here some weeks ago, but the "bridge" is building up later and later due to the summer sea ice is melting away, more and more.
This increases the stress for the stranded bears at Wrangel Island, which have to starve for a longer period without being able to hunt. We are hoping for, and expecting hundreds of bears to turn up within the next two weeks. On patrol for polar bears in north-eastern Russia. Raw cooking It is blowing hard and the snow comes in horizontally.
Today we are inside.
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Our host, Vlad Kavry is a Chukchi hunter therefore we have to adopt to the local kitchen, which is far from the menu served in Europe and North America. Vlad has no cooler or freezer, instead he has a plastic bag hanging outside the kitchen window. In winter the outside temperature is always below zero. You save a lot of energy by eating raw meat, and do not have to warm everything up. That is smart climate living.
During the last two days I have been served raw fish as arctic char. They are really deep-frozen and to be able to cut them you hammer on the back of the fish to split it. The raw fish bits are dipped in salt and a tasty strong sauce. It is really tasty. Reindeer is carved in thin slices and also eaten deep frozen without being cocked.
At breakfast one day, a reindeer stew was put on the table, with onions and potatoes. The only "normal" food is some kind of tortellini, which is sometimes eaten together with hot dogs. The most exotic dish so far was fermented walrus blubber. It is very rich in vitamins. The blubber has been fermenting for months to ripen.
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The opposite can be said about the local salmon row, which has a very good taste. It is strange, but my belly is still working, despite all new courses. Preparing whale blubber and other local delicacies. Hit the polar bear on its head The weather is still bad and it is a day to stay put. My host Vlad Kavry has grown up with polar bears outside the window, and every day a new story is told.
Last fall when he was photographing a female bear, the local police arrived and started to scream at Vlad that he should immediately withdraw to the police car. One holy rule concerning polar bears is that you should not shout at them, they only get irritated, and that did happen. The female got closer to Vlad and he as usual brings out his stick to show the bear that he is not afraid of her. The police now scream at his top of his lungs, and the bear got very irritated, at the same time Vlad is trying to communicate to the shouting person to be quiet.
The female attacks Vlad who hit the bear with his stick between her ears. The polar bear stops and confused she reluctantly backs off. Vlad then starts to walk back to the policeman. The man starts again to shout loud and wants Vlad to hurry up who is now slowly walking towards the police vehicle. A sudden sound in the snow, and Vlad turns around and is literary standing front to front with the angry female bear.
Once again, he taps the bear on top of its head. The startled polar bear now runs away to avoid this stubborn and brave Chukchi. When Vlad comes back to the paralysed policeman, he is only asked for his ID-papers - not a single word of polar bears or the incidence.
In other places in the Arctic, polar bears are usually shot if they get to close. When I discuss this with the WWF polar bear patrol, they wonder why - there is no need to shoot polar bears. It is important that you do not back off, try to look bigger than you are by holding something high above your head. The most efficient way according to Vlad is to point a two metre long stick towards the polar bear. I would not dare to try, but I am certain that Chukchi have a more natural way of handling polar bears, than many other places in the Arctic.
A member of a Russian Polar Bear Patrol warns off a polar bear. Arctic ghost town The first, which struck you when you land at Cape Schmidt, are all empty buildings, enormous amount of metal scrap, and a few helicopter skeletons. Along the coastline, there are numerous ships and empty fuel drums. A bit inland, a wall of cotton wire surrounds an abundant military camp, where most buildings are falling apart. This is a remnant from a time when Soviet Union should conquer the Arctic.
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The great modern exploitation and mapping of Siberia started after the Russian Revolution. Large resources were set aside to find minerals, oil and later on gas.
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The tundra was more or less invaded by geologists and engineers, and the goal was to find new areas to exploit. It started about th, and it was most intense during the decade before the fall of Soviet Union.
rairiffbaclsor.tk Here at Cape Schmidt, a town was built which in the th had almost 10 inhabitants. Most of them were military personnel who should defend Soviet, if America invaded them via Alaska. Then, there were direct flight from Moscow to Cape Schmidt, today there is a flight every other week from Anadyr, the main city of Chukotka. A larger helicopter division was stationed here as well as numerous tanks.
The military personnel are gone now, but the remains are still there. When I walk through Cape Schmidt, it is like passing through a ghost town dressed in white snow. Some buildings are still intact and are used for accommodation, offices or workshops. The new administration building really stands out.
I wonder how it will look like in the summer? Probably very dirty and a lot of scrap will be uncovered when the snow thaws away. To take away and clean up this mess is too expensive and has for the moment low priority. With the changing climate, I wonder which way the Russian Arctic will go? New areas will be exposed for exploration in the sea when the summer sea ice retreats more and more. It includes gas, oil, fishing and in the summer, shipping via the northern Arctic route to and from Europe.
Here WWF can play a major roll in being part in developing security and management system to minimize the effect on nature and native people. Cape Schmidt, Chukotka, Russia. The school with polar bears The sea ice is building up and soon can the polar bears at Wrangel Island head for the mainland, where I am standing. Here, the king of the Arctic will most likely create problems for its inhabitants within the next 14 days. I am visiting the school where the 16 years old Masha Kymylkut was at when she was killed by a polar bear for almost two years ago.
The school is situated at the western edge of the village with an incredible view over the ice-packed ocean, but also over the site where 40 walruses hauled out during the fall. The school has students, of these 50 are living at the school while their parents are reindeer herding Chukchis who spend the winter far inland from the coast. Today, the WWF team is giving a presentation for the older student about climate change and how it affects walruses and polar bears in the Arctic region. We do also explain why WWF thinks it is important to engage in the polar bears of Chukotka.
After the presentation, some of the kids stay on and we have a chat about life in Ryrkaypiy. I had to question them how many of them have ever seen a polar bear?
There are smiles everywhere, and a girl explains that last fall they could count to ten polar bears, at the same time around the school. Some of them were just outside the windows.
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