Progress Report No. 5

Map relating to this progress report
Map 1

PB Friday Night. July 30th 2004

We're just now leaving Saint Laurence Bay, after a big disappointment.

An Australian TV Crew, whom we had met in Anadyr, had told us that they were flying on to a whaling festival here. We had high hopes of having an interesting time in a native Chukchi village, lots of people coming in from other villages, an antidote to downtown Anadyr. For two days, 350 miles, we had made good time, the prospect of the festival lending wings to our passage. There are two main groups of rural Chukchi, the inland reindeer people and the shore people, fishermen and whalers. It was these latter that we expected to meet.

Additionally the area has big ( white-mans ) history. The bay was so named by Captain James Cook when he came in here to anchor on St. Laurence's Day, whenever that is. Captain Bob Bartlett had in May of 1914 sledged across its frozen water as he went for help to rescue his shipwrecked men from the stricken ship Karluk.

With such fine thoughts we rounded into the bay, only to find a very industrial town, which might charitably be described as being 'not in the best of condition'. The radar antennas and domes on the hill behind are presumably military. Slava, our IcePilot, spoke to someone there on the Radio. We heard the word 'documents'-No Sir, we've had enough of that for the time being. We raised sail again and put to sea.

To go back to our time in Anadyr, our Port of Entry into Russia. On the second day the formalities continued. In fact they never stopped. By the time we had satisfied all entry requirements, we were planning our departure-probably for 6 A.M on the next day, Wednesday-not a hope! We had got our diesel tanks filled, but the water tanker hadn't turned up. And the process of Clearing and paying for the diesel and water took another half day. Interestingly, the water cost as much as the diesel.

But in all of this the people were as friendly as could be, indeed sometimes too much so. Nikolay Kovalskiy, Port Captain, gave Colm and myself a great run down on the area, both on the maps in his office and driving us around.

Abromivich is pouring money into the place; construction is non- stop. All buildings are built on piles driven into the permanently frozen ground .The old Soviet five story apartments are being renovated.( Throughout the former Soviet Union there were two apartment block designs, either a 'fiver' or a 'niner'). New buildings are being built apace, hospital, schools, community centre, roads, all landscaped. What a contrast from the old town.

After our first night in the international- type hotel, we decided to go 'local' the next night. It wasn't too bad at all, but one of our phrase-books had the apt phrase, "Is the waiter dead?"

Now again at sea, we're settling well in. We've had no hard weather yet. Slava seems happy. Talking about survival, he had a lovely Russian phrase, " The last thing that goes is hope".

We got a sat-phone call from our 'delivery crew', enjoying themselves in Moscow, on their way home. Kenny Lavelle has been taking good care of them. Thank you Kenny.

Cape Deznev, the most easterly point in Asia at the Bering Strait, is now 30 miles ahead. There we will turn north-westward, and hope that the Sea-Ice Gods will be good to us.

Micheal Brogan writes on Wildlife:

One of the thrills of the Arctic is the diversity of the wildlife and its hard to beat the unexpected appearance of a whale blowing close to the Boat for a shiver down the spine. Sometimes its just a flitting encounter and when they really perform its something special. As I write, a large whale surfaces on our starboard bow followed by two boats [Umiaks] of Chuchki, out of nowhere.? We follow at a discreet distance. . This is the Whaling season and hunting is allowed in the traditional way with agreed quotas per habitation per year. This Whale seems to have escaped , for the moment at least?. In the last 3 days we have seen Beluga, Bowheads ,Humpback. .All the usual birds including a Stellars Sea Eagle chasing a flock of Auks. We will hopefully cross the Arctic Circle later tonight and into the territory of the Walrus, Ice [Polar] Bear, and many of Gods other smaller ,but equally exotic creatures. It's a privilege to be here. More later . Michael Brogan.65.48N 170.06W

End of progress report no. 5