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"The beauty one is not able to tell about!" | Parachute expedition to the North Pole


"The beauty one is not able to tell about!"

March. The Shrovetide. Farewell to the winter. The sunshine warms the Earth pleasantly. It is damp and spring-muddy outside. And there where a group of journalists from Moscow gathered it's a real winter, snow, ice and the holiday which is possible only in three points of the Earth. The female half of the group knows where to go to celebrate their holiday - to the Archangelsk province - to one of the places which the Nature has given us being so generous.

Every year from time immemorial at the same time in the beginning of March hundreds thousands of Greenland seals come to the mouth of the White Sea. Only in 40-50 minutes of flight a wonderful mystery happens - ones of the most beautiful creatures on Earth are born -the white young of the seals. These white fluffy little lumps with big sad eyes do not leave nobody indifferent.

The Greenland seal are bent to the ice. They return from year to year to a definite place on ice often to the place where they were born. The cows climb out to a ice-floe fat and round because of a fat layer to bring forth her only baby.

Seal cub and his mother
Photo made by A.Polyakov
It's very important for the future mother to choose an ideal place on ice for the confinement. Too close to the edge and the baby can be washed away by a wave or it can fall down through melting ice; too far and the mother can lose it or cannot be able to preserve open the ice-holes giving access to water what is neccessary for her to live. The ice fields are in constant motion. There is always a danger for a helpless baby to be crushed by a ice-floe. After the birth the cow tries to learn the smell and the voice of her baby, because she will feed and care solely about it. A devoted and zealous mother, she regularly returns through her ice-holes to her baby to feed it. Her increadibly nutritiuos milk contains about 50 percent of fat so her baby is growing very rapidly accumulating about 2 kilogrammes of weight a day. The little seal loses her white fur-coat approximately in two weeks when it starts to lose its colour.

Minor Karely
Photo made by author
Namely them visited the journalists from Moscow and Archangelsk during the March holidays in the framework of the brand-new programme "Visit the new-born seal". The essence of the programme is organisation of tourist routes through the Archangelsk region including the visits of the seals' maternity hospital. The idea is not new - a similar project is being realized for many years on Magdalena Isles of Canada. It functions so good that the inhabitants earn from the tourist industry much more money than from the traditional seal hunting. It's straight after Russian proverb "both sheep are safe and wolves are sated". They have only one problem with tourism: there is nothing to show there besides the seals' young. An other situation is with us in Archangelsk region. Archangelsk itself in the beginning of March is a city full of wonderful beauty, famous "Malye Karely" (Minor Karely) an open air museum of wooden architecture, Solovetski Archipelago, a local tourist firm may invent an additional programme - a creative ideas have no limits.

As for development of such forms of communication with nature in its primeval appearance, so it is at the present time and for the future the most rapidly developing direction of tourism all over the world and not to use such unique natural fenomenon located so close to the human civilisation is simply not resonable. The more so that the problem of attraction of additional out-of-budget means for enhancing social protection of Nordic peoples is a long outworn theme.

The task for the participants of the expedition was to see everything with their own eyes and to tell about their impressions to all who is indifferent to native nature. Perhaps it was the first real attempt to guide an ecological-touristic group here in Russia and as the experimental persons namely journalists as the most hard to pleased people at the present time. The task for the programme organizers was much more crucial - to guide the group through the route, to work out all programme nuances, especially those connected with guiding people on the ice of the White Sea and with contacts to the seal young, bearing in mind maximal comfort and safety for the guests. Because the ice of the White sea is far from that in Canada or at the North Pole. The narrow sea mouth, strong winds and currents increase the ice drift and collapse of large ice fields. Experts of the non-commercial sports organization "Polar World" - the organizers os the unusual expedition know what the life on ice is not by hearsay, the have work in Arctic latitudes behind them. Experience of Polar explorers who drifted on ice of the Arctic Ocean at scientific stations and advices of experienced northerners are given a special attention.

All neccessary licences were obtained, lack of confidence in local population who hates the journalists greedy for 'black' or 'hot' facts was almost overcome. All possible nuances seem to be taken into consideration, the organizer guys tremble for every participant (the more for the female perticipants) and seem to have instructed every participant on the rules of behaviour on ice to an automation, but what to do - the safety is over all!

In two hours of flight we find ourselves in the realm of a real winter. Archangelsk meets us with a light frost of about -20 degrees ans a driving snow. Tomorrow is the 8 March and the men of the group small in number considered how to arrange an unforgettable celebration for their pen-girlfriends.

Photo made by author
The celebration began with visit of the Minor Karely. A known place, but there was a lot of work for the camera people of ORT and NTV companies, and the RIA-News photographer Alexander Polyakov was so exaggerated that everyone had to be slightly worried thinking he got lost. He appeared in the hotel only to the festival table: "Sorry, too much work..."

Built without a single nail Northerners' izbas among age-old firs, wooden churches and a bell-tower with its wonderful ringing of bells in the frost, horse riding and the famous B.N. Yeltsin's swing, an izba where the "beautiful Mila" from the TV-advertisment gives milk to whole family.

"Both frost and sun and a wonderful day..."and one gets from the frost into the tea house where a Northern beauty with a Grandmother's sarafan will bring you a smoking samovar with a tea of twelve grasses and traditional Archangelsk honeycakes "kozyuli" which are so fine that one grudges to eat them.

Folklore group
Photo made by V.Gulin
Closer to the evening the journalists attacked a local Notherners' folklore group - Notherners' songs, dances, clothes of the grand-grandmothers of the 18 century - everything evoked delight and fascination. A young soloist girl having tortured with requestst to sing once more, was left without voice for some two days, a the head of the expedition Oleg Prodan having recalled his youth could not withstand and took from the local musicians a balalaika and surprised the guys with a daring folk melody:"And that's that guesr from the capital!" Of course,the celebration day finished at the round table with raising glasses for the beautiful ladies ang presenting local souvenirs and plans for tomorrow.

Peak of the route was accomodation in a real Notherners' village Verkhnyaya Zolotitsa and going out on ice to the seals young. The sound and snow-covered village surprised us with its beauty and cleanliness. Snow-drifts up to windows, transparent air, frozen river Zolotitsa with ice-holes like in the folk-tale "After the Pike's Dictates", silence and quietness surprised not only the Muskovites, but the guys from the Archangelsk TV company. How much beauty we don't notice around us,here quite close to hard urban rythm of life we have the primeval nature. And only now we begin to understand of what we are deprived in our mad modern life. The journalist youth of Archangelsk finds time then and there to make arrangements with the lokal: "such a beauty,maybe we can come here in summer for vacancy!" Here we have the origins of spontaneuos tourism!

But it's only beginning of positive emotions. In one hour after having accomodated and changed the clothes in the village the group is picked up by a helicopter, which has to put down the bold journalists on ice straight to the seals. To the journalist company local school-children joint - for them it's also a gift - the young Northerners living side-by-side with the seals had no chance to visit them. The support group is enforced by the inspector of the Archangelsk Fish Inspection Board. Aleksandr Kharitonov goes out on the ice of White Sea in March not the first year already and his experience will be useful for the group, besides he has to check up on the ubiquitos journalists for they won't unintentionally hurt the seals babies in the heat of the work or overwhelming emotions. But worries turned out to be in vain. The presence among these wonderful and touching little animals itself causes the man to find in the depth of his rational modern soul the most tender and fine feelings - don't hurt and don't a harm. In 30 minutes of the flight the head of the expedition Oleg Prodan and the commander of the helicopter Nikolay Pakhomov started to search for a suitable ice-floe. The Northerners' and the pilots' accounts proved to be correct - the ice is very complicated this year, the warm spring and strong Southern winds destroyed large ice fields and under us are only separate rather small ice-floes with ice-hummocks at edges. But there are seals, a lot of them and finally we find a proper ice-floe. The helicopter hangs over the center of the ice-floe not disturbing the seals, they are at the edge and do not pay any attention to the arrival of the big iron bird. In few minutes after landing the party the helicopter leaves us for a nearest coast.From here the coast of the Kolsky Peninsula is seen in some 15 kilometres.. For some moments there is a silence, then all of us understand - it happened! We hear wonderful sounds around us - the ice-floe lives, babies call for their mothers. This call will be in memory of all participants of the expedition for a long time. The first shock passes away and a bustle begins, it seems that there will be not enough time to contact the seals and to do everything planned. But the worries are in vain. The seal are at home and like cordial hosts they kindly allow to touch their babies, it seems they understand that these people came to them with peace.

Seal cub
Photo made by A.Polyakov
They are similar to us all having different characters: some don't want to contact and growl angrily requesting not to be disturbed. Such one must be quietly avoided. An other is on the contrary curious and bold and hurries himself towards you. The third is full of the mother's milk and looks like a fluffy pillow with big eyes. He doesn't even want to look at you, and does not to move himself at all. Everything around them is watched by considerate mothers. It is very difficult to withstand a clever pensive look of a careful seal cow. She seems to ask you -be kind to us and do no harm to my baby. She seems to feel your mood: here Irina a camera-woman of ORT takes her videos at a white seal baby, its mother watches it quite without worry to crawl straight towards the camera and to touch Irina's hand.

Seal cub and his mother
Photo made by A.Polyakov
One wish doesn't stop to follow you - just to sit down near these nice animals and think about yourself and the world. Only good and light thoughts are flying around you, and this wonderful "MAMA" coming from all sides. People! If you want to recall that you are kind, if you want to feel joy and tenderness, then search for a possibility to sit among this miracle and to touch it like we did - the children of civilisation.

And what about our Northerners' children? At first they were timid before the adults, stopped their emotions, and then, when the control of video- and photocameras disappeared, they crawled between the seals, touched the babies and spoke to adults. One such lesson would exchange an annual school programme of bringing up love to nature. They will return to the village and will proudly tell interrupting each other "remember that, did you see those, and this touched straight my hands, so ticklish...",and their friend will envy them and dream about a possibility for the next year to be able to do so as well.

Let's emotions be emotions, but the organizers of the expedition and the fish inspector assisting them cannot relax for a minute. Everything is under control and the helicopter can pick up the group at any moment. A continuous cobtact with it is the task of the expedition's radio-operator Roman Levichev. The doctor Mikhail Mayorov watches at first everybody with the same attention, but also he cannot withstand and runs to take babies' photographs and becomes a photo-model, the babies seem to like him and they sit together and with pleasure for a portrait. He, beind an old Polar wolf , obtained for these short hours so much emotions that it will be enought for several year in future, but he is ready to come here to-morrow again.

Three hours passed away unnoticed, and our ladies began to get frozen.(they were told that the most important thing on the ice-floe are warm shoes, but they didn't believe it).They don't think of work if legs are cold - call for the helicopter, and that's all. It's really time to go. Enough the good and it's enough to bother the hosts.

The small ice camp was quickly closed, the radio-operator called for the helicopter and in several minutes all sat in the warm helicopter's saloon warmed up by the impressions and 50 ml of vodka - the doctor ordered for the preventive treatment. As things turned out, while being on the ice-floe we drifted toward the Barents Sea entire 13 kilometres. We were met with questions in the village - how and what? There were so much reports about our impressions that talks with local inhabitants lasted long after midnight. For journalists the main thing is contacts with the people, therefore they asked the local grandmothers about past and present life, how they survive in our evil times, when transports to the regional town are once a week, and the ticket price costs almost entire pension. We collected materials for many articles, when could we live so without fuss in the house of real Northerners.

Next morning the nature presented us with else one gift - a real frost up to 30 degrees, sunshine and full calm. The bright white snow made our eyes hurt being unaccustomed. The last walk through the village, last snapshots as a memory and the helicopter brings the group to Archangelsk. Back to the rhythm of the urban bustle, noise of cars, back to problems. But the faces of journalists are fully different. The charge of goodness obtained among the white ices as I hope will give to heir lives something new.

Photo made by author
I would like to believe that nature arranged such a gift to us not in vain. We should not drop and lose it in our mad run, we should share it what we got with others. Jesus, how much I want to get there again with new friends. Exactly in one year everything will repeated again. So ordered the nature. And I hope the others will tell their friends and acquaintances that there is such a wonderful place, where the new-born white seals young cry "mama" and that makes a great change in all your life.

Moscow - The White Sea Mouth
March 2000
"Polar World" Oleg Prodan

North Pole
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