The first Сold Conquerors expedition to the Arctic zones of the Sakha Republic has ended. Its participants recorded extreme temperatures in Oymyakon district – -54ºC.
Bloggers, journalists, and photographers lived in tents for two weeks and recorded the lowest possible temperatures away from weather stations and inhabited localities. Read further about how it was and what you need to survive in extreme field conditions.
To find the temperature minimum
The expedition studied the areas with the lowest temperature in two districts: Oymyakon and Verkhoyansk. The experiment participants recorded extremely low temperatures that reach -60ºC at this time of year.
Temperature measurements were carried out according to Roshydromet standards in the base camp using a Stevenson screen. In addition, the participants went by reindeer sleds for measurements in the lowlands every morning.
The minimum air temperature during the measurement period was -54ºC and was recorded in Oymyakon district, which is considered the Pole of Cold in the Northern hemisphere.
Breath of the North
The route to Verkhoyansky district was about 300 km. “These are the roads that we drove for two days almost without stopping. These are roads where you can conceive a child, give birth to it, raise it, and even die. On the way, we got stuck in aufeis (non-freezing areas on temporary roads for winter: Northern rivers and lakes, TASS),” the expedition participant photographer Konstantin Chalabov laughs.
But the main emotions that can be experienced during the expedition, in addition to freezing and fear, are related to the people and nature of the North. “The most fantastic thing is deer. When you ride at night or early in the morning, there are only stars, and snow dust hits you in the face from the deer’s hooves... you see the outlines of their horns, you hear their breath, and all this is illuminated by the stars and the moon. This is probably my most vivid impression,” Konstantin says.
Popular blogger Ilia Voskresensky will remember the life of reindeer herders and nights in a tent at -50ºC for the rest of his life. Despite having stoves, generators, and Wi-Fi, it was not easy to adapt to the cold.
“The first night, when we were brought to the camp, was the most difficult. I was very cold. I didn’t expect it to be this cold. I kept waking up to put wood in the stove. It was difficult to adjust to going to the toilet outside in such temperature. You need to go to the tundra and go for it. Just on the second day, everything got better, I completely immersed myself in the life of reindeer herders,” the blogger says.
“Down parkas won’t help either”
The participants were taught survival skills by local kayur guys: to cut down dry trees and light a fire, to deftly handle a particularly sharp and indispensable in the tundra Yakut knife.
Ilia Voskresensky notes that those who go to the North need to clearly understand where they are going. “You 100% must have sleeping bags made of deerskin. No other shoes than valenki (felt boots) will help. Alaska down parkas won’t help either: you’ll freeze quickly without a reindeer blanket. You should be aware that there is no heated toilet. You need to be mentally prepared for this,” he says.
“You need to move,” Natalia Belyakova, another team member, marketer, journalist, and HSE Associate Professor advises. “If you don’t move, you start getting cold. The peoples of the North have been learning to live in difficult Arctic conditions for centuries. There are no random details in everyday items: the fastening of the sled, the way the reindeer are harnessed... Because these details affect whether you survive or not. This is an age-old wisdom that cut off all unnecessary things and left things you can’t survive without.”
Extreme for the sake of content
Cold Conquerors is an experiment with the participation of volunteers supported by the head of Yakutia Aisen Nikolaev. The authorities expect that the expedition will become an annual event and will help promote the tourism potential of Yakutia as the coldest inhabited place in the world.
Bloggers’ and journalists’ followers were very interested in exotic places, extreme hikes, and Northern life.
“People saw that our country is so huge. I made a very cool show where I show the life of reindeer herders,” says Ilia.
“All equipment is working. We had a few problems with it. I had to stand with a tripod and a camera in this cold. Naturally, my fingers started burning because of the cold. The screen froze and turned black, I couldn’t see the image. I was surprised that the drones worked at sub-zero temperatures. The main thing was to keep the batteries warm. We made very cool content,” Konstantin Chalabov says.
How to sell Northern tourism
Natalia Belyakova is sure that Northern tourism in Yakutia can be made a quality export product.
“This is unique: to feel the extreme cold, go through a survival school, get acquainted with the life of reindeer herders — true cold conquerors. The tour should be 1.5-2 weeks. This is not a one-time contact, but a radical dive,” Belyakova sums up.
At the same time, the tour must take into account environmental trends. “No plastic, with zero impact on nature. Such low temperatures are recorded now, we might not have that in the future,” the expert believes.
The real cold conquerors are local residents who live in such conditions, Belyakova believes. According to the expert, they can make the project interesting.
“In addition to reindeer herding, you can also show extreme Northern horse breeding and traditional crafts. The project has a great future, and it can absolutely be commercial and payback,” Belyakova sums up.
The next stage of the expedition is in 2021 and will last three weeks. Groups will have to rethink how they measure temperature. Digital devices were not very reliable. “Most likely, we will replace them with standard alcohol thermometers,” the head of the expedition, Vyacheslav Ipatiev says.
Natalia Belyakova’s photos