The Great Day

August 13th, 2010 by Joanne Howl

Krasnoyarsk, Siberia    56.2° N 92.5°E

10:20 PM Siberia; 10:20 AM next day EST

Temp: High:  62°F    Low: 41°F Wind: light    Some fog

Hello from Siberia!  We’ve finally arrived safely and happily in Krasnoyarsk.  Weather is good here.  It’s slightly cool and rainy, without any sign of the smoke and foul air that we’ve heard about from the fires near Moscow.   Apparently western Siberia has escaped the summer’s terrible heat, the drought and the fires that are burning in the west of Russia.  Slava tells me there has been plenty of rain in the past month and lots of cool weather.  So summer is Krasnoyarsk is unchanged from past years, and I’m glad for that.

Hotel for scientists

The Russian fires have impacted this expedition.  We’ve really been delayed.  We originally scheduled our flights out of the eastern United States on Sunday, August 9, with a planned short stop in Moscow to change planes.   However, on Friday, Moscow was covered in smoke.  Flights were being canceled and the US State Department issued an advisory, warning travelers of the risk of flying to Moscow.  We had to cancel our flights and look for another way into Siberia. We were able to come in via Beijing, although it was a long flight with a 10 hour layover in that city.  We arrived in Krasnoyarsk on Thursday the 12th – the day we had originally planned to be in the field.  So we are running a good two days behind schedule.

Yesterday, when we arrived, Slava was at the airport to greet us.   He welcomed me here on “The Great Day”.  It’s a private joke – something about me being in Siberia once again this time of year, I guess.  But it’s a warm joke, and we had fun with the idea.

One thing that happened on The Great Day was the discovery that there was no hot water to be had in the hotel.   Every August, on the days that suit them best, the government shuts down the central water heating facility of the town to complete regular maintenance of the systems.  It’s important work, but it is inconvenient – and cold – to do without hot water.

Maybe we looked particularly dirty and cold, after all our travels, because Slava offered a solution.  He took us to a public bath house, where we were able to rent a little traditional-looking Banya (Russian sauna) for our group.  The three Americans, with Slava as our guide, were able to get warm – actually extremely hot and sweaty – in the sauna.  Then we took a dip in the cold pool.  When we were done we toasted to “The Great Day” and returned to our hotel – cleaned, refreshed and ready for sleep.

This morning we woke up early and went to the Sukachev Institute of Forest.  I met with Slava to discuss the upcoming expedition and to work on some papers we have in progress.  Ross and Bruce met with Russian colleagues to discuss biomass equations and sampling strategy, so Americans and Russians can exchange ideas and learn from each other.  The scientists and foresters here are really the cream of the crop – and we are exceptionally lucky to be working with them.

The internet at the Institute is normally good, but it’s been rather difficult to communicate since we arrived.  The satellite phone drops the call every few minutes, and the internet is kind of moody, too.  We rely on these communications, so I hope we’ll do better out in the field.  One way or another, we’ll make it work.

Our plan for tomorrow is to join up with the Siberian part of our team at the Institute tomorrow morning.  We’ll put our gear in the vehicles then drive to our first camp, about 500 km away, near a town called Balyyr.   We’ll have our first night in the woods then be ready to finally get to work the next morning.

The forecast for the week to come is overcast skies, with low chance of rain.  Temperatures are expected to stay in the 50s and 60s, with a chance of daytime highs rising to the low 70s some days.  It will be great weather for making measurements.  I am looking forward to a good, productive expedition.

The true-color image of western Russia was taken from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite on July 27th, 2010. It shows the numerous fires and vast amount of smoke in the region on that day. By August 6th, smoke was so thick in Moscow that numerous flights were canceled.

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Notes from the Field