Weblog: Dr. Jon Ranson in Siberia

Saturday, July 28, 2007

From Evenkiyskiy Region, Siberia, 8:25 p.m. Siberia (8:25 a.m. EDT)

The past twelve days were a swirl of activity for Jon Ranson. He spent a week in Florida collaborating on the design of a new generation of NASA Earth-observing satellites. A day’s rest and repacking at his Maryland home, then off to an international convention in Barcelona, Spain. From there he launched on this expedition. After three flights and almost a full day of travel he landed in Siberia.

Jon was greeted by his colleague Slava Kharuk at Krasnoyarsk Airport. They spent the day attending to last-minute details, including a shopping trip for boots and other gear for Jon, whose bag was lost in travel. Then it was off to the hotel for a short night’s rest before departure for Tura, where his team will board a helicopter to take them to their first camp site on the Kochechum River.

At midnight Jon was startled awake in his hotel by explosions just outside his window. Fortunately, they were the booms and bright lights of a wedding celebration—great for newlyweds, but not so good for weary travelers. But not every expedition begins with such an exciting send off. So today Jon is sleepy, but happy and eager to get started.

  Photograph of the team as they're about to depart from Tura, Russia, July 28, 2007.

From Jon Ranson

Hello to all! We are now above the Arctic Circle!

It is fantastic to be here, and how beautiful it is! The sky is sunny and blue with a few clouds. It is warm with a good breeze at times. We’ve set up camp on a rocky gravel sandbar beside the Kochechum River. I see green forest all around and there are big moose tracks going through our camp.

The ride in was good. We crammed the big M8 helicopter full of gear, so it was a pretty tight fit for everyone. One of the crew rode in the back with us. When we came in for a landing, he threw open the door and jumped out while we were about a foot off the ground! He scurried around us, moving rocks and making sure the landing area was safe. As soon as we touched down, all hands tossed the gear out. Within ten minutes the helicopter was gone.

On the way in, we had circled to survey the area. We are in the middle of forest but not like the forest I’m used to. The trees are quite small and very far apart. Both the high latitude and the soil conditions play a role in this type of tree growth pattern.

Our camp is close to the base of a small mountain. We’ll do a transect up it tomorrow. We’ll start at the bottom, then working our way up the mountain we’ll measure tree size, how many trees are in a given area, how old they are, and how fast they have been growing over the last 40 years. We should get some good data on how the forest changes due to elevation and also due to warmer temperatures.

Right now two of our Russian colleagues are putting the boats together and making sure they work. One is brand new—they took it right out of the box! Slava is setting nets for fish. We need the fresh protein to supplement the food we brought. It’s easy to see he’s happy to be underway. We’re all very excited. It’s always great to start an expedition.


The expedition team is pictured here on the helipad in Tura on July 28 beside the M8 helicopter that flew them to their start point above the Arctic Circle. From left to right: Slava Kharuk, Paul Montesano, Sergei Im, Pasha Oskorbin, Jon Ranson, and Guoqing Sun.