Would you like ham-cheese with your chicken liver?

PB040051 (Medium)

PB040053 (Medium)


At midnight in Khatanga it is sunny and hot. Great for tanning, bad for sleeping.

 We flew in on a two-propeller cargo plane from Krasnoyarsk to Khatanga. A substantial portion of the cargo space was devoted to our expedition’s gear: duffels of food, canvas bags with raft parts, backpacks full of sample bags. The other passengers looked at us like we were crazy. After ferrying the bags from holding room to holding room all day, we were beginning to agree with them.  For the next six and a half hours, through the constant roar of the engines, we jolted and swooped over the expansive Siberian taiga. The stewardess on that rinky dink little airplane was apparently very dedicated to her job, because by the time we landed she had come through the aisle five or six times with her tray of orange sodas and caramels and served us a lunch of celophane-wrapped goodness (see title). The landing itself involved several bounces, which Seth, seated directly across from the landing gear, watched warily through the window, and then, after a long screeching skid, we had arrived.


One of the first things you notice about Khatanga is that there is roughly one store for each inhabitant.  These tiny stores are all open at different times and each carries roughly the same list of goods. Canned goods, dry goods, smoked fish, beer, etc. Our favorite brand of beer so far is called Bagbier (pronounced Bugbier). There are small shacks with three stores on the bottom level. Larger buildings with stores on multiple levels. One building, the Khatanga equivalent of a Wal-Mart, boasts no fewer than 8 stores, including: a suspiciously smelly mini-grocery, a place we think might have been a casino, and an amazing sporting goods store with camouflage suits, machine guns, stuffed wolverines, and posters of bikini-clad AK-47 wielding women on the walls.

Upon arrival yesterday, Volodia took us on a tour of some of the stores so that we could familirize ourselves with the differing milk prices from one end of town to the other and have input on that night’s supper.  Dinner = lunch.  Supper = dinner.  Volodia is a man of discerning taste in all things, especially Cognac.  At each store he examined the bottles, stewed a bit, handed them back, and we moved on.  Finally, at a store next to another store and adjacent to yet another, Volodia purchased two smoked fish and a bottle of the finest Cognac that Khatanga has to offer.  At supper, Anton found the glasses and Valodia observed, “In France, they drink Cognac only after the meal, but in Russia, we drink before, during, and after!” After a short pause, Seth said “aren’t we in Russia?”  We drank. 

 The toilet at “The Geologists’ Barracks” can only be flushed with a bottle of water. A big bottle of water.  Although Seth was responsible for this discovery, in no way was he the cause of the malfunction (editor’s note: this is what Seth claims, anyway. 2ns editors note: The first editor knows the second editor is innocent!!). 

Roma, Volodia, Anya, and Anton spent today preparing for the field–gathering equipment and boats, making arrangements for the helicopter, and registering with the local authorities. The Americans helped out in whatever ways we could. At one point, Volodia said maybe we would take a hovercraft upstream to the Maymecha, but that idea was eventually scrapped in favor of the [slightly] more reliable, but more expensive, helicopter.

We now plan to take motorboats up the Kotuy on either Thursday the 9th or Friday the 10th–everyone is very eager to start sampling.


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