Six months ago, in September 2016, the Nizhny Novgorod journalist Alexei Veledinsky surprised his acquaintances with the news of moving to the Kamchatka Territory, to the Komandorski Islands. Alexey told Life around about his work as a press secretary, island life and the situation with reserves in Russia.
In the spring of 2016, I started looking for work outside of Nizhny Novgorod - I wanted to go somewhere very far away. There were several goals: to understand yourself, to understand what to do next; try myself on a new path - since 2012 I worked as a journalist, but over time, for a number of reasons, this work ceased to be fun. At the end of August, Ilya Shamazov, my friend with whom we worked at Novaya Gazeta, sent me a link to the vacancy of a press secretary for the Komandorsky nature reserve. I read everything that I managed to find in a couple of days, about the islands and the reserve, did a test task. Then there were negotiations with the director of the reserve Anastasia Kuznetsova, and already on September 17 I was sitting in the Strizha carriage with all my belongings and a ticket for the 18th for the Moscow-Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky flight.O. Hatchet, view from the copter
How to get to the islands
Difficult. I would single out two main obstacles on the way: the climatic features of the North Pacific, the region where the Commander Islands are located, and problems with infrastructure. On the way to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, you don’t feel this: the Swift takes 3.5 hours to Moscow, the plane takes 8 hours, and you land in one of the most beautiful places on the planet - on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
In the summer schedule for the Commanders are two planes per week, one side flies in winter. But the realitynot consistent with schedules
Yelizovo Airport is located in a valley between two mountain ranges that stretch across Kamchatka. The plane lands from the south, from the Avacha Bay, and chains of volcanoes (here they are called hills) with snow-capped peaks descend from their river slopes ... And then the fun part begins: you are sitting in the official apartment of the Komandorsky nature reserve in Petropavlovsk -Kamchatsky and wait for the weather to allow the plane, a light piston twin-engine L-410, to get to the Commander. I was lucky - I waited only ten days, managed to help with the "Sea of Life", a large festival dedicated to marine life.
The infrastructure problem becomes apparent when you finally get to Bering Island - the largest and only inhabited (about 700 people live in the village of Nikolsky) island of the Komandorsky archipelago. The runway of the local airfield is unpaved, and the islands are not just called the land of winds and fogs. Today, the wind does not allow a light aircraft to land, tomorrow the strip is washed away by rain, the day after tomorrow - again the wind. In the summer schedule there are two planes a week, in winter one board flies. But reality does not agree with the timetables: in March 2017 there was only one plane, in February - also one. There is still a ship, but it runs irregularly - due to frequent storms in the Pacific Ocean.
Once again I will say: I was very lucky with the road, and this does not happen to everyone and not always. In the spring of 2016, our director spent a month and a half in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky waiting for a ship or plane. And in 2015, flew up to the island a couple of times and, circling over the village, returned back - the plane simply could not land due to the side wind.Nikolskoe village, view from the copter
Life on the island
Some of my colleagues are very homesick for the mainland, urban frantic rhythm, trees that do not grow on the Commanders, even the noise of cars. But this does not apply to me. I think life experience plays a role - in childhood I lived in a village for a long time, not to say that it was deaf, but not the most accessible: a store twice a week - that’s all my life.
Here, in the village of Nikolskoye, there are seven stores, they accept cards almost everywhere (in one of them there is a new terminal, and I use Apple Pay), there is the Aleutskaya Zvezda newspaper, published since the 1930s, the post office and the office of Sberbank, a hospital, a school, a public gym and even a multifunctional center where I am going to order my passport. Life on the Commander Islands is better than in the average Russian village. In Russia, there are places where six months of the year can only be reached by helicopter, where there are no hospitals, and often schools. And people live there.
Life on the Commander Islands it is betterthan in the average Russian village.
Even in the village there is an Ethnocultural Center for Leisure and Creativity (ETsDT). Mass events are held there - from evening discos for school students to concerts on March 8, February 23 and other holidays. I can not say anything bad or good about these amusements - I am not the biggest lover of mass events. And in Nizhny Novgorod, I, besides the theater, the Sputnik cinema club, the Drama_talk project in the Bezukhov cafe and some lectures, didn’t go anywhere else - I prefer to watch movies and read at home. I can only note that people willingly go to ECDS and as spectators, and as participants — they sing, dance, and stage. It's great.
I think it will be very revealing to inform, for example, the price of one chicken egg - 14 rubles. Everywhere you buy dozens of eggs, and here - either in pieces, or immediately in trays of three dozen in each. Meat from 700 rubles, chicken a little cheaper. But the fish costs a penny - where else for 200 rubles do you buy three-kilogram salmon or a kilogram of red caviar for 1300 rubles?
Where else for 200 rubles will you buy three-kilogram salmon or a kilogram of red caviar for 1300 rubles?
However, it can be even cheaper: salmon come to spawn in the rivers of Bering Island - from very small char to huge coho salmon carrying 500-800 grams of red caviar. 200 rubles worth a license to catch three tails. You can pick mussels all year long on reefs during low tide. Pasta with tomato, garlic, milk and fresh mussels is very tasty.
The biggest problems here are with dairy products and fresh herbs. The rest, if the stores form sufficient warehouse balances, is always available.
Whales, killer whales and a bit of routine
Of course, the most amazing thing in my work is access to the sea. I haven’t been to big salt water for eight years, but here it is. In the Komandorsky nature reserve, during the navigation period of small vessels, which is usually open from April to November, scientists are waiting for the sea weather every day. When the excitement is not strong, it does not rain and thick fog does not hang (and these three conditions rarely occur for one day), you need to go to sea to conduct census of cetaceans, other marine life, and birds. I visited this account in October 2016 - we reached Cape Monati, the southernmost point of the island, where we stopped for lunch.
We are sitting in a boat, the engine is muffled, a small, up to half a meter, unstable, and humpback whales feed around. About a dozen - females, cubs, males. They dive, start fountains, swim around the boat. These are very sensitive and intelligent creatures, neat - they will not allow for their part anything that could harm us and our ship. Although there are cases when a whale jumped out of the water onto the deck of a ship ...
In our water area, 21 species of cetaceans were recorded, most often you can see humpback whales, sperm whales, killer whales, Japanese smooth, white-winged guinea pigs. There are still rookeries of seals - northern fur seals, sea lions. In some areas, the lodging house is located a five-minute walk from the rookery, on which, without exaggeration, thousands of animals - they scream, sleep, go to sea and return to land, give birth, grow and die. The sight is amazing. And the island tundra itself is beautiful - streams, swamps, mountains, hills. And all this is full of life: birds, arctic foxes, reindeers, minks. The Komandorski Islands have a depleted fauna, so meeting a bear or a wolf here will not work, no matter how hard you try, but there are hundreds of birds - only species.VIDEO: Ivan Rybakov
Fortunately, I have an irregular working day - as was the case in Nizhny Novgorod. I come to work between 10 and 11 in the morning, I usually go home around eight, sometimes later. In winter, it was difficult to make trips to the island, but now, with the beginning of the field season, I will often visit both the tundra and the sea: I have already submitted the documents for permission to enter the ocean to the border service. There is, of course, a routine - where would it be without it. But here I feel that I am doing something important, or at least worthy. If you exaggerate a little, you can imagine the situation as follows: the reserve is wonderful and good, but even better when people know about it and its work; this knowledge can grow, be reborn into a love of nature. Then our descendants will have a chance to live their lives on the green-blue planet Earth, and not on a huge dump - a monument to the oil era.Humpback Whale Tail Humpback whale
About the Commander
Once our office was located in the same building as the Russian Post, the Ministry of Emergencies and other structures. Then an apartment was bought and converted into a visit center, where you can conduct environmental education classes with children, keep a literary fund, analyze scientific data, wash yourself after a long trip to the island in the end. In this apartment, by the way, I now live. And the reserve moved to a two-story building, where in Soviet times, sea kale collected on the coast was processed. The building was lifted literally from the ruins: there was not a single whole window, in some places reinforced concrete walls exposed the reinforcing cage, which began to rust. It is no wonder that air humidity is always more than 95%, and the average annual wind speed is 16 m / s.
The 50/50 team is formed of local and visitors from different parts of our truly immense (I saw from the airplane window!) Motherland. Researchers are all visitors: an ornithologist - from Donetsk; biologist, specialist in marine mammals - from the Primorsky Territory, as well as a botanist; a teriologist, specialist in marine invertebrates and our director are from Moscow. And the deputy director for scientific work, Yevgeny Mamaev, who has been living and working on the islands since the beginning of the 90s, came from Kirov. There, even under the Union, Sergey Marakov taught, a scientist, photographer, and a man who was one of the first to seriously talk about the need to create a reserve here. Now "Commander" bears his name.Harbor Old Harbor Harbor Old Harbor
Reserves in Russia
Our reserve system is 100 years old, but there is one very big problem: few people take reserves seriously, both in society and in power. The system still rests on the shoulders of enthusiasts who are not indifferent to the nature and future of mankind, who are ready to leave their small homeland and plunge headlong into work somewhere at the edge of the world. Enthusiasts, their work is wonderful, but systematic organized work is sorely lacking. It needs to be changed.
I don’t want to compare us with other countries, but it’s difficult to avoid it: the system of US national parks is, of course, the standard - there is a place for the protection of the pristine nature, cognitive tourism, and science. The society has formed an idea why specially protected natural areas are needed and why it is necessary to be more attentive to nature - both in nature reserves, and in your native city, state, on the street and in the courtyard of the house. And in Canada, for example, migrants in some cases are given, along with documents permitting residence in the country, a ticket by which you can visit several national parks for free so that a person can share the values that society values.Lionfish Beringian sandboxes Female sea otter Females of the Northern fur seal
Departure as a life reboot
There is no better place than the Commanders to figure out what to do next. How to live, how to react to certain events in personal life and public life.
My character has not changed (I’ve lost only fifteen kilograms here), but my attitude to some things has changed - it has become drier, more seasoned, calm. Here, in a pristine, almost undamaged place, you understand very well: you are only a small grain of sand on the seashore. Waves come, carries you higher, and at low tide everything returns to its place to start this leapfrog again.