Another day starts in the Russian Far East. Lars is lying among tundra flowers, James collects pebbles from the beach, Sergey is fishing salmons, Chris points the telescope at a bear, Rapa clambers up the highest rock, Richard follows us with his 600 mm lens, Brad collects the leg of an arctic hare, Daniil swallows wild blueberries, Conrad keeps time, the Zodiacs are still on the shore, and the beautiful Silver Discoverer observes us all at a distance.
14th August, fourteenth day of navigation aboard Silver Discoverer. This is not a cruise.
A geologist, an anthropologist, a naturalist, a birder, a historian, an expert on climatic changes, a sailor and explorer of Russian origin – they all spend most of the year aboard ships in expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctic and South Pacific Oceans, and today they are with us aboard this small ship in the remote Far East. Thirty-one passengers and nearly a hundred crew men and women – the ship can embark just 120 people – having an adventure together in an authentic and pure place, the most eastern cape of the Russian Far East, practically unexplored. This is not a cruise.
During an expedition you walk along bears’ paths in the low tundra – a soft thick elastic carpet made of lichens and wild berries and flowers. Brown and blonde bears of northern Kamchatka run along the slopes as soon as they sense human sounds and smell, in a land where man still hunts them. You breathe and talk quietly, and squeeze along the track, in order to keep a privileged view on mother bear and her cubs among bushes and canyons.
This is a green land made of bays, rivers full of fish (wild red salmons are still born and die in these waters), private lagoons, fiords, icy lakes and cliffs inhabited by colonies of sea birds. It is a land of reindeer farmers who wear buckskin clothes, and of small fishing villages, but not the same as we would imagine. Narrow-eyed Chukchi and Koryaks, as well as Russians with sky-blue eyes, live here. Villages have a thousand and five hundred inhabitants, six hundred of whom are children. They offer us fresh caviar, smoked salmon, expensive reindeer meat, fish soup, whale sticks, and cookies. What other people do as a sport – fishing and hunting – these people do for a living. The village will still be celebrating when our small fleets leave the shore.
Aboard the ship everybody waits for news about the next time they will go ashore and start exploring. Life onboard is fantastic and very busy. Blueberry pancakes and homemade muesli for breakfast, smoked salmon and cream cheese. History lessons, botany lessons, every kind of lessons. Hot scones with jam and cream at teatime and hot chocolate every time you come back wet from the agile black Zodiacs. Cinema and pop corn after dinner. Gym and spa treatments. On a warm sunny morning in Kamchatka the whole ship gets ready for a slow summer afternoon. We drop anchor in the nicest bay of the region, fill the round pool and serve beer, hamburgers and ice-creams on the deck. Australians go surfing. We will not leave the pool deck till late night and have dinner wrapped up in orange woollen blankets, under a full moon. The picture of this expedition is a group image on a boundless landscape. A compact group of individuals who find inspiration in the nature, along with continual amazement, and share their discoveries to make this place their own. A place still visited by a very few explorers.
Words and pictures Meraviglia Paper. Voyage 9412, “The Great Northern Expedition”, 31st July – 14th August, 2014, Nome to Nome, AK. Special thanks to Captain Denis Radja and to the whole Expedition Team: Conrad Combrink (Expedition Leader), Prof. James Floyd (Lecturer), Christian Walter (Historian), Chris Culter (General Naturalist), Claudia Holgate (Environmentalist), Lars Rasmussen (Lecturer), Victoria Salem (Lecturer), Richard Sidey (Photographer), David Wright (Guest Photographer), Daniil Elterman (Assistant Expedition Leader), Nicki D’Sousa (Assistant Expedition Leader), Akvilé Marozaité (Cruise Consultant), Brad Siviour (Expedition Team Member), Nikki Golightly (SPA Manager), Dominic del Rosario, Kia Coupland and anyone we forgot to mention, to our Butler Arpit Kapoor and our Suite Attendant Leeam Napila Saavedra. Special thanks to Tiziana Fabbro, Alessandra Cabella, Maria Grazia Cangelli (Silversea), to Cara Chapman (PCC – Perowne Charles Communications).