Unfortunately due to a lack of Wifi, I have been unable to post these blogs as they happened, however we are still in Russia so it sort of counts…
We spend most of the first couple of days travelling… After leaving Edinburgh at 8am on Friday, we arrived in Moscow, via Heathrow, at 6pm (+2 hours BST) and waited in the very hot and busy Domodedevo airport for over 5 hours until our domestic flight to Khanty-Mansiysk. Khanty-Mansiysk is in West Siberia and is nearly 3000 km from Moscow. We arrived on Saturday morning, 6am (+5 hours BST) to be unexpectedly greeted by our colleagues from CEH and Forest Research, Jill Thompson and Mike Smith. They were at the airport after a few days in K-M and were heading on the next leg of their journey to Spasskaya in the east of Russia. We were collected by Evgeniy who drove us to Shapsha field station where we were shown our rooms and given a chance to catch up on some much needed sleep!
Feeling a little refreshed after a short rest, we met with Elena Lapshina, who is the Station Manager, and discussed what the field stations we planned to visit were like, and what the best plan for the next week would be. Our primary collection is a fine scale mapped population of Pinus sylvestris in the peat bogs near to the Mukhrino Field Station. This site is south-west of the town of Khanty-Mansiysk, and is approximately 10 km from the nearest road. In the Winter it is reached by snow-mobile, and in the Spring/Autumn by boat along the river. However after the driest Summer in 150 years, the water level is too low to go by boat and so we walked (with our rucksacks collected later by the argocat). It was a beautiful walk across flood plains, through pristine forest and over occasional shallow streams. We saw lots of wildlife including a badger, red squirrels, lizards, an adder, a water-rat, butterflies and lots of mosquitoes and other irritating winged creatures… The field station is in a wonderful location, and is utterly tranquil. It even has a banya (sauna) which we were encouraged to use every evening! Although remote it does have wifi, although this relies on a wind turbine (which isn’t currently working) or solar panels. Alternatively there is a generator although there were some problems with this also while we were there. However the long light evenings mean this isn’t a big problem and apart from an inability to reliably communicate it didn’t impact at all.
After a long couple of days we were given the chance to relax for a few hours, drinking beer by the fire after using the banya, and eating delicious home-made soup.