June 25th — My house, Amsterdam
I have spent the past two weeks in constant hyper-focus mode, making last minute preparations for fieldwork and wrapping up teaching duties and manuscript writing before departure. It was going to be a close call but we managed to finish building our custom made gas sampling chambers and pack everything in a somewhat orderly way. In contrast to last year, when we sent a shipment of hardware and sensors ahead of us by cargo plane, this year we had to ship several items that are not technically allowed on aircrafts, such as car batteries and very large boardwalks. So in March already, a truck headed to Chokurdakh from Yakutsk to have some materials transported for us and the other researchers working at the site while the roads weren’t melted yet (imagine that!). All the other equipment we are bringing on the plane.
So, I am at my flat, with two big cases of equipment and personal luggage for 6 weeks, and by sheer determination, I managed to fit everything into our combined checked luggage. The equipment includes, among many things, this new gas flux chamber system and an RTK-GNSS system. We will use the collars and chambers to quantify methane fluxes in the tundra, in areas of various permafrost degradational stadia. The RTK-GNSS system will provide us with cm-accuracy coordinates and altitude, which allows us to accurately monitor topographical changes in our site, and to gather high-accuracy ground-truthing data for our satellite images. These two aspects, impacts on the greenhouse gas balance and the use of remote sensing data, are two of the favourite aspects of my work, so I am really looking forward working on this coming season.
Based on my experiences from last year I am also bringing way more tea and chocolate than I did last time. My luggage smells like coffee and ginger, which I am sure is going to be a source of zen at the field site. The research is important, but in the end I am going to be out there for 7 weeks, so investing in my wellbeing rather than only in equipment seemed to make sense.
June 26th — Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
Flying is always an exciting moment. It means giving up control over all the things that you could have arranged better and could have done differently, because you are on a point of no return. Going through the customs procedures necessary for the temporary import of scientific equipment into the Russian Federation is also exciting, since the documentation and statements that need to be handed over are rather elaborate and it means I have to check out my luggage in Moscow and check it in again after customs clearance, within the short time span that I have in between my flights.
Well, luckily everything worked out just in time to catch the connecting flight to Yakutsk. The main setback was finding out that you cannot actually get to the domestic terminal from the international terminal with your luggage trolley… I ended up recruiting 2 more people to carry my equipment up and down a bunch of escalators.
June 27th — Yakutsk
Man, I thought I had escaped from a heat spell back in the Netherlands but apparently Yakutsk is just as bad. It’s a beautifully bright and hot day. After all the racing in Moscow, a night flight and being zapped ahead 7 hrs due to time difference my head is spinning and I’ve basically lost all sense of time. Luckily when we arrive the hotel staff tell us that we can have breakfast if we want to.
We meet with our partners at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences to arrange some last-minute things. They are an extremely valuable source of help when it comes to arranging export permits for samples, transport schemes to and from the site and many more things. Unfortunately, one of our bags was lost somewhere on the way to Yakutsk and didn’t come out of the aircraft. This is a sad moment, because this is the bag that contained all the shiny new equipment I mentioned earlier. We all really hope the bag finds its way to Chokurdakh somehow. I console myself the fact that it could’ve been worse if my personal luggage got lost and I would have to go to the tundra with no mosquito net, toothbrush or proper clothing.
June 28th — Yakutsk -> Chokurdakh
My blog entry ends basically where my internet connection ends, which is upon departure from the hotel in Yakutsk. This morning (night still in Europe), we fly further north-east, to the village of Chokurdakh situated at the Indigirka river (where the famous dish “Indigirka salad” got its name from, definitely recommended for sushi lovers). From there, staff of the local nature inspection take us and our bags to the Chokurdakh Scientific Tundra Station, for a 6 to 7 week science retreat. No internet whatsoever. If it all works out you will see one “mid-season” blog appear around July 15th, when my supervisor Monique returns with a USB stick with a blog on it. Our student Daniël and I will stay until August 14th.