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> August 28-30 – Korsakov and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Farewell to Russia
post Sep 3 2006, 09:15 AM
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Wednesday, 30 August – Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
4:30 pm

The last three days have been spent working on wrapping things up (sorting and packing), celebrating our field season, and transporting ourselves and our gear back to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk from Korsakov.

Monday, 28 August – We didn’t end up leaving sight of the Kurils until early Monday morning. The afternoon before the fog had cleared to a beautiful day and we had been treated to more views of Simushir, the Chirpoys and Urup as angled south and west away from the Kuril Islands toward Sakhalin Island. Monday at breakfast we could still see the nearly 2000 meter volcanoes on northern Iturup far in the distance before they disappeared. The weather continued to be very pleasant and everyone spent the day working on finishing the sorting and packing of the nearly 1000 samples that we had collected over the past 6 weeks and getting their personal gear ready to disembark the next day.

That evening, we celebrated the end of the field season with a banquet dinner. Fortunately, even though the swell of the sea was probably 1.5-2 meters, it was a following sea – meaning that the waves and us were heading in the same direction – so the rolling of the boat was more subtle. The weather continued to be warm, so we had the banquet on the aft deck, rather than in the dining room. This was very nice because everyone could fit easily on the deck, without crowding; enjoy the delicious Russian appetizers and palmini (like Russian tortellini) and each other’s company. Including the crew and various science groups, we are nearly 50 people. Before long, there were Russian pop tunes playing on a portable tape deck and people socialized, ate and there was even a little dancing (difficult on a rolling deck) before we all headed off to bed.

Tuesday, 29 August – Early in the morning, at about 3 am, we arrived in the Korsakov harbor and dropped anchor, since we couldn’t dock until morning. Shortly before breakfast, we headed in to the dock and squeezed our way in between two other ships. It was much like parallel parking as we slowly moved the ship nearly sideways into a space about 10 meters longer than the ship. By 8:30, all of the gear from the rooms was on the deck and everyone was hanging around anxiously awaiting the completion of the docking maneuver. By 9:00, we were docked, the gangplank was installed and gear was being offloaded from the deck and then the hold. Some of it was being loaded directly onto trucks but most of it was being arranged on the side of the dock awaiting transport vehicles. By 10:30, the gear had all been offloaded from the Gipanis and we were all on solid land again. (See picture below – left)

The Magadan group headed off with their gear to check their baggage and samples at the airport and we waited on the dockside for them to come back. There were a couple of trips to the magazine (store) for lunch items and refreshments while we waited until nearly 2 pm for the Magadan group to return. (See picture below – right) Then we loaded our personal gear onto the bus and found space for ourselves as well. Unfortunately, there was not much air circulation on the bus – the windows wouldn’t open very far – there were 21 people on the bus and, for some unknown reason, the heat was blaring.

After a long, hot, 45-minute ride back into Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, we arrived at the a former dormitory for the School of Music that operates much like a hostel now. We brought all of our gear inside, arranged for the rooms that we needed for the 15 of us staying here and hauled all of the gear up the 5 flights of stairs to our rooms. Bre, Beth, Jody, Dena and I are sharing one room, James, Colby, Matt, Jesse and Paul share another, Mike and Ben are sharing a smaller room and Kenji, Tezuka-san and Amano-sensei share a room. There are shared toilet facilities and apparently a shower room down the hall.

IPB Image
On the left: Mike Etnier, Sasha Pakhamov, Kenji Ito, Matt Walsh, Jesse Einhorn, and Sasha Belusov work to take gear from the hold and transport it, fire brigade style, to the dock.
On the right: Ben Fitzhugh, Jody Bourgeois, Colby Phillips, Dena Berkey, Beth Martin, James Taylor, Kenji Ito and Paul Hezel site on the dock near the Gipanis as we wait for the bus back to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

By the time that we had gotten all of our things installed into the rooms, it was about 4 pm. Bre, Mike, Paul and I walked around town for awhile attempting to find the appropriate place for him to change his ticket to Seoul so that he can leave earlier than next week, finding the right location on the third try – but it was already closed for the day, and buying food for dinner. We bought smoked salmon, cucumbers, tomatoes, bread, a yellow pepper and a watermelon from vendors on the street near the bazaar. When we got back to the dormitory, we added this to the kielbasa, cheese, bread, jam, chips, apples and juice that Beth and Dena had procured and had a lovely meal.

After dinner, Mike and I headed out to explore and to find things for breakfast – such as more cheese, yogurt, and fruit. On our way back, we ran into Bre and Paul again so we all bought some refreshments from a vendor and sat in a park for awhile, enjoying the delightful evening. It was so nice and warm. We remarked about how it was “Suddenly Summer”. We hadn’t really been anywhere where it was so warm for a couple of months and found it to be quite remarkable. At about 9:30 we were treated to a fireworks show over the middle of town. None of us had (or still have) any idea why there were fireworks on this particular evening and we couldn’t quite see all of them for the buildings between us and the display, but we enjoyed hearing them and seeing the beautiful colors.

Last night, it was so hot in the dorm room, that we left the windows open and slept on top of our blankets. I was awoken shortly after going to sleep to incredibly itchy feet, hands and arms. In my sleepy stupor, I thought that maybe I had really dry skin. Then as I laid there I heard the small, whiney buzz near my ear. This morning I discovered that apparently I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes in the night! I got more mosquito bites on my feet, arms, shoulders and face in one night in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk than the entire summer in the Kurils. I tried to spend the rest of the evening with my sheet covering me from my head to my feet.

At about 2 am last night, it also started pouring down rain. It was a very peaceful sound to hear the drumming of the steady and heavy rain on the streets, sidewalks and trees outside. This morning, it was still raining fairly steadily.

Wednesday, 30 August – This morning after breakfast, much of the group headed over to the museum to work with the samples and inventories that Dr. Shubin will need when he goes to the Russian Ministry of Culture tomorrow to work on getting the needed permits to take the non-tool lithics, faunal material (bones), charcoal, soil/tephra samples and lake cores back to the United States. All of the tools and ceramics are cultural artifacts that will stay here in the museum. While they did that, I spent one last morning at the bazaar, buying mementos for myself and gifts for folks at home. I love the Russian bazaar. You can always find something new around every corner that you turn. While I bought trinkets, we scoped out all of the things that can easily be bought here in Russia next year (trail mix makings, like nuts and dried fruit, squid jerky, various tools and useful items such as drill bits, staple guns and staples, and strapping tape) rather than be transported from the United States.

After lunch, everyone headed back over the museum once more to work on the final packing, sorting and inventorying of the samples, while I stayed in the dorm to work on downloading pictures and writing my journal. Later this evening, the plan is for all of us to go to dinner at a place nearby that serves Korean food. Then we have one last free evening together in Russia before many of us repack our personal gear to be checked on the airplane and head to the airport sometime around midday. Many of us – Beth, Bre, Dena, James, Colby and me – will head out tomorrow, while Kenji, Tezuka and Amano leave on the ferry to Hokkaido on September 1 and Jody leaves for Japan on September 5. Ben, Mike, Jesse and Matt will stick around in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk until September 7, since they have to wait for the Ministry of Culture clearances that will allow them to get the samples back to the United States.

Here are some strange things about our flight tomorrow: We leave Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in the late afternoon, at 4:40 pm. Then we have a 2 hour layover in Seoul, before we head out for the Los Angeles on our nearly 12 hour flight. We leave Seoul in the evening (8 pm) on August 31 and arrive in LA earlier (at 3:30 pm) on the same date! But that is not the strangest occurrence! We have a short layover where we will need to go through customs in LA before we head back to Seattle. We are scheduled to arrive in Seattle at nearly the exact time (8:01 pm) on the same date (August 31) that we left Seoul! So our trip takes 16 hours (the difference in time between Seoul and Seattle) but appears to only take a minute! Of course, this assumes that all of our flights are on time and that we make all of our connections – which could be a big assumption given the layovers are only 2 hours in each city.
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