Today we had a slow start as we were coming into Provideniya, our first Russian stop where we needed to clear customs and immigration. The morning was filled with interesting lectures by James, our geologist, and Victoria, our historian. James gave his lecture on volcanoes first, where he spoke about the most spectacular and destructive natural events on the planet. Most of the places we have visited thus far have been volcanic in origin, so the lecture was a great explanation for so much of the landscapes we have been seeing. Some of the video clips shown during the lecture were quite amazing, and made us realise how powerful nature can be.
At 11am, Victoria gave her lecture on Vitus Bering and the Russian “Discovery” of Alaska. In 1728 and again in 1741, Vitus Bering was sent out to explore Kamchatka by land, and then sail onward to America by sea. Was this to satisfy scientific interest and altruistically map the world for the intellectually curious? Was Bering seeing a land link between Russia and America? Or did self-interest lure Russia to seek “Un-owned” parts of the world in order to impose a trade monopoly and occupation on the unsuspecting natives? We will never know the answers to these questions, but Victoria’s presentation provided us with a fascinating tale exploring the history of Bering and his explorations.
The town of Provideniya is a Russian coal mining town, set against a picturesque mountain. Some of the buildings are brightly painted to bring a bit of cheer to a northerly industrial town, which would not see a lot of light in mid winter.
We all headed to the Discoverer Lounge for another great lunch, with many of us choosing to go out onto the pool deck where the sun was shining and it was positively warm. During lunch, Conrad made an announcement that we had cleared immigration, but that we were still waiting for more paperwork to be sorted out and we didn’t know when that would happen. This meant that we had to stay on board for an unspecified amount of time until the relevant paperwork had been received. This was not a problem, as the day was beautiful, the sun was shining and everyone was enjoying being outside out of the wind. We had Grey Whales resting at the surface along the shoreline for a few hours, with blows every few minutes, Pigeon Guillemots came floating past and the odd cormorant and gull flew past the ship on the way to their feeding ground.
While waiting this afternoon, we had an ice cream social with 9 different types of ice cream and toppings to try out while sitting and enjoying a casual chat in the sun. It was tough to get people to come inside to watch the movie on offer called “Happy People – a year in the Taiga” about indigenous communities in this area and the trials and tribulations of their lives. Most agreed it was an excellent movie and gave us a little more insight into living in this region.
Our expedition leader, Conrad, called all the guests together for a briefing on our progress and our plans for the upcoming days. By bed time we still had not received news of our clearance and eventually the ship left the port shortly after midnight.