March 31, 2010: 180th short message (09:11 p.m. CET)
Uelen surely is different from any other village that we have visited/driven through until now. It seems that time, language, habits and life take different ways here. Life literally happens on the streets here…
We received three invitations. Three visits with people/families that couldn’t have been more different, three experiences with impressions that can make you thoughtful.
Other than that, the days pass while we work on the vehicles. We relieve the cars from as much weight as possible, modify the tanks, change the luggage racks, open the roofs to make room for an emergency exit, mount the outboard engines, arrange the components of the lifting system, prepare the hydraulics, repair damages that occurred on our way from Lavrentia to Uelen, and so on…
By now the storm, which brought icy northern winds and a windchill factor of -40°C, has decreased. It controlled Uelen for the last few days and took everything but the kitchen sink. At least now we no longer have to wear hats and jackets when we are in our apartment. And until now thousands of ice crystals have blocked our view but finally a few centimeters have melted away from the windows.
I also sent a couple of pictures from the modifications in the garage, which has been built right on the beach. When we are lying underneath the cars, we are sort of also on Uelen’s beach.
Other pictures show chukot food and wood craft.
April 1, 2010: 181th short message (01:37 a.m. CET)
I asked Victor to take the train from outside into Moscow on Sunday night instead of Monday morning. He arrived in Moscow on Monday morning at around 7 a.m. To get to his meeting with the German Embassy, he had to take the underground line. Only one hour later a bomb exploded on that same line.
Via my office we were promptly notified about the terrorist attack and were very worried. Also, because at that time we were not able to contact Victor via telephone. Later we heard that his cell phone was stored at the gate of the German Embassy. Everything is fine – guardian angels and good spirits seem to be with Victor nonstop at the moment.
This morning we had a great start of the day. First we received extraordinarily good news from an authority in the United States, then Victor called to let me know that his meeting with the US-Embassy went great and then – almost like a coronation – we received a letter by the Russian administration, granting the PNY-expedition to officially leave Russia via the “non-border point” Uelen.
We appreciate the cooperation and would like to sincerely thank all involved people, ministries and authorities.
April 1, 2010: 182nd short message (10:14 a.m. CET)
How annoying. Why should a day ever be completely good?
Some agreements don’t seem to matter all that much. Today, the women whom we rented the apartment from called and told us that we have to leave the apartment, even though we cleaned the whole apartment, fixed the water pipe in the kitchen and repaired the toilet, additionally to the agreed payment. Is that woman crazy? We have an agreement for a whole month. Boy, things like this annoy me so much.
Look like she is trying to take advantage of us. Especially, because – after I was really agitated – she offered us on the telephone to remain in the apartment if we paid the triple amount.
Whatever. We will not leave the apartment before the end of our month and thus are expecting – for the first time in Russia – troubles. Hopefully there are some people in Uelen or St. Petersburg where she lives who make her understand that this is not right.
The good news:
Today, we mounted and started the first Tohatsu Outboard engine for the first time after 1.5 years in which they have been transported (unprotected, in a lying position, standing, shaking-dust-and-coldness, on trailers, several rearrangements, ice and snow). At the second ignition, it worked. It’s just amazing. Let’s hope that the second outboard engine will do the same tomorrow.
April 2, 2010: 183rd short message (11:47 a.m. CET)
Last night we were invited to join the audience during a dancing rehearsal of an Eskimo group. We were excited about a little mongoloid boy who learned a lot on those two hours of dancing.
We were able to fix the bad situation with the landlord in that we can stay in the apartment until the end of the agreed month to the agreed conditions. It was very difficult and cost a lot of nerves, but oh well.
Today we have a new problem. The GPS Spot emergency system doesn’t work and the awesome people from the manufacturing company are not capable or willing to call back, let alone find a solution for this problem. We (the expedition) were only planning to rely on it in the case of a necessary rescue mission. I am anxious to see how they want to fix this – anyway, it is unnecessary like a struma when things like this don’t work and especially if you have to sit at home all day as if you didn’t have other things to do, just because those guys can’t call back as discussed.
At least Rudi didn’t let grass grow under his feet. He visited the local power and heat supply station with the video/photo equipment and had someone explain to him how it worked. He was allowed to inspect the technology that keeps most everything alive. Nice men are there who will welcome us anytime. Especially Slava, the 70-years old chief-heater who looks like 50-60 and has muscles like a 40-years old bodybuilder, is very outgoing. Once and again we have been sitting together, drank some tea, listened to his story; sometimes no one says a word and everyone is in his own thoughts.
The living situation here is unique and special, here, on this two-rows-of-houses-wide piece of land between the Bering Strait and the lagoon in which Uelen is located. People adapt and live according to nature sets the course.
April 06, 2010: 184th short message (12:34 p.m. CET)
The second Tohatsu Outboard engine is working and the modifications of the vehicles in the little garage progress.
However, there are parameters that keep us from starting the crossing of the Bering Strait at the moment. On the one hand we have to wait for the customs clearance by the Russian border and customs services; and on the other hand the weather situation is anything but ideal right now.
One storm/low pressure system is followed by the next. Strong winds from north do cause a strong concentration of ice in the Bering Strait, but due to the overall weather conditions a start is not possible.
April 9, 2010: 185th short message (11:51 a.m. CET)
If I didn’t know better, I would think the Bermuda is here. Slowly it is becoming eerie here.
First, we have to send Victor to Moscow where he only scarcely sidesteps the terror attacks. Then an earthquake happened in a close range to our location (at N 65.3 / W 170.7) yesterday morning.
We don’t know the entire context yet, but the wave that was caused by the seismic shock (which was measured with 4.7), seems to be responsible for that the ice along the coast of Uelen broke off completely in the morning hours. “Know me over with a feather!”
In order to get a better view of it we hiked for about 10 km along the crack until we were almost at “the three brothers” (a lump of rock before the cap). Interesting.
At the same time we meet some local hunters who make use of the broken ice to hunt and go fishing.