New Trip Report: Russian Arctic

An interesting (and amusing) report from Cheryl Antonucci with details of some great mammals, and scary immigration officers, on a trip through the Russian Arctic.

Russian Arctic, 2013: Cheryl Antonucci, 2 weeks & 15 species including Walrus, Polar Bear, Musk Ox and Northern Pika.



  • vdinets

    Nice trip! Certainly more pleasant than my visit to Vrangel…
    I’m surprised you didn’t visit the walrus rookery at Arakamchechen (one of the largest) and didn’t see any minke whales – they are usually very common near the entrance to Kolyuchin Bay. Bowheads are also common around VI in summer.
    Vinogradov’s lemming is an upland species, difficult to find near the coast. And it is generally uncommon even in its preferred habitat in lemming years.
    “Ptichy bazar” is not a place name – it is a generic term for bird cliff 🙂
    Nikita Ovsyannikov is a government employee, so he couldn’t risk his job by telling you anything not matching the party line, especially on a cruise ship where any Russian crew member could potentially be an FSB (ex-KGB) informant. The truth is, Russia’s push for CITES I status for polar bear was just a distraction effort: huge shelf areas immediately NW of Vrangel Island were opened for drilling at the same time.

  • cantonucci

    Spasibo Vladimer!!! So people did see minkes on the trip but mainly in the middle of the night or at times when I was not looking. I have seen them before so was not as stressed about it. No bowheads sadly, That is a species I really want to see. I did know about the Ptichy bazar meaning thing, they also said it was the name of the area? all I know is they told us to get in the zodiacs to look at some birds and maybe we would see some foxes. Nikita was intense, have you met him? He seriously loves polar bears more than anyone I have met. He talked about alot of other stuff I did not include. It is a shame however regardless that they could not get the CITES change. Interesting about the lemming. They (including NIkita) told me they sometimes see then around those old settlements. If you only knew the number of lemming holes I stood around…. The russian sailors were intense. I could imagine some ex KGB action.

  • vdinets

    Bowheads are supposed to be really easy in Barrow in late spring if you don’t mind going out in a whaling boat.
    I don’t think changing CITES status would do any good, considering that most losses are from poaching in Russia.

  • John Fox

    Around 200 Bowhead summer in Isabella Bay on the east side of Baffin Island every year. Such is the state of eco-tourism in Nunavut that not a single tour operator mentions it or promotes it.

    Baffin Island is high on my list for next summer, too. Have you got a plan on how to do it? The thing with the floe edge trips is I want to be on a boat on the water side of it.

  • cantonucci

    I knew about the Bowheads near Baffin. I actually already have a floe edge trip planned in June. A good friend of mine had “get in the water with a narwhal” on her bucket list and convinced me it should be on mine as well. She found the trip, I am tagging along. They say sometimes Bowheads go by, but I am not holding my breath. I have seen cruises along western Greenland that supposedly have good luck with the species. I have never been to Greenland, so that might be an option for me.
    So John Fox, I saw above that you live in Virginia, I also live in Virginia! I work in C-ville and sometimes see weasels on the side of 64 after large storms. If you end up getting a good spot for them (ie be able to really see/maybe photograph) and you wouldn’t mind some company……. let me know, Jon has my email and can give it to you.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Do you mean getting an underwater view of a narwhal? I thought the only way to do it was to retire rich and spend your life savings on your own yacht with diving equipment.

  • cantonucci

    Oh I forgot to tell you about my retiring rich and my yacht? It must had slipped my mind…. (at this rate I will have to work up until the grave with my current travel trend). We have the chance to get into the water with narwhals and belugas. Who knows, I may look at the water and feel how cold it is and think, oh hell no… I mean it is my friends dream. I’ll make sure I let you know first Vladimir how it goes :).

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