The Sakha (Yakutia) Republic

Arctic safari on a frozen sea

Following the Irkutsk boat in the Laptev Sea

02.11.2022 // The Laptev Sea is an unmerciful place. During the Great Northern Expedition, Lieutenant Peter Lassinius, commander of the Irkutsk boat, sailed from Yakutsk to the mouth of the Lena River and set sail for the East on 20 August 1735. There his ship froze in the ice—only nine crew members survived the wintering. Today, however, there are no such dangers to humans in these places—tourists are taken to the mouth of the Lena River. Perhaps Peter Lassinius saw those same clouds of birds while standing aboard his ship, admiring the northern lights and the fierce beauty of the Laptev Sea. Over the centuries, the nature in those places has remained unchanged.

Laptev Sea

For 10 months of the year, the Laptev Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean, is completely covered in ice, its water temperature below freezing, so the only good time to spend your holidays on its shores is summer. Be sure to plan your Transpolar journey well in advance, or take advantage of local travel agencies to see the polar day in June, the polar night in August, or the Northern Lights in early September.

When packing up for the trip, you should bring warm clothes to protect you from the elements, sturdy footwear, and of course a camera to capture the beauty of Northern nature.

The largest settlement on the coast, Tiksi, can be reached by plane from Yakutsk. Another option is to go on a ten-day cruise down the Lena River and admire the sights and beauty of this northern river on your way. The Lena-Nordenskiöld research station is 70 km from Tiksi, within a protected area, and it can only be reached by boat on the Lena River. Many birds are nesting around the observation point, as well as a colony of black-capped marmots, and a herd of muskoxen passing through.

From the station tourists can take a water tour to Stolb and Samoylovsky islands, where they can see nesting places of rare birds, visit an old weather tower and Sokol weather station, as well as burial places of ancient Yakut shamans.

Before the spread of Christianity, the shaman's grave among the Yakuts was not under but above the ground. It is called an arangas and consists of wooden crossbars on which a coffin is placed on top. The relatives of the passed mediator between humans and spirits closely monitored the condition of the deceased's body and his final resting place. When the arangas was destroyed by the weather and time, a new one was built for the shaman, and so on until his body finally decayed. When only the skeleton remained, the relatives would arrange a final burial, committing the remains to the ground.

After the 18th century, shamans were increasingly given Christian burial ceremonies, where they were buried in an underground tomb.

Outdoor enthusiasts can partake in an Arctic safari, hunting ducks and geese, fishing for nelma, broad whitefish, muksun, and omul, and camping on the shores of the Laptev Sea.

This trip will require additional equipment—insulated sleeping bags, self-heating systems for the tents and several pairs of sturdy shoes. There’s nothing worse than wet feet on a camping trip, and the Laptev Sea, like the rest of the North, doesn’t tolerate carelessness.

When planning a trip, remember that the Laptev Sea coast is a Russian border zone. Before travelling there you must obtain a pass from the Border Guard Service of the FSB.

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