Cape Bolvansky Nos on the northern tip of the island has been called the Cape of Idols since ancient times. The shrine on the promontory was dedicated to the male deity Vesako (Old Man). According to the Brockhaus and Efron dictionary, the wooden Vesako stood surrounded by '20 medium-sized idols, 400 smaller wooden ones, and 20 varied stone idols stood 50 'sazhens' from the main idol'. The wooden effigy of the Old Man had seven faces, and the idols of his retinue, according to the testimony of English sailors who sailed to the island in the 16th century, were smeared with the blood of sacrificial deer during rituals. In 1984–87, an archaeological expedition from Leningrad, led by L.P. Khlobystin, worked on Bolvansky Nos. Archaeologists thoroughly examined the entire cape and found many ritual and household items, from deer bones to weapons and jewellery from the 10th–13th centuries. All these items were sacrificed to the gods, to ask permission for hunting and fishing.
The main female deity is represented not by hand-made idols, but by a work of nature: an elongated stone at the top of a rock, in which the Nenets saw the figure of the mother of the gods, named Khadako (Old Woman). They sacrificed deer to her and asked for a successful hunt. The other deities of the Nenets pantheon are considered the children of the Old Man and the Old Woman. Orthodox missionaries who came here in the 1820s tried to destroy the idols, replacing them with a cross, but the idols soon reappeared.
Such a violation of the gods' peace leads to punishment, and credulous people see confirmation of this legend even in recent events. In the 2000s, members of a scientific expedition who studied the sanctuaries of Vaygach Island briefly took the seven-faced deity to Moscow. They say this caused a series of misfortunes reminiscent of the curse of Tutankhamun's tomb, and the island experienced very bad weather the entire time.
A state nature reserve was established on Vaygach in 2007. In addition to cultural and historical monuments, which include the island sanctuaries, its employees are engaged in the protection of unique nests of snow geese, walrus rookeries and concentrations of marine mammals in the coastal waters. For now, tourists can get to Vaygach with guides from travel agencies specialising in extreme Arctic travel.