Photographer: Polina Viardo, Diana Serebrennikova
Text: Diana Serebrennikova
Translator: Ekaterina Kurova
From the diary of Diana Serebrennikova:
– July, 6 –
“It was not even 2 a.m. when our fisherman schooner moored to the western shore of the island – the Shelikhov bay. The fog was gradually dissolving and unclosing a rather eerie picture:a cemetery of abandoned ships, a couple of dilapidated houses with “Shelikhovo” signs, a rusty truck and white containers of unknown origin, all with green mountains in the background. It used to be a village Shelikhovo, but along with other settlements it was destroyed by tsunami in 1952. Only a town Severo-Kurilsk which is located in the northern part of the island was rebuilt and now its population is about 2 500 people.
Local fishermen say that they often stay overnight in ramshackle houses and winter shelters called “teplyaki” (analogues of winter huts in taiga) on the island close to rivers with clean water and accessible harbor. However, this time there is no one else apart from our team”.
– July, 7 –
“We settled in a fisherman’s house and spent our day cleaning the territory: sorting junk and burning trash. The guys have caught our first trout. There was so much fish that the dinner was done within an hour. This is great, because if a typhoon comes we still would have a chance to survive by catching fish for food, even after our buckwheat supply runs out”.
– July, 8 –
“We have been in the sea since early morning looking around new places and getting used to local dwellers:larga seals, cormorants and tufted puffins. Then sea swines suddenly appeared, even though they looked more like orcas than like swines. They were obviously interested in us but hesitated to swim closer and only looked at us from afar, disappearing in the water if we had to change our location when looking for the killer whales”.
– July, 9 –
“When there was a nasty turn in the weather Neptune’s sheep appeared everywhere and there was no sense in using schooners unless we wanted to be washed away. That is why we have decided to walk around the island and took a rifle and signal flares with us. We have found fresh excrements of a bear on our porch this morning and therefore it is dangerous to go anywhere alone. Apparently, bears got tired of eating berrie sand descended to the river to get some fish. We need to be alert now”.
– July, 11 –
“It took us two days to get to Chikurachki volcano. We could not climb to the top, because the river was up and we were not able to cross it.
Paramushirisland is very mountainous and it is much more inclement than other Kurile islands. There are five active volcanos and a dozen ofextinguished ones. We were very cautious when walking around the island: locals told us that on the uninhabited parts of the island it is easy to stumble upon an unexploded shell from the times of the World War II.
Along the way we went up and down a lot, fought wild creeping alder and bypassed deep Japanese tranches overgrown with tall shrubs. Some of them were very well preserved and their vertical walls wereup to 2 meters deep and densely overgrown with filipendula. We saw these tranches along the coast line and sometimes they were in several rows.
There were no roads in the area that is why we were fallowing bear’s trails with a considerable share of adrenaline: no one knew where a bear could be resting. But we were lucky to see a she-bear with its cubs in plenty of time. They were fishing in 100 meters across the river, and the wind was blowing in our direction, that is why they could not smell us. We walked passed the family without attracting attention and came back to the camp”.
– July, 13 –
“The sea is calm which means that we can spend all day on our boats searching for killer whales. Maybe we will get lucky today? Last time we did not see any sea animals, even though Rodion and Slava told us that they could hear voices of killer whales through a hydrophone receiver.
However, not all of the animals here are that shy. A fox came to visit us the day before yesterday. It was probably not happy about us cleaning the place and occupying the empty fisherman’s house on the shore. Therefore the fox ate our fish. This morning near the washstand I ran into this sly creature when it was trying to steal our gains once again. I managed to outrun the fox and hide our fresh fish from it. The fox can provide fish for himself – the river is filled with trout”.
– July, 14 –
“A thud of the front door woke us up. It is hard to get used to sleep on a plank bed. Shivering from the morning frost, I hid my nose into the sleeping bag, but it did not help me to warm up. Morning twilight was still filling the room, but firewood was already crackling in the stove: Asya had woken up early and decided to make blini.
We have finally met killer whales yesterday and we had to work until dark that is why we have decided to have a small day-off today to sleep in and celebrate Lena’s birthday in the evening. Being far away from civilization did not make anyone refuse a birthday cake: we have collected everything we had left to make it and decorated it with volcanos and killer whales. The fox visited us again, but no one wanted to get angry with it, and we have given a piece of fresh fish to the sly creature”.
– Meeting the killer whales on 13th of July –
“At first we heard one voice through hydrophone receiver, and then we saw multiple black fins couple of kilometers away from our boat. There were about 12 individual whales there. They were breathing out in unison and moving south, to the Pacific Ocean. Soon the group split up to start hunting salmon. When we could swim closer to the whales, Tatiana took pictures of their fins and white marks on their backs,while Mikhail used a scoop-net to collect fish scales that were left at the places where the killer whales had their “feasts”.
We could see male killer whales hunting: it was circling the fish and catching it at a lightning speed, jumping out of the water. We observed them until the late evening. We did not leave until killer whales finished their hunt and disappeared in the darkness. A busy evening was ahead of us: we had to transfer data, clean our inventory and share our experiences about the encounter with wonderful sea creatures…”