Members of the Great Arctic Expedition led by the legendary polar explorer Matvey Shparo have returned to Moscow. The MK correspondent, who also flew with the guys to the Arctic, tells how this unique journey went.
Photo: press service of the Great Arctic Expedition.
For many years in a row, spring has been the same for the famous polar explorer Matvey Shparo. Since 2008, it is in April-May that he has been conducting his unique Great Arctic Expeditions. No one else in the world dares to do something like this: to gather the most ordinary schoolchildren in one team, prepare them for a serious test for six months and then go skiing with them for 100 or more kilometers among the eternal ice.
At first, schoolchildren who have passed a serious selection, conquered the Arctic Pole. But in the last two years, due to logistics problems, a new route has been chosen: Cape Chelyuskin became the end point.
The test for schoolchildren this time looked like this. The first group of seven skiers was thrown to Cape Shcherbinin, from where they walked 146 kilometers along the northern coast of the Taimyr Peninsula to Cape Chelyuskin for a week. All these seven days, a second, scientific group was waiting for them at Cape Chelyuskin. But not just sitting idly by. These seven, led by another well-known traveler in the team – the conqueror of the North Pole, Honored Master of Sports, an expert in the field of expedition equipment and equipment Boris Smolin – were engaged in research at the Fedorov Joint Hydrometeorological Station together with local polar scientists.
Photo: Press Service of the Great Arctic Expedition.
Research has a specific goal – every year is different. “New scientific partners appear who need this or that data,” says Matvey Shparo. – This year, the guys from the scientific department received a task from the Institute of Geophysics. They were trained to use theodolites – devices for studying the Earth's magnetic pole, the one pointed to by the magnetic needle of the compass. The magnetic pole has shifted a lot recently, so it's especially important to investigate any changes in this area.”
In parallel, the guys had their own tasks. Someone studied the degree of anthropogenic pollution in the area of Cape Chelyuskin. Someone – local lichens and mosses. In short, the work was serious, moreover, in harsh Arctic conditions.
We, the journalists, first saw off the skiers from the Pioneers detachment, and a day later we sent the second group, Arctic Science, to Cape Chelyuskin. And then they followed their fate – first from Khatanga, which is more than 600 kilometers from Cape Chelyuskin, and then from Moscow. Groups of skiers went to the direct line, daily listened to the live broadcasts of Matvey Shparo with his Moscow office and studied a new portion of the photo of the scientific group. For me personally, every day began with news from the Arctic. And finally, today both groups arrived in Moscow.
It seems to me that we, the journalists meeting them, were more happy about the return of the guys. I remember my emotions when we abandoned the young members of the Great Arctic Expedition to Cape Shcherbinin. Then, after waiting for them to put on their skis, we flew around a couple of circles in a helicopter – to make spectacular shots for our reports. And personally, I was seized by an incredibly poignant feeling when I saw these small dots wandering alone in the endless snowy desert. What will happen to them these days? What is it like for them to feel that there is not a single living soul around for hundreds of kilometers, except for polar bears?..
Photo: Press Service of the Great Arctic Expedition.
It is clear that Matvey Shparo has already conducted more than ten such expeditions, he has every detail under control. And still, I kept my fists, every day listening to the brief reports of travelers during sessions with the “mainland”.
During these few days, which for someone flew like one moment, there, in the Arctic, The kids seem to have lived their whole lives. “We saw a polar bear, he came to our camp. We were sitting in a tent, they shouted to us that there was a bear outside. He came closer, got scared, ran away, returned, but later left with the ends, ”they said on the first day.
“We are doing well, just finished eating pancakes. They took pancake flour with them on purpose, but did not take into account that the eggs would freeze, so they had to be cut with a knife,” from another report.
– this is already on a separate large “straight line”.
During the trip, young skiers celebrated two birthdays at once. The table was truly sumptuous: Thai tom yum soup and – unexpectedly! – ice cream. And I don't care what's around, wherever you look, only snow and ice.
At some point, there were fears that a group of skiers would be late for the planned date at Cape Chelyuskin: the speed of movement turned out to be lower. But in the end, we entered the right rhythm and finished almost within a minute.
“Matvey, have there been such cases in more than ten years when you and your children did not reach the finish line?” – I ask Shparo when it is already possible to exhale and say: everything went well.
“No, it didn't. We had a story, on the second or third expedition, when one of the guys got a big boil on his neck. And it was dangerous enough. We remotely consulted with surgeons in Moscow, and then it became clear: if his temperature starts to rise now, then he will have to be evacuated. I remember that all the guys, having discussed the possible course of events, said: “If it has to be evacuated, then we will fly away all together and consider that this year the expedition failed.” Then the children themselves made such a decision. We watched, watched the well-being of this boy. Fortunately, there was no deterioration, the boil was gone.
During another expedition, a rather unusual situation also happened. One of the young participants, Ahuramazd from Surgut, either lost his mitten or went out into the cold with wet hands. In short, his fingertips turned treacherously white.
“I understand that when a person received a slight frostbite, then, by and large, nothing terrible happened: nothing needs to be amputated and so on,” recalls Matvey Shparo. “But from now on, extra attention should be paid to frostbitten fingers: repeated frostbite can fly much faster and in a much worse manifestation. We discussed this situation with the guys. And then another guy, Nikita from Kemerovo, takes the floor. “Can I be the hands of Ahura Mazda?” he asks. Because one way or another, with our hands, without mittens, we do a lot. For example, in the morning you need to lace up your shoes, open the zipper – a traveler has to do a lot of such fine motor skills. And for the remaining four days, Nikita really was the “hands” of Ahura Mazda. This, of course, is a fantastic manifestation of childhood friendship, childish self-sacrifice. Moreover, Nikita did not know Ahura Mazda before, they met during a trip. But the expedition, the difficulties – they unite very well. I always repeat that complex travel is a real litmus test when it becomes clear what a person is. Most often, travel reveals the best qualities in young guys. Because children are good. And our current expedition has once again confirmed this.