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The Rock-itt : September 2010
Last month I was telling you about a trip my scientist friend, Melanie Massaro, had just returned from. She was just up in the Russian Far East, lecturing and working on board a ship called the Spirit of Enderby, cruising in the area around the Kamchatka peninsula and the Kuril Islands. We finished last month's piece with tour leader Rodney Russ of Heritage Expeditions (www.heritage-expeditions.com) going ashore at Buktha Russkaya to clear the way with the Russian border guards so the band of forty eight or so expeditioners could go ashore. After about an hour's negotiation with the guards, the party was permitted to land. Good news because this area is a good spot for Russian Brown Bears. They saw lots of bear footprints and some up close encounters with bear poo but no bears this time. The weather was gorgeous and after this interesting but unproductive excursion they came back on board for a late lunch out on the rear deck of the ship. The elusiv e Brown Bear - got him eventually! As the ship left Buktha they dropped the small Zodiac inflatables carried on this cruise, into the water and cruised at close quarters up the coast. They were rewarded by finding a pod of Orcas (Killer whales) and cruising alongside them. They also got close up views of a Stellers Sea Eagles nest which the birders on board got very excited about, before getting back on to the Spirit of Enderby to continue north along the Kamchatka peninsula heading for Olga Island. They were woken at 5.30am for an early start in Olga Bay. These early starts are not compulsory but this is a cruise for expeditioner's not party animals and the opportunities afforded are always very special. After their early breakfast they were in the Zodiacs by 7am to go ashore, immediately they found a pod of Grey whales. They are also adjacent to the 3528 metre high Kronotsky volcano. Not for nothing is this trip advertised as"Cruising the Ring of Fire". Ashore at Olga Bay and the search was on again for Brown Bears. The Kamchatkan sub species of this bear is the second largest in the World only beaten by the Kodiak Bear. They were met by a ranger as this is part of the Kronotski nature reserve. He helped them spot some of the local reindeer and it turned out that the herd was being stalked by a bear! The rare presence of human beings discomforted the bear and their sighting turned out to be a rather brief one but at least they got to see it. A return to the ship and whilst they enjoyed dinner the Spirit of Enderby made for the Commander Islands. The following morning a thankfully late start at 8.30 am and a rare chance to meet the local people in this sparsely populated area. The only town on the Commander Islands is Nikolskoye, it's on Bering Island. 750 people live in the town and it has a small museum which celebrates the pioneer of the Bering Strait, Captain Vitus Bering. One of the other passengers was adopted temporarily by some local school boys and enjoyed a friendly and The route of the trip, just west of Alaska before you hit Russia. Stellers Sea Eagle, some chook!