Friday, March 17, 2017

Kamchatka -- "island" cuisine

There are a number of reasons to "eat local" including 1) to support local agriculture and organizations, 2) to minimize one's (carbon) footprint, and 3) to lower the part of one's food budget that goes to transportation costs. Those who live in remote places know how expensive "imported" food can be.

Kamchatka is essentially an island.  There are no roads north toward Chukotka (which is itself is even more remote); there is no railroad.  So you and everything else either arrive by boat or by air --typically airplanes from Magadan, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Moscow,...  The Trans-Siberian railroad terminates in Vladivostok.  Ships can bring goods from there.
Kamchatka is at the upper right corner of this map, far from any trains...

And, of course, Kamchatka is no tropical island, so...  given that I did not grow my own food here last summer, what can I buy at the store or at a kiosk that's "local"?  [Summertime, and in the field, are two different topics.]  I am not sure that everything I buy here in winter is actually grown on Kamchatka, but here are the basics of the products that could be.

Root vegetables!  A staple of higher-latitude diets and can be kept in root cellars -- potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, garlic.  Plus cabbage, from which you can keep stripping outer leaves as winter goes by.  I have yet to make borsch (not sure why not!), the most common soup in Russia and which uses all these ingredients; but most every soup I have made starts from the list minus beets (and not always garlic).

Pickled, dried or frozen summer/fall produce, of which the most common are what we in the US typically just call "pickles" -- cucumbers (agourtsi); I have a jar of pickled tomatoes right now.   Frozen berries, and mushrooms are common; many locals would have gone mushroom hunting in the summer/fall and dried or pickled some for winter.  Same for paparotnik (fiddlehead ferns) and potentially cherem sha (wild garlic, aka ramps).  Many will have made their own jams in the summer/fall, and/but there is a local company that is producing fabulous local jams, the brusnika (lingonberry) varenyi is to die for.

Dried herbs I mostly buy in envelopes, and likely they are not local, but I can buy fresh dill and parsley and a few other greens that are grown here on Kamchatka, in greenhouses heated by hot springs (e.g., from the village of Termalni).  Not enough winter sun for hothouse tomatoes, though.

Dairy products -- milk (moloko), yogurt, kefir, sour cream (smetana), tvarog (something like a dry cottage cheese), butter.  Tanya helped me identify the dairy products that are local; also, I can check labels myself, I read enough to be able to see the place a product is from.  The fresh milk only keeps a few days, which of course is one reason why other products like sour cream are common, and very common in cuisine.  I typically keep a back-up box of ultra-pasteurized milk on hand -- reading the labels I think most of them come from Krasnoyarsk region.  You can get from 1.5% up to 6% milkfat in these boxed milks!  I do not know of a non-fresh cheese produced on Kamchatka.

Of course, FISH and other seafood products, of which salmon is the most common.  Prices for these items have risen as Kamchatka exports more to other parts of Asia, as well as back to western Russia. Right now I have some locally produced pelmyeni (ravioli-like) in my freezer which are stuffed with salmon and calmari.  All kinds of smoked salmon and other dried fish.  I know all the Russian words for salmon (losos), better than I know the US words -- chavuicha (king), nyerka (the other red one), keta (chum?), gorbusha (pink, humpy), ...  If you like red caviar (kryasni ikra), which I do, that's very available.   Fish is best bought in specific fish markets, not at the supermarket.

Bread and many wonderful pastries and other bread products are locally made, but far as I know, the flour is not local, though almost certainly from Russia.  The flour I have on my shelf is from Kurgan, Russia.  Tanya showed me how to find the more traditional loaves of Russian bread, which is fab.

Chicken, eggs and pork are locally produced.  Beef is not, is a luxury in general, and is not common in local diets.  Lamb is used, e.g., for shashlik (kebabs), I am not sure how much of it is local. There is a local company (Agrotek) that produces many kinds of "kielbasa," a term used here for most cured, tubular meat products.  Another dish that uses lamb traditionally is "plov" (pilaf) -- the influence of the Caucasus region on cuisine is notable; Shamsa makes and sells its own lavash (flatbread).

Another strong influence on local cuisine is Korea -- many Korean refugees and immigrants have come to the Russian Far East, at least since WWII.  I am not a fan of kimchee, but you will find an amazing variety of kimchee for sale in large and small markets and in kiosks.  At the supermarket, there is an aisle of Asian specialty products.

Water -- the tap water here is excellent, I have not purchased bottled water, but if/when I do, I will buy Malki -- Malkinskoye, from a spring in central Kamchatka.  I was appalled some years ago when the supermarket put up a prominent display of Aqua Fina.

So--what else do I have in my kitchen and diet, and where is it from?

Fresh fruit -- I have bought apples and mandarin-orange types.  Should I buy apples from Belarus and Moldova or from China?  China is closer in this case.  So far, I have paid less attention to origin and mostly looked for apples that might be crisp and have flavor, it's been hit or miss.  The mandarins I have purchased, which are tasty, quite seedy and thus not very expensive, are from ... Pakistan!

Coffee--I brought a bunch of Starbucks and just bought Italian-roasted beans.  Coffee snob.
Tea -- Tea is the traditional hot drink of choice in Russia, mostly grown elsewhere, but there is a whole aisle of teas at the supermarket, and there are specialty shops for tea.

Chocolate and other confections--Russia has a long tradition of producing chocolate and chocolate sweets, likely stemming originally from French influence.  Chocolate confections are a major shopping/gift item for Russians, as are "confyeti" -- hard candies.  I "buy Russian" and my favorite chocolate and confections come from the two oldest makers in Russia -- Babayevski and Red October (Krasnii Oktyabr), the latter of which started in the 19th century but was renamed after the revolution.

Grains.  The most traditional grain in Russia is "grechka" which is commonly called "kasha" in the US, but "kasha" in Russian means more or less all grains.  Grechka is buckwheat groats, which are roasted for a flavor I haven't succeeded in finding in the U.S.  Besides potatoes and grechka, I have rice in my pantry; I am not sure of its history/source; its package mentions manufacture in Chelyabinsk, but it has English and many other languages on the box (yes, I bought a box).  I despair at finding decent pasta in Russia, despite the claim on some packages that it is from Italy, with all the right other words.  I also have a muesli-like cereal mix that's Russian in origin.  Russians in general do not like oatmeal, it's just for little kids; when you grow up, you eat grechka.

Sugar is likely to be sugar-beet sugar.  The most common cooking oil is from sunflower seeds and is too strong for my taste.  Sunflower seeds show up in many confections, and toasted seeds in the shell are a typical outdoor "snack" with the seed coats spit out all over the place...  Halvah made from sunflower seeds is more common than from sesame seeds, but sesame confections are not uncommon, another influence of the "middle eastern" region of the Soviet Union.  Nuts are expensive here; I put some walnuts in my morning cereal, and I have a homesick "splurge" jar of peanut butter -- from China.

The recent dust-ups with the European Union and the U.S. have made products from those areas less available and more expensive.  I have some parmesan cheese from Italy, some olive oil from Spain, and the aforementioned pasta and coffee.

Alcoholic beverages.  I also have bought some wine from Italy and from New Zealand, quite overpriced for quality.  I have not seen U.S. wine this year, it used to be in the bigger shops.  Local?  Kamchatka makes great beer and has some local vodka production, including from birch sap.  I've had some moonshine here on occasion, mostly in the field.  Traditionally, the wine Russians drank was "polusladki" -- half sweet, mostly from Moldova; some drier wines have been available from Georgia.  "Champagne" is commonly a drink of choice for celebrations (and if you eschew vodka); the best cognac not way out of price range comes from Armenia.

Let me know if you have questions.  I'll write another blog some time about how and what we eat on our field excursions.  And in the summer/fall on Kamchatka, there are many wonderful "domashni" (home grown) products, and I've done quite a bit of berry and mushroom picking myself.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Avachinsky Volcano

From the International Space Station  ISS 2 May 2011 Avachinsky
Oblique view from south of Avachinsky active (left) and inactive Kozelsky (right)

Saturday 25 February 2017 ski trail from Lesnaya to foothills of Avachinsky.  Tanya Pinegina skiing, JB photo.
Saturday we skied to the foothills of Avachinsky volcano (“Avacha”), the active stratovolcano just north of Petropavlovsk.  Indeed, much of the city of Petropavlovsk sits on an extensive volcanic debris flow from the cataclysmic eruption of old Avacha about 30,000 years ago.  Truck-sized rocks from this debris flow emerge from the local park near our Institute and lie along the ski trail.
2010 winter view toward north of Koryaksky (left) and Avachinsky (right) from our office window at the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Far East Division, Russian Academy of Sciences, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (JB photo)

Avacha's nearest neighbor, to the east, is Kozelsky, which is part of the Avacha complex.  To the west looms Koryaksky volcano, which is much less active than Avacha in Holocene times (last ~12,000 years). Active volcanoes, if conical, tend to have smooth flanks, as does the young Avacha cone, whereas Koryaksky is deeply incised by erosion, as is Kozelsky.  In all my years visiting Kamchatka, I have had innumerable views of these volcanoes, though almost always from the south side.  18th century navigators identified their approach to the narrow opening of Avacha Bay by the “three volcanoes” they could see from afar. 1851 crest of Kamchatka, to the right:

I did find a picture (above) in my scanned collection of an aerial shot I took from the north in summer of 1996 (note there is a large cloud that is not a mountain!).  It is easier from the north side to see that the active cone of Avacha lies within the much larger, former edifice of old Avacha.  The one time I was on foot on the north side, I could see Avacha’s and Koryaksky’s more intensely glaciated northern flanks.  On our way toward the pass between the two, we made the mistake of getting too high too fast and ended up crossing active moraines and debris-covered glacier snouts.  Not fun. 

Avacha has a long record of historical eruptions:  (2001), 1991, 1945, 1938, 1926, 1909, 1901, 1894, 1881, 1878, 1855, 1854, 1853, 1851, 1828, 1827, 1779, 1772 and 1737.  [The largest historical eruptions are in bold italics, the next largest set in bold; data from Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program based on work by Kamchatka geoscientists (references there) In the Smithsonian catalogue, Avacha is volcano 300100.  This photo (left, by Oleg Volynets) is from the 1991 eruption.  

From these data, as well as from analysis of surrounding topography and of the prehistoric record, Institute geologists have prepared a volcanic hazard map for Petropavlovsk and the surrounding area (map above).  These hazards include lava flow, pyroclastic flow, debris avalanche, eruptive blast, debris flow, mudflow (lahar) and volcanic ash/cinder fall.  For most of these, being farther away and higher is safer, but ash falls are primarily directed by winds at the time of eruption, so their primary direction can be quite variable.  Link to the above map.  Legend for this map

The cinder and ash (tephra) deposits from historical eruptions have been used by Tanya Pinegina (tsunamis) and Lilia Bazanova (Avacha volcanic history) to help map out not only the tephra layers themselves, but also to use these layers to identify and map historical tsunami layers above and between them.  Their work has helped to determine which of Kamchatka’s historical earthquakes were the largest and most tsunamigenic. Such analysis is particularly important because the shorelines where the historical ash layers fell are also the ones closest to Kamchatka’s center of population (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatksiy on the map below).  I participated in some early phases of this work at Khalaktirka beach, where we could map out the tsunami deposit from the 1952 Kamchatka great earthquake because it lies almost directly above the 1945 Avacha ash layer.  To the right is a picture of Lilia (lower left) and Tanya (above) documenting some of the many Avachinsky tephra along a stream cut near Khalaktirka beach.        
Lilia Bazanova with her colleagues Olga Braitseva and others have also worked out a long prehistoric record of eruptions of Avachinsky volcano.  Given its historical record, it is not surprising that Avacha has generated volcanic debris deposits and/or mappable tephra layers every couple of centuries or so – the record is more difficult to tease out the farther back in time because the layers are obscured by plant roots, weathering and other soil processes.  Several of these layers record eruptions larger than any of the historical ones, including an eruption that sent ash as far as Ust’ Kamchatsk (see map below).  We use layers from these eruptions to work out the prehistory of tsunami deposits and their generating earthquakes.  That is “paleotsunami” analysis—I had to get the word paleotsunami in here because that’s in the name of my blog!

One could certainly get the impression from the pictures thus far posted here that Avachinsky is one big snow cone. However, I found this picture by Vera Ponomareva to show just how un-snowy it can be by end of summer. Vera constructed a website about Kamchatka volcanoes hosted by the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
Climbing Avachinsky:  I was with a group of tsunami scientists, visiting Petropavlovsk in the summer of 1996, who attempted to climb Avacha on a windy, rainy day.  We failed miserably, not least because many of us were not really prepared for such a climb, despite the valiant cheerleader guide we had, Elena Sassorova.  More about these women geoscientists at this blog post.  On a perfect day in the summer of 2000, finally I succeeded in summiting, guided by Sasha Storcheus.  The cindery cone was frozen as we ascended in the morning and soft when we descended. I don’t have digitized photos of that climb—I was surprised to see the lava pool at the top and to see fresh sulfur deposits.

Photo left:  2004 by JB.  Photo right: on Tolbachik by Pavel Isbekov. 

Tragically, on 3 March 2013, our dear friend and colleague Katya Kravchunovskaya was one of three mountaineers who died while trying to help a lost tourist in a snowstorm on Avacha.  We miss her terribly.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Кот в сапогах -- Puss in Boots

 via Wikipedia
About a week ago, Olga invited me to join her and her two boys for a performance at the Petropavlovsk theater of

Кот в сапогах , Sunday 19 February at 11 AM.  

I happily agreed.  

Saturday was a day of intense wind and snow.  I still have no idea how much snow fell because it was rearranged so much by the wind into bare spots (old snow) and drifts -- a drift blocked the front door of my building, but someone had worked it open before I went out.  I woke up early on that Sunday morning and evaluated the scene as best I could, determining whether our theater excursion would proceed.  The wind had died down and the snow had mostly stopped falling.  My windows and eaves were impressively drifted.

My ktichen window Sunday AM
The eave of my balcony Sunday AM

We had a rendezvous spot at "6 km", near a large flower shop. Petropavlovsk is arranged in mostly linear fashion along the shore of Avachinskaya Guba (gulf or bay), and the locations along the main road are identified by their distance from the central post office.  The Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, as well as my flat, are located at "9 km" -- the bus terminal is at "10 km" which is also the location of the big Shamsa supermarket.  My other go-to shopping area is "8 km."

I determined to walk to our rendezvous -- that is, about three kilometers.  The main street was clear, and buses and traffic were running fine.  I tried to balance dressing for the theater with negotiating pedestrian walkways that went from cleared, to half-cleared to narrow steps to non-existent.  I wore snow boots and pants that would shed the snow.  Sometimes the walk is near the street and sometimes "inland" a bit, closer to shops.  I wished I had my walking poles, but managed not to fall, it's generally easier, in any case, to walk on snow than on the old ice that lay under it in many spots.  I arrived just about right on time, and we went to catch a bus.

Olga and her boys in front of the grand
"Kamchatka Theater of Drama and Comedy"
The boys were well dressed for snow, as were all the children I saw entering the theater.  I watched in fascination as all the snowsuits were shed and children transformed into little princes and princesses.  I did not get good pictures of those transformations before or after the performance. There is a huge coat/clothes check, clearly needed in this season. Once we left that area, though, I could hardly believe that it was a winter wonderland outside, children and parents--especially girls--dressed in flouncy, light outfits.

We were there in plenty of time to look around the theater, and we considered getting some second breakfast at the buffet, but decided to wait till after.  We looked in on the pre-theater scene, where groups of children were enjoying treats. Then we went up another level, where boys and girls were racing back and forth in a grand, wooden-floored lobby.  Good to get some physical energy out before the performance! 
groups of children enjoying a pre-performance treat at the
Kamchatka Theater of Drama and Comedy
It fascinates me to watch kids in settings like this theater, or the zoo, or a playground.  I am reminded of Lily Tomlin's character explaining to her space chums the difference between "soup" and "art", that is, the difference between a can of Campbell's soup and Andy Warhol's depiction of said can.  She later takes them to a theater performance, where her space chums decide that the audience is "art" and the performance "soup."  That is, they love watching the audience.  You must read this book. Wagner/Tomlin The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Of course the performance was in Russian...  As I watched, and enjoyed the performance as well as the audience, I realized that I should have "read the libretto" before coming to the theater.  This morning I read a short summary of the original story, which comes from the Italian "Master Cat, or The Booted Cat" (ItalianIl gatto con gli stivaliFrenchLe Maître chat ou le Chat botté) (from WIkipedia).  The English translation "Puss" seems a bit... feminine, whereas this cat is a swashbuckler -- ok, let's not get into feminist issues here....  In Russian, a male cat is "kot" and that is the word used for the Russian version "Kot v sapogakh"   A dinimutive used for female cats is "koshka" -- more like "puss" to me.  I guess I should try to find out the history of translation... later.  
After the performance, groups of children were brought up on
stage to receive gifts for their participation

The performance was very energetic, of course, geared for kids.  They were most engaged when there was physical comedy, including early on, Kot's acquisition of his boots by someone throwing them, one at a time, from offstage, where Kot had clearly annoyed someone.  There was singing (taped and lip-synched) and lots of dancing.  The Kot was of course the star of the show.  At the point where Kot is trying to convince the King that his (impoverished) master is the lord of a large estate (which Kot has tricked away from an ogre), he enjoins the children to yell out his name as the owner of all the lands they are passing through.  The kids did a great job.

In previous visits, I have been to this theater for performances by a Russian men's choir, by indigenous groups of Kamchatka, and by singers of the "bard" tradition.  Now that I have been with Olga and her boys, I think I will make more of an effort to go again.  But Olga says the St. Petersburg ballet performance is already sold out.  You have to know what's going on and how to plan ahead; clearly music and dance are easier for me to appreciate than drama and comedy.  But next time, I'll "read the libretto."

After the performance we went for a walk in Petropavlovsk center.  All the fresh snow was beautiful.  The center has many historical buildings and monuments.  More on them another time.

Costumes on display in the theater.

Here I am in my semi-practical theater outfit.
Besides this, I had only a rain-type parka,
hat and gloves (checked at the theater),
It was snowy but not cold out.

Here are Olga and her boys at the theater.  

This is the entry lobby, with huge coat check to the right.
 Not a great shot, but you can see some of the various levels of kids outside and inside dress.

This is the February 2017 schedule for the
Kamchatka Theater of Drama and Comedy

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Does Kamchatka belong to North America?

On this traditional map of tectonic plates, Kamchatka belongs to North America
This past week has been a week of science -- Wednesday was "Day of Science" in Russia.  Russia has "Days of" many things, there is a Geologists Day, a Day of Volcanology, a day of the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatksiy, a Day of Fishermen,... and TODAY--Sunday 12 February--is a national day for healthy life, with skiing, Tanya says over 1.5 million people nationwide have registered for (cross-country) skiing events.  Avoiding the crowds, we went yesterday, when they were still setting trail and putting up bleachers at the ski center outside the city.

And I have learned that yesterday (11 February--ok, that's actually "today" at this point in the Americas) was/is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, declared by the United Nations. UN on women and girls in science.  I've blogged in the past about this topic.  For example Russian Women Geoscientists and from Hokkaido University, Girls be Ambitious!

For Science Day at the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, which is part of the Far East Division of the Russian Academy of Science (FED RAS), the director, Akademik E.I. Gordeev gave an introduction, which Tanya partially translated for me; I can understand words and sometimes gist, but commonly lose track and give up.... He talked about the state of the Institute and read the names of those receiving special commendation this year; he announced that everyone would be getting a 5000-ruble bonus, which caused a happy rustle in the auditorium.  Then the owner of the Shamsa supermarkets (I call him "Mr. Shamsa") pronounced some congratulations and presented us with a huge basket of fruit.

There were then three scientific talks, the first by a close colleague, Andrey Kozhurin, on tectonic geomorphology; I could understand much of it and discussed it with him later. The second talk was about HSE elements in Kamchatka petrology (I asked Tanya what were HSE, she didn't know, I just now looked it up on Google--highly siderophile elements).  He also used PGE, which I did figure out as platinum group elements.  I didn't understand much at all of that talk, but perked up when a map of the Kamchatskiy Peninsula was shown--one of our major stomping grounds.  The third talk was about seismic monitoring, with some details on recent Zhupanovsky volcanic activity and on the remarkably deep 2013 Sea of Okhotsk earthquake (Mw 8.3).  Then there was an archival movie about "volcanoes and life" -- it was quite romantic; I think it focused on 1970s Tolbachik eruptions; there was poetry composed and recited by one of the narrators, an Akademik volcanologist whose name I forget -- lots of facial hair.

9 Feb 2017 meeting at IVS with some young scientists;
more about them individually, later
On Thursday I met for the second time with our "young scientists" group (I have defined "young" as younger than I am 👵).  I gave a presentation entitled, "Does Kamchatka belong to North America?" -- an important plate tectonic question addressed by some of our group's research and publications.  When we submitted a manuscript to Geology with a long, convoluted title -- about an extruding Okhotsk block and coastal neotectonics -- the editors asked for a catchier title, and I came up with "Does Kamchatka belong to North America?", which, when the paper came out in 2006, gave us headlines around the world.  Here is just one example.  You can Google for more, and find a pdf of the article on Tanya's IVS site.  
Jody's photo.  Upper left to lower right:  Slava Sokolovsky,
Katya Kravshunovskaya (RIP), Vitya Morozov, Sasha
Storcheus (RIP), Kevin Pedoja, Viviana Alvarez, Tanya
Pinegina, Vanya Storcheus, Misha Egorov.

The first author of the paper is Kevin Pedoja, now a professor in Normandy, France.  This photo is from our Ozernoi field season, which was a classic in many ways, not least of which were the gourmet meals we had from fresh salmon, caviar, shellfish, wild fowl, mushrooms, berries, ... kak zhizn! (what a life!).  While Tanya's and my paleotsuanami group spent our time on low beach ridges, Kevin and Vitya (Morozov) would run up to the high terraces to get elevations and make observations.  This involved challenging bushwacking and not-uncommon bear encounters.  Then Kevin would become our "French chef" in the evening.

Here is the basic puzzle:  
The plate boundary between North America and Eurasia is well defined in the Atlantic (white line in picture to left); the mid-Atlantic ridge marks where the two plates move away from each other.  That ridge continues up into the Arctic, but loses character off Siberia.  There is not another distinct plate boundary between that endpoint and the boundary of the Pacific oceanic plate, which is subducting beneath the Aleutians and along the Japan-Kuril-Kamchatka (JKK) trench.

Our basic null hypothesis was that if Kamchatka belongs to the North American plate, then there should not be tectonic activity north of where the Aleutian chain collides with Kamchatka, which is also where the JKK subduction zone ends (the corner in the red line, above).  We have subsequently published two longer articles about this collision zone. By the way, Hokkaido and northern Honshu would also be part of the North America plate in this traditional model (see map at top of blog).  In recent years, other plates have been proposed in this area, including the Okhotsk plate, which has been relatively well accepted by now, and the Bering plate, which is not as well accepted.
In the 3-plate, older model, North America
encompasses Kamchatka, the Sea of Okhotsk,
and northern Japan.  We can call this our
"null hypothesis."
In the newer, 4- or 5-plate model, the Okhotsk plate
is being squeezed where Europe and North America come
together, pushing it (and thus Kamchatka)
 toward the east/southeast.

Much of our Kamchatka field work has focused on the area at and north of the Pacific "corner"  There have been some large historic earthquakes along this border, some tsunamigenic, which tends to support a 4- or 5-plate model.  As paleoseismologists, we have found a relatively high frequency of tsunami deposits in this region, comparable to or higher than some other subduction zones.  And as neotectonicists, we have found uplifted marine terraces that show significant rates of uplift indicative not of the tectonic quiescence one would expect in the three-plate model, our null hypothesis.  So, if you ask us, "Does Kamchatka belong to North America?" our answer would be NO.
Photo by Kevin Pedoja of (labeled) uplifted terraces north of the terminus of the Kuril-Kamchatka subduction zone.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A day in the life (Kamchatka field)

Yesterday (1 Feb 2017) I met with a group of young scientists at the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (it had different name/s back in 1998) --we will meet weekly to practice English and to learn more about international science.  The group ranges from (field) volcanologists to mathematical modelers; I forgot my camera....  I am excited to get to know them and will write more in a future post.  Yesterday we introduced ourselves, Tanya introducing me first in a long encomium (in Russian). Later, I told some of her story (in English, slowly and distinctly spoken), and of our history together. So I decided today to post an essay I wrote some time ago--back in 2000 or so, I call it "a day in the life" -- from our first Kamchatka field season in 1998.
This was our 1998 crew, twoard the end of a 35-km backpack out of our Stolbovaya site.  From left to right:  Vanya Storcheus, Roman Spitsa, Jody Bourgeois, Sasha Storcheus, Tanya Pinegina

“A day in the life”  from Jody B’s 1998 Kamchatka journal

            The Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Russian "Far East," is one of the most seismically and volcanically active regions in the world.  It is also one of the most remote.  Until about 10 years ago, Kamchatka was off limits even to most Soviet citizens, and visits by non-aligned geoscientists virtually unheard of.  With détente and perestroika, Kamchatka opened up in the 1990s, although bureaucratic paperwork, continued military sensitivity, complex logistics, and the unstable Russian economy were still significant hurdles to overcome.
            In the summer of 1998, for six weeks, I worked with Tatiana (Tanya) Pinegina on the Kamchatka Peninsula, just north of the triple junction, on the Bering Sea coast. We were looking for historical and prehistorical tsunami deposits in a frontier area.  My trip was supported by University of Washington Geological Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as the ingenuity and dedication of Tanya and her field crew.  Tanya, a researcher at the Institute of Volcanic Geology and Geochemistry in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, spent a month in Washington State in 1997, hosted by Brian Atwater (USGS, UW) and myself, so this was a return exchange. 
            Tanya's well organized plan to work on a shoestring budget was the single, most important contributor to the success of our field season.  We took public buses, hired local cars and motorboats to transport our gear, and backpacked and paddled to two remote sites.  Berries and fish we caught were important components of our field fare.  I've chosen one day from my journal and field notes to typify the experience.

5 August 1998, Soldatskaya Bay, Bering Sea coast. 
We get up fairly early, around seven, emerging from our sardine-like sleeping arrangements--five of us on a 1.5 by 3-meter platform in a 3 by 3-meter cabin dug in to the river bank.  The storm has abated, our clothes have dried, the river has dropped, the surf is quiet.  Breakfast, cooked by Vanya on the outside fire, is kasha, with (instant) milk and freshly picked blueberries.  The boys drink tea, and Tanya and I have weak coffee--we are running low, as we had to wait out the storm.  Vanya will stay in camp for the day, to guard from bears, to gather wood, to keep camp and to prepare food.
            We pack and dress for a long day.  I am still struggling to learn how to wrap my feet in partyanki, rectangles of wool used rather than socks by Russian field workers (soldiers, geologists, fishermen), before stuffing them in my rubber hip boots--standard footwear for the wet grass, marshes, and streams we commonly encounter.  This day we aim to the center of the embayment, heading ultimately for the 35-m-high terrace about 2 km from the shore.  After crossing the river mouth on foot (tide is low), we stop and pick "princess" berries (gnyazhnika--a kind of ground raspberry)--we are never in too much of a hurry to pick berries, this exercise providing not only part of our sustenance, but also one of our small pleasures. 
            The weather is pleasant, mostly sunny, the flowers are spectacular in their variety of colors and sizes.  Mosquitoes not too bad today.  First, Roma and Sasha excavate small trenches on the lower beach ridges.  As we work toward the back of the coastal plain, the trenches exhibit older and older volcanic ash layers, and some ‘candidate’ (potential, up for evaluation) tsunami deposits.  Before we reach the high terrace, we bushwhack through shrubs, hop over bumpy patterned ground, and traverse a spongy marsh.  We collect a pot of water from a slough, as there will be none up on the terrace.  Along the terrace front I can see five or six bear trails--places the grass has been flattened, recently.  We climb the slope and cross an open field to the edge of a birch grove, choosing the site for a 3-m-deep excavation (shurf), which Roma lays out.
            While Roma digs, Sasha builds a fire and boils water.  Tanya and I chat, write notes, pick berries, think grand thoughts, discuss ideas.  When I excuse myself to go off to the bushes, Tanya says, "Jody, don't go far, here lives bear."   Before describing the excavation, we recline in the tall grass and eat lunch--the last of our bread (somewhat moldy), freshly caught salmon and its caviar, prepared last night, caramel (boiled condensed milk, sgushyonka), weak tea.  A small shower blows over as Tanya and I describe the trench, then Roma and Sasha fill it back up, and we head north, toward another terrace.
            Sasha typically leads the way.  A volcano seismologist who grew up in the Russian Far East, he has spent much time in the wilds of Kamchatka and Siberia.  We follow a bear trail, for the most part, but veer right where the bear veered left, away from our terrace.  Soon we come to a slough we cannot cross, and we backtrack--Sasha's a good pathfinder, but the bear knew better.  On the next terrace, we repeat our actions.  I sketch a view of the mountains to the south--they seem to be tilted up and back toward the west--this area is very active tectonically, with many uplifted, relatively young terraces, and some deranged drainages.  Before dropping off the terrace, we pick more berries, mostly crowberries (shiksha) here, getting fatter and riper as the weeks pass.  You can strip 15 or 20 with a few swipes of your hand.  I wonder how the bears do it--Tanya says they eat the whole plant and spit out the branches.
            We head back toward the beach, crossing small sloughs by leaping, stepping on overhanging shrubs, bushwhacking till we find narrow spots.  Tanya picks another excavation spot, and Roma starts to dig.  Sasha is suddenly at my side, saying, "Jody, bear!" and turning me to face west, toward the terrace, orienting me to get a view.  I have not yet seen a Kamchatka bear (myedved), though I have seen many bear signs—bear trails, bear beds, bear footprints, bearshit.  I strain to look in the distance when a large brown head pops up above the shrubs, not more than 15 meters away, and then it is gone!  Sasha says he saw the bear, then the bear stood on its hind legs and looked our way, and now the bear, a big, old (light brown) one, is hightailing it away from us.  I want to see the bear some more, but Sasha tells me no, I don't, because the bear has smelled or heard us and is going away, afraid.  If it comes back, it only means trouble.  We carry whistles, bear flares, and two guns, but never have used them; these bears are solitary by nature, and here they are unfamiliar with and afraid of people. 
            We finish the trench description and head on, one more slough to cross.  We jump over a narrow spot, and then find ourselves on an island, with a wider channel yet to go.  Sasha leans over the slough, steps on unstable vegetation, makes the leap, successfully.  He takes Tanya's outstretched hand, and she reaches back to me for balance, making the leap, successfully.  To make a long story short, I tried next, and ended up waist deep in the slough.  Tanya and Sasha pulled me out, and I got down on all fours to dump the water from my hip boots.  The day was nearly gone (it was after 8 PM), so Tanya decided to send me and Sasha back to camp, while she and Roma did one more excavation. 
            I was wet, but not miserable.  When we got back to the river mouth, though, the tide was too high for us to wade across, so Sasha had to pump up the small rubber boat.  Big enough for one, we used it for two, as a ferry on these small rivers.  The pumping seemed to take forever.  A seal watched from the water close by--probably the seal who took bites out of the flounder and salmon caught in our nearby fish net.  (I always called a watching seal nyerpa nol-nol-syem – 007).  All we had as a paddle was a small shovel, but it was not far across.  Once on the other side, Sasha went on ahead to tell Vanya to stoke the fire.  When I arrived, Vanya helped me remove my boots and wet clothes, and gave me a big cup of kompote--berries boiled in sweetened water.  I warmed up quickly, eating some lukewarm salmon/rice cakes and noodles, trying to enjoy the spectacular sunset.  Sasha went back to ferry Tanya and Roma, and they returned with more fish from our net. 
As the sun set, around 10:30, the mosquitoes got thicker, and I retired to the sleeping platform, not even bothering to undress, and quickly dozed off.  Next thing I know, I am awakened by a rumbling, shaking sensation--an earthquake.  No one else has yet come in to the cabin to sleep.  Tanya starts yelling, "Jody, quickly, stand up!"  "Jody, quickly, come!"  I wonder, is she afraid the dug-in cabin will collapse?  Slowly I realize she is evacuating us to higher ground, in case of tsunami.  I am sleepy and tired and cranky and do not want to get up.  I "reason" that the earthquake was not big enough to make a sizeable tsunami.  I forget all the advice I tell folks living on the coast--if you feel an earthquake, don't wait, go to high ground!  I forget about all the people in Nicaragua (1992) and Peru (1996) who did not feel their earthquake (or barely felt it) and whose tsunami flattened their houses.  I only slowly remember that recently, two tsunamis in Kamchatka with high runup were amplified by earthquake-triggered landslides.  I reluctantly pull on my boots and follow Tanya and the others across the moonlit terrace to higher ground.   I begin to understand how easy it is to ignore warning signs of a tsunami, especially when it is nighttime and you are in an exhausted state....
            We chat in the chill night air, and hear a distant rumble but feel no more shaking—a landslide?  aftershock?  Waiting a respectable amount of time, we then return to our sleeping bags, calm down and finally fall asleep.  The next morning, there is no trace of a tsunami on the beach, but there are new bear tracks covering our footprints from the day before.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Kamchatka shopping adventures

Any shop worth its salt will have many versions of canned
fish.  This photo is from 2017 in an "open aisle" shop.
When I first came to Kamchatka, shopping in our (American) bourgeois, capitalistic style was quite new.  In fact, I didn't really "shop" myself for starters, ... shopping was a recondite process, and my red-blooded American desire to buy whatever I needed, whenever, was quashed -- I said I wanted to go buy a toothbrush (I had forgotten mine), and Tanya instead sent our friend Roman Spitsa to buy one for me, ...wherever that was.  My flat was in a rather uncommercialized part of the city of Petropavlovsk, but finally, at the end of my first summer field visit, I braved the local shop to buy a few things for a party.  A "typical" indoor shop at that time was a single room in an apartment building, with the possible items to buy all behind counters.  My Russian was primitive, and the words I knew, such a "bread" (xleb) I pronounced poorly.  I ended up pointing and saying, "Ya xochu eta" (I want that).  Within hours, it was all over the village that a foreigner had come into this little shop and bought some items.  Tanya thought I was so brave!  I don't have a picture from then.
This brand new building is a collection of shops,
with a supermarket on the basement floor.  Many
of the shop spaces are still vacant.  There is good
seismic engineering visible inside.
     That was almost 20 years ago.  Now Russia has grabbed shopping by storm, or at least the selling part of it.  It's hard to see how so many shops can stay in business.  All sorts of shops, from very traditional corner shops and outdoor kiosks and bazaars to supermarkets and even a "gipermarket" (hypermarket--no "h" in Russian).
     Since I arrived this winter, I have gone shopping a number of times, mostly just for groceries, which are relatively easy to shop for.  While it's easiest for me, a not-very-good Russian speaker/listener/reader, to shop at a supermarket with open aisles and shelving--thus no one waiting while I try to decipher if I am buying shampoo, conditioner, gel, or something else (it's easier than Japan for me, at least I can read the letters of cyrillic).  Dish soap or laundry soap or dishwasher soap (my flat in 2017 has machines for washing laundry and dishes!).
The Krushchyovsky-type apt building that
 the shop "Maria" is in has a relatively
new facade. I thought I took a picture
of the interior, but it's not on my camera...
I am not very good at snagging shots.

The nearest shop to my flat is "Maria," a standard one-room, behind-the-counter place near the institute.  First time I went in this year, I wanted apples and asked for "apelseen" which are oranges!  Oh well, I pointed and got what I wanted. Today I went in here after failing to find eggs at several other shops, and sure enough, "Maria" had them.  Even though the "rent" at these shops should be small, there is still an economy of scale, so that these small shops are quite like our convenience stores, with higher prices.  At the nearby bus stop there is now a compact, open-aisle 24-hour market packed into a narrow space.  I bought laundry soap there for
This convenience store, near my nearest
bus stop, is open 24 hours.
120 rubles, just to buy something while snooping around (I mean doing my shopping reconnaissance) and taking pictures.  Later I priced the box of powdered soap (Tide for color) at 106 rubles at a medium-sized market and 86 rubles at the big Shamsa supermarket.  I would like to patronize local shops if they have local owners, but that's really hard to judge here, unless you are buying "domashni" (home-grown) produce at an open bazaar.  Not the time of year for that!
The "W" looking letter is "sh" in Russian
and "C" is "s" for that's Shamsa's name
at the right.  The sign in black top center
says "rive gauche" in Russian!  BTW,
most of these cars are used, from Japan,
with wrong-side driving for Russia...
Shamsa from the second floor of mall.
This "half" is mostly non-consumables
but lacks key items (see blog).  So many
choices, urrah for capitalism!?
     So most of my grocery (produkti) shopping has been at the supermarket "Shamsa,"  which has doubled in size since I was here in 2010, and has many other smaller, specialty stores within its complex (we might call it a "mall").  One might think that one could find just about anything at Shamsa, but... not counting the facts that I can't read Russian well, am generally inclined to keep looking rather than ask a question, and the store is huge, ... one cannot find a nail clipper here, e.g.  Or a coffee grinder.  Definitely shampoo and other soapy things, various paper products, dishes, toys, lots and lots of produkti, and of course a huge liquor selection, which I have yet to sample.  There are racks and racks of herbs and spices of various kinds and brands, including pre-mixed versions for borsch, shashlik, riba (fish), grechka (buckwheat groats).  It took me awhile to find oregano and
A "spice rack" to choose from--
one of several in a single shop.
 even to locate dill (ukrop), the latter being very standard, though it's no longer pickling season...  Still, this is one of my more favorite things to do is to try to read all these labels and find what I want.  Years ago, in an open bazaar, I was at a herb/spice (only!) kiosk and asked for a curry powder.  He did not understand (the "ur" sound is very foreign to Russians).  I tried to explain in Russian that it was a mix/blend and came from India.  Finally, he said, "oh, karri!" and implied it came from China not India.  Whatever.  Got it.
     One of my most favorite Kamchatka foods/treats is brusnika  -- known as lingonberry, or tundra cranberry; it is smaller with more intense flavor than bog cranberry.  So upon arrival I bought some frozen brusnika and made my own jam for bread and for muesli/kasha.  You can buy lots of frozen items in shops, of course they are easiest to keep in winter, just put them in the snow or in a box outside your kitchen window.  You can buy frozen blini, pelmeni, ...
Brusnika upper right, pelmeni lower left.
Lots of frozen goodies to choose from.
 I am not sure of my freezer here, so thus far, I have not bought too many frozen items.  Tanya started me out with a big, frozen slab of king salmon (chavicha) from one caught by a friend of hers.  I've made two soups, mostly from root vegetables, which are definitively the standard here.  I added some salmon after I had had it a few times straight up, and thus made a chowder.  Now I have pea soup.
     So--what were my challenges this time in shopping?  Three items eluded me -- a thumb drive (I forgot mine!), a nail clipper (ditto), and a coffee grinder--I brought beans from Moscow Starbucks...        I found the thumb drive first, but not before some failures.  Finally, I located a large electronics store in the basement of one of the new, multi-story malls.  But I didn't know the word for thumb drive, and my dictionary is older than thumb drives.  I tried to explain "small memory" (like memory stick), then figured to say "oo ess bay" and he responded, "ah, flash" -- that's it!  Too many words for those little suckers.
This is an unimpressive view of the "gipermarket" (hypermarket)
red and white) also known as "druzba" (friendship, sort of).
I was on foot, from downhill, when I took this picture,
though Tanya and I had seen it from the road/her car as
an impressive structure on the hill.
     Next, after several strike-outs I finally "found" a nail clipper -- in a shop specializing in all things finger-nails... [but missing from another such shop, one even larger].  Problem was, the clipper was behind a counter, there were several customers ahead of me, and I chickened out. If it had been Seattle Bartell's they would be right there at the cashier's desk...(thought I)    
Coffee grinder.  First I found an appliance store at Shamsa, but it only had fancy, 7000-ruble grinders (more than $100).  Then Tanya sent me to "8 kilometers" which is one of the wholesale bases for the city of Petropavlovsk, even since Soviet times, and where there was a large indoor store of home goods.  Nothing doing.  Electric kettles, egg beaters, simple blenders,...
But at another applicance store where I struck out, a helpful man told me to go to
At the gipermarket druzba--the whole
 top row is coffee-bean grinders.
 "Friendship" -- indicating it was down the road, down the hill.  I didn't have time on that day's excursion to make the trek, so a couple days later--ground coffee running short!--I made another "shopping excursion", taking photos, etc., for this blog.  When I arrived at this store ("Friendship"), OMG, how many appliances could there be!  A helpful store worker said "Can I help you?" but that was most of the extent of his English.  Cofye-moli... some ending --I tend to drop my Russian endings because they are so complex.  We figured out what I was looking for, and lo and behold, so many coffee grinders, I had to struggle to make a choice!  I confess to choosing a German one (rather than Chinese, which was cheaper).  Well, I don't think there was a Russian one.
My receipts for the coffee grinder,
photo taken later, at home.
Then the process of purchase.  Sales clerk went to get the box and warrantee, instructions, made some notes; sent me to cashier with a printed form, which she used to ring up the sale (I used a credit card--also new since I was last here!), and she signed and I signed on several lines, then she stamped over three combined receipts, tore off one half for her and gave me the other!
    Still don't have a nail clipper, my toenails are going to destroy all my socks soon...

Below are a few more photos of representative shopping here.
A fairly typical street kiosk, this one selling cheese ("ciir" an impossible'
word for me to pronounce, the "i" is soft)

I took this for the sign, which transliterates "Lady Big"

A pharmacy (aptyeka)  -- even "over the counter" medications are behind the counter here.

A kind of "home depot" -- everyone is either renovating or building here.

Part of the wholesale base at 8 kilometers, many nondescript shops.
This is typically where geologists buy supplies for their summer field.
Cases of cans of meat, corn, sardines; large sacks of flour and sugar,
cases of crackers, cookies; large sacks of potatoes, cabbage, carrots.

Inside of one of the larger wholesale markets.  Smaller shopowners buy here and resell.
I man asked me what I was doing taking this picture, I tried in fractured Russian to tell him
I was an American and I wanted to show my friends how to shop on Kamchatka.  Tanya'
later advised, just say "Amerikanka,... Facebook"...  I don't wanna go to jail!

An outdoor, smaller wholesale shop at 8 km.  Anyone can buy here.
And you can commonly buy smaller amounts.  So many different ways to buy!
[that's my January midday shadow]

Agrotek is the local company making kielbasa.  Buy local!

This little shop specializes in sweets--candy, caramels, cookies, ...

At 8 km, there are a few places to buy hot food, this one is an "Uzbeki kitchen"

This is "Svarog" -- used to be an open-aisle market, closest to my flat;
now it is a whole series of mostly behind-the-counter specialty food shops,
including meat, bakery goods, deli, candies, fruits, bakery good, vegetables, meat, candies, ...
[yes, there is repetition, several little shops selling mostly the same stuff]

Another one of the aisles of Svarog in its current configuration (see above).

A small outdoor bazaar (rinok) at 10 km (that's 10 km from the
center post office), near the bus station.  More will be open in warmer weather.
Seems like these places keep going, despite all the other kinds of shops.
Some things here can be cheaper, but sometimes I think it's a preference of
traditional shoppers.

Today I found this specialty shop for coffee and tea, near Shamsa.
But no coffee grinders!

I took this photo for Megumi Sugimoto.  This shop,
specializing in beauty products, is named "Megumi"

One more view of a row of "traditional" little shops at 10 km.
Note that "traditional" mostly still means post-Soviet.
 But I'll ask my colleagues for more about that.