Arrival in Russia
Post by Jake Levenson, IFAW Global Program Officer for Whales, Headquarters Office
Well, I've arrived in Moscow after about 15 hours of travel and a somewhat chaotic airport scene. My Russian colleagues, whom I've actually never met in person, have been excellent in helping arrange logistics for me. They had a taxi driver waiting with a sign marked IFAW. Quite a relief to see when you get into a country where you don’t speak the language, and hardly anyone speaks yours!
Today is a buffer day so that I can rest up from the time change and long flight, as well as spend a couple hours exploring Moscow. Tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM I head for Slovky and our Beluga Project camp site. Before I venture out into Moscow, here’s a little background on our Beluga Project:
Our Beluga Project is located in Russia’s Solovetsky Islands, near the arctic circle. The Solovetsky Islands are probably best known for the monastery that was built by two monks in the 15th century as well as the former Soviet Russia's horrific gulag labor camp that was located here.
The Solovetsky Islands are one of the best places in the world to study beluga whales. It's here, among sheltered island waters, that pregnant beluga moms-to-be come to give birth to their young. We've discovered that this typically starts around in late June and is over by the first week of August. Few males are ever spotted here and it appears as though the whales are using this area as a maternity ward and nursery. Here, sheltered from harsh arctic storms, beluga moms can nurse their newborn calves in safety.
Alright, that’s all I have time for now. In my next post I’ll explain a bit more about our Beluga Whale project, and why we believe the beluga nursery needs international protections. For now, I need to prepare for the next leg of my journey. Tomorrow will start at 6 AM, when I must head to the airport for the three hour flight north.. My next update should come from there, assuming I can get by the language barrier, get the satellite phone working and can charge my laptop battery!