Farewell Piltun Lagoon. Hello Three-Day Trek Home.

Post by Jake Levenson, Global Program Officer for Whales, IFAW Headquarters Office

It's official. It is nasty outside, and I am freezing! The wind is howling and, with no real trees in the Russian tundra to protect our hut from the wind, our home is really shaking! 

It's so bad out there that even Malish has taken cover in the light keeper's hut with us. This dog lives for time outside, running and playing in the dunes and shallow water. When he comes inside, you know it must be awful outside.

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Malish is a former stray, who has found a home with the light keeper here. He has it pretty good: a safe place to live through the harsh, Russian winters, and a new crew of IFAW researchers to shower him with love and attention every summer. Malish was just a young dog when the team first took him in a few years ago. In fact, his name means kid in Russian.

3816459698_8e202252d9 Without the light keeper's care, Malish would probably not survive the winters here. The bone-chilling temperatures often stays well below for months at a time -- it gets so cold and snowy that the light keeper's well is inside his hut! Worse, stray dogs are sometimes shot and killed for food in the winter, by hungry people who can sometimes be cut off from stores and towns by several feet of snow. We couldn't let this happen to Malish, so we're thrilled that the light keeper has taken him in. The light keeper is actually a great lover of animals -- in addition to Malish, he looks out for another dog and several cats, including this photogenic fellow:

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I'll miss Malish when I head home. I'd love to bring him back to the States with me, but he has a wonderful life here, and he loves his freedom. He follows us back and forth as we haul our gear through and over the mud. He's even tried to join us in the boat for our photo ID surveys. Here are a few photographs I've taken of Malish over this past week. You can tell that he is totally in his element here:

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Well, my laptop battery is just about drained. This will probably be my last post from Piltun Lagoon. In fact, it will likely be my last post for a while, until I am able to recharge my laptop's batteries.

Although I start my journey home today, the IFAW team will stay behind. They will wait out the storm, hoping for some more calm-weather days that will allow them to gather more data before the whales (and humans) leave the lagoon behind for the winter months.

It's my last few hours here at the Piltun camp, time to go finish packing my bags before the long off-road drive to the train, then the plane, and finally (three days from now) home.

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