The Scariest Boat Ride of my Life

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

I've been on some pretty scary boat rides in my life, but today's really took the cake. At one point, I remember grabbing my boot laces, just in case I needed to untie them quickly if I suddenly ended up in the water. We arrived safely, but I'll remember that boat ride for a long time.

But, the boat ride was the end of our day—the last leg in our journey to IFAW's Beluga Project research station. My day started much earlier.

I left Moscow at 6:30 AM and met up with Lena, from IFAW's Russia office. She's a jack-of-all-trades, my translator and my escort for the trip out to the beluga project. We've been emailing for months, so it was wonderful to actually meet her this morning.

Six hours and two plane rides later, and we arrived at Slovestsky island where we were greeted by Tatinan, one of IFAW's many friends in this region. We walked around Solovetsky while she told us about the history of the island.  Sure it was in Russian (a language I don't speak a word of), but between Lena's translation and my sharp sense for interpreting hand gestures, I lerned a lot. Despite its beautiful surroundings this island has a very dark past.  Starting in 1921 and ending in 1939 the beautiful Solvetsky monastary was taken over by Stalin and made into the first of the horrible Gulag labor camps.  They said that Solvetsky is so far away that no one would hear the screams...  No one knows how many people were tortured and killed in the Gulag's short history, but some estimate it to be as high as 40,000.

After a short walk through town—past a cow that seemed determined to get somewhere fast—we picked up a few groceries and met our boat for the ride out to the research station.

Which brings us back to where this post began: the scariest boat ride of my life.

But we survived the boat ride, and safely arrived at the research station. We're just 51 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and it is beautiful here, in a rough, raw and untamed way. I'll upload some photographs very soon.

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