Barents Sea

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Barents Sea

October 13, 2011 - 23:23
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All along the shores of the Kola Peninsula in North Russia, Finno-Ugric tribes (Laplander) have lived since the oldest of ages. In the 11th century, the Viking ships appeared here, and then the Novgorods and the Pomors (Russian settlers and traders on the coasts of the White Sea and the Barents Sea) came.

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During their three years here, the Dutchman organized three expeditions to search for a navigable way through the ice. They discovered new lands, charted maps, made meteorological observations, and conducted the first wintering of the Dutch team in the Arctic region. They struggled with scurvy, having lost their ship, and made a desperate attempt to get to safety on two cockboats to reach the Kola Peninsula where they met the ship, поморов. The surviving crew members came back to Amsterdam where they had long been considered dead.

The history of these navigations are described in books by Gerrit de-Fera, The truthful description of three voyages by the Dutch and Zealand ships, to the North from Norway, Moskovia and Tataria, to kingdoms China and Cinchona, and Barents's voyages (Diarium nauticum).

During the last expedition, Willem Barents died of scurvy. According to seamen tradition, he was buried in the sea, which the German geographer, A. Peterman, named the Barents Sea in 1853 in honor of this famous polar explorer.

Diving in Russia?

In discussing the best dive sites of the world with foreign journalists—the elite of the international diving press—we found out with surprise that our writer/diver friends knew practically nothing about diving in Russia. From year to year, such erudite divers of most other countries asked us the same questions: Where is it interesting to dive in your country? Where are the best dive locations, etc.?

Certainly, Russia is the country of 13 seas, but how do you talk about all the diving attractions in each of them? Where does one find authoritative experts, photographers and dive guides from the best diving locations in Russia, to describe all the unique features and beauty of the underwater world of this country?

In the midst of these infinite meditations, we were interrupted by the unexpected offer to dive on the Barents Sea to the north of the Kola Peninsula in the territory of the Kandalaksha nature reserve. If one has a look on a map, it is to the east of Norway and even further to the east of the city of Murmansk.

The offer looked routine and not promising of anything especially new. We knew practically nothing about the diving features in this region, but all the same, decided to go, in order to start to build up a personal collection of details on Russian dive sites for our foreign friends.

We had already dived in Norway, and as the north of the Kola Peninsula is a continuation of the Norwegian coast, which is already known as a classic in the best cold water dive sites of the world, we expected to see an underwater world very similar to the Viking country. It was also interesting to us to have an opportunity to compare diving in the Barents Sea to that of the Norwegian Sea.

The northern coast of the Kola Peninsula, or southern edge of the Arctic Ocean, is straighter than the rest. Here, there are very few warm fjords and only a few good bays. That’s why the influence of the Arctic Ocean is felt so very much up here, and strong storms happen quite often.

There are three natural landscapes one passes during the four hours of driving from the airport of Murmansk to the region, and 70 kilometers of broken roads up to the fishing settlement of Teriberka where we would be boarding our dive boat. The coniferous and mixed woods came to an end as soon as we crossed the snowy hills, and the forest tundra with rare bush from Karelian birch, thawed streams and snow fields, began.

Nearing the coast at the Arctic Ocean, even dwarfish trees disappear. Here, ....

Originally published

on page 56

X-Ray Mag #28

February 18, 2009 - 23:35
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