East Russia

The visit to east Russia was primarily to document permafrost and infrastructure damage. But, what lies locked within these frozen soils is of much greater concern than what is happening on the surface.

After arriving in Moscow we flew six time zones to Yakutsk in east Russia where one of the most intense weeks of this project commenced. Greenpeace Russia had planned this trip and our first experience of Russia began with a permafrost inspection roller coaster travelling to a new city almost everyday. On arrival in Yakutsk we became a team of four accompanied by a translator and a videographer from Greenpeace Russia.

During it was hard not to grasp the vastness of Russia. Mostly from the back of Lada taxis tackling terrain that off-road vehicles shouldn't even attempt. Punctures, running out of fuel and road rage filled the time between visiting the places where the impacts of thawing permafrost are worst. This part of the trip also took us on our first long rail journeys travelling from Yakutsk to Neryungri, Neryungri to Chara, Chara to Baikal and finally from Irkutsk to Moscow. Most people are aware of the Trans-Siberian railway, but under Soviet rule an extensive network of approximately 85,000 kilometres of railtrack was built between 1920 and the late 1980's.

60 percent of Russia is permafrost , ranging in thickness from a few metres to some of the thickest in the world at 1,400 metres deep. Methane clathrates and organic residues that decompose into organic gases when thawed have been locked in the permafrost, frozen for thousands of years. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is 23 times more effective at trapping solar heat than carbon dioxide. The most recent estimation of the amount of carbon stored in permafrost soils is more than double the amount currently in the atmosphere. The uppermost horizon, 0–30 cm frozen layer, contains approximately 191 Gigatons of organic carbon. If these gases are released into the atmosphere it will not be possible to avert run away climate change - a tipping point that will affect the entire planet and not just the infrastructure built upon it.

Prayer flags wave in the wind on Olkhon Island near sacred Shamans rock in Lake Baikal. Natives believe that Burkhan, a modern religious cult figure of the Altai people lives in cave under the rock.

Prayer flagsTaxi ride in ЯкутскBuilt on stiltsFlooded buildingMind the gapsInsulatedOn the moveThe freezing lineUnderground labAncient carbonAncient skullIce crystalsDated cracksBumpy streetsStreet fightersTransneftNeryungri centreMining communityBank loansSubsiding landscapeOil to ChinaEthnographical museumDaniar Seminova, Iengra, RussiaWarningIn the Village'Drunken' forestBoreal forestRainbowsRainbows over the taigaRainbowInside a thermokarst lakeThermokarstFrozen organicsReleasing lakesDiverted riverSurface runMuddyInside the pipePipeline on permafrostDrunken polesBallast collapseChat about CharaLargest reservoirSnow meltSacred placeFlowers by the lakeBlowing in the WindThe view northView from OlkhonFishingThe 'Pearl of Siberia'Deepest in the worldSunset over BaikalImpacts of thawing Permafrost