Yamal Peninsula

The Yamal Peninsula stretches some seven hundred kilometres into the Arctic Ocean from the Russian mainland below the Arctic Circle. Known to it's indigenous inhabitants as 'the end of the world', this area of the Russian federation is arousing international attention.

The nomadic Nenets tribes of this peninsula have retained their traditional culture and simple way of life for over a thousand years. Surviving Stalinist Russia and the interests of the gas drilling company Gazprom they now face a new threat, climate Change and their landscape is dramatically changing. In recent years, this rich, rugged and inaccessible peninsula in Northern Siberia has been the focus of media headlines. The world's largest energy company Gazprom, is trying to fully exploit Russia's largest gas field containing an estimated half of the world’s reserves. Gazprom has embarked on an extensive venture to cash in on these gas reserves, the venture becoming Russia’s largest energy project in history. At the same time the landscape in Yamal is changing as the Arctic permafrost thaws due to warmer Arctic temperatures. Scientists are concerned that millions of tonnes of Ch4 (methane) locked in the thawing permafrost could be a ticking time bomb, a tipping point for the world's climate system.

During the summer this expansive muskeg landscape is light twenty-four hours a day. In winter, darkness shrouds the peninsula with snow metres thick and temperatures can plummet to below minus fifty during the very coldest days. The Nenets people continue to live here, united in this extreme environment by a tough work ethic dependent on families functioning as a team. The tribes here are the guardians of a nomadic style of reindeer-herding not seen anywhere else in the world. They know this landscape intimately, travelling three to ten kilometres every few days in summer and up to thirty kilometres in the winter. Lakes they live by and depend on for food are disappearing as the permafrost underneath collapses. The Nenets now expect to survive their sustainable tradition for no more than forty years.

Another sign of change is at the coast. Every year the Kara Sea is chewing as much as six metres off the Yamal coastline due to a reduction in seasonal sea ice. The ice acts as a natural buffer against the harsh winter storms and without it the coastline is more prone to erosion. There is a risk that the rapidly changing climate will accelerate ecosystem degradation in ways that the Nenets are unable to cope with, given the constellation of other factors impinging upon their ability to maintain herding as a viable livelihood. It will most certainly make extraction of resources increasingly hazardous, expensive and dangerous.

If the Arctic continues to warm, vast amounts of methane will be released into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change and mirroring the fate of the Nenets onto the rest of the world.

The Silhouette of a chum, the traditional Nenets housing, against the midnight sun. Pronounced

The chumAdornedBetween the housesYamal flag Town meets the tundraSledges in town Town before tundra Yar-Sale streetUnder construction Boat town LeninConstruction decorationConstruction site Around the housesLifeline to the tundra Culture clashFishing at sunsetReindeer shrineOfferingsSacred place Winter storageMosquito repellentSunriseThe first settlementNenets girlExperienced changeCollapsed landscapePole DancingDuskPlaying at DuskYasha Yaptik, Yamal Peninsula, RussiaValya Yaptik, Yamal Peninsula, RussiaChums at sunsetWashing lineYasha YaptikMidnight on a Siberian summer's eveShaman dollMoss diapersSick calfPacking up the chumPacking up and preparing to move500 kilometres per yearThe house and kitchen tableGathering the reindeerHerdingEveryone has a roleWaitingTrekking across the tundraEarlier ice meltSetting upBread makingThe new settlementSorting the netFishermenThe last generationKeeping in shapeWetlandsReindeer raceRepairing clothesInside the Yaptik chumRare life styleThe family chumFormer lakeCollapsing peninsulaYuribey sunsetArdjon Vanuyto, Yamal Peninsula, RussiaSergey Vanuyto, Yamal Peninsula, RussiaSveta Vanuyto, Yamal Peninsula, RussiaNasta and Sergey Vanuyto, Yamal Peninsula, RussiaNasta Vanuyto, Yamal Peninsula, RussiaDinner PreperationLake landSkullEnd of the worldUnstableMethane bubblesThe water disappearedBed of former lake Tayoumato'Explosion'More mosquitoesBad omenSmoked fishPreservingThe Hoodi family with mosquitoBluebellsGetting warmerCollapsed river bankIce layersNenets GirlsExperiencedMethane storeSmall feetSettlement by the riverCompanionsIgor Serotetto, Yamal Peninsula, RussiaState DeerIn the NetCrossing the Yuribey Crossing the YuribeyShaking off WaterHardy womenTraditional RolesSurrounding thermokarst SkinningUsing everythingDrinking bloodHidden resourcesMoving bridge