The Commander Islands attract tourists from all over the world: from Russia, Europe, North and South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Modern touristic infrastructure gives a possibility to see the whole beauty of local nature and the life force of the place. The infrastructure includes observation points, information boards, ecological trails and signs as well as comfortable houses in distant bays of Bering Island for tourists to live and for scientific groups to conduct research. In 2017 the Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve signed a contract with Meridian Udachi Company from Perm to develop the territory. This article will tell you about some of the objects already finished and about one small inconviniences.
The builders came on Kamchatka in March 2017 and started preparations for building the first object – observation point on Toporkov Island. They bought lumber, sawed it in pieces according to the project, planed the pieces and covered them with antiseptic layer, which will prevent the wood from rotting in such uneasy climatic conditions of the North Pacific region. The team took the materials and boarded Vasily Zavoiko motor vessel in the end of April and came on the Commander Islands.
It is only 4 km on boat from Nikolskoye village to Toporkov Island, but the work was delayed by big waves in the water area. But we couldn’t wait as all construction works should had been over before tufted puffins came, because it is their nesting grounds. All in all during nesting season Toporkov Island becomes a home for 45 000-50 000 couples of these birds. As if by design, the first fussy tufted puffins came right after the last day of work flapping their winds, which are of little help in case of water takeoff.
The observation point consists of two layers. From the second floor you can see Toporkov Island table land - the place where the birds construct nests and lay eggs. The height of the second floor was chosen for tourists not to cause any distraction to the birds. The construction is made of square-sawn timber on the base of screw piles without the use of any toxic or harmful materials.
The next construction spot was on Severo-Zapadnoye rookery of marine mammals on Bering Island. The situation was the same as on Toporkov Island – all the work had to be over before the animals came on the beaches, such as sea lions, northern fur seals. We did not want to bother the animals in the most important period of their lives: the pinnipeds come to the Commander Islands to bear pups. All the planned activities – repairs of two observation points, installation of information boards about rookeries of the island and its inhabitants and installation of the entrance sign – were finished in time.
Today you can fruitfully observe the animals on Severo-Zapadnoye rookery in comfortable conditions. The observation points are equipped with benches. The information boards are full of data on biology and ecology of the species, on contemporary state of the populations on the Commander Islands and other habitats.
After the work on the rookery was over the builders divided into two teams and started construction of houses in remote bays of Bering Island far away from Nikolskoye village: Polovina, Poludennaya, Lisinskaya and Peresheyek. The necessary materials, such as rounded logs and screw piles for the foundation were transported to the construction sites. The assembling took a month and a half and now we have seven comfortable and modern houses. Their walls will withstand even the strongest of the Commander Islands winds and modern heaters produce and retain warmth for long.
The buildings are situated in Staraya Gavan, Buyan (2 houses and a washhouse), Polovina (eastern coast of Bering Island), Lisinskaya, Peresheyek and Poludennaya (western coast) Bays. For the Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve the construction of these houses is one of the key events of 2017. Moreover, volunteers from Russian Geographical Society (RGO) covered the houses with special protecting layer to prevent the wood from rotting.
On the one hand, we received an opportunity to help tourists embrace the remote parts of the island, distant territories, which are of greater interest, than the northern part of Bering Island. At the same time we can guarantee the essential in these conditions comfort and warmth – a roof over one’s head. On the other hand, our researchers and scientists from other research organizations now have the possibility to work far from the village for a long time.
Moreover, on the eastern and western coasts of Bering Island, where lie the main passable routes and roads, we installed the signs to mark the boundaries of the buffer zone of the reserve. It is a zone with special protection regime to sustain nature and the core area. Local people and tourists cannot go there to minimize any anthropogenic influence on flora or fauna on the territory.
“I’ve been working in construction field for a long time already and I try to participate in the most interesting tenders and build in remote parts of our country. So I couldn’t miss the opportunity to work on the Commander Islands,” said Vladimir Chernikh, Director of Meridian Udachi Company, which was building and repairing our houses and observation points throughout the season. “It is a marvelous fascinating place with unique nature, which talks to you like a friend. It reminds me of two quotes of Lack London: “I have been working with my own hands for all my life, but only here did I realize, what real work means” and another one: “Here even the childhood friends became deadly enemies”. It was hard, but great. I saw whales, seabirds, seals and will recommend visiting the Commander Islands Reserve to my friends.”
Unfortunately, not everything went smoothly. The builders, which stayed for the autumn, did not manage to understand local weather conditions. Big work made by the volunteers turned out to be vain – new toilet in Staraya Gavan Bay, under which our friends dug a huge hole and installed a sewage tank, was overthrown by one of the storms. It appears, that despite of a carefully made project, the Uralian experts placed the toiled directly on the soil and did not anchor anyhow. Now we cannot fix the situation till spring. It hurts our feelings, but it is the way how the toilet got its name – the Uralian!
All in all this season was filled with new infrastructure being created and we were lucky to find good construction teams. Thank you all, who took part in this difficult affair – development of a reserve in harsh conditions of the Commander Islands.