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Thread: Adventures of Russia / Siberia / Tundra.

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    Default Adventures of Russia / Siberia / Tundra.

    Posted for Spencer (I still have to add Pics if possible and correct some things)

    Adventures of Russia /Siberia / Tundra. December 1990.

    Duringmy time on the Isle of Man Ferries, we were coming to the end of theSeason, we were told that this would be the last season for KelvinCrews, as the next season the ships would be run by P & O.
    Iwas given a couple of options to stay in employment:
    1/Transfer to P & O employment.
    2/Transfer to North Sea Rigs (Kelvin)
    3/Volunteer for new work in Russia.
    Firstoption was a no GO, as I did not like or trust P & O.
    Secondoption, was a maybe at a push. I did not like the travel and regularuse of Helicopters and was getting depressed with the cut backs offshore.
    ThirdOption, I was enthusiastic and jumped at it, frozen steppes of theTundra intrigued me. There were other candidates as well, but I ThinkI had the edge, as I was used to being away from home, I had theexperience of stocking ships to be self-sufficient for three and fourmonth spells, plus the fact I could cook.
    Alot of people don’t know that most Camp Bosses, had no idea ofCooking, all they did was control the expenditure and rely on thecooks to make the menu and cook it.
    Myexperience had seen me working and getting certificates for most jobsinvolved with Catering, from Laundry service, to waiting on tables‘Silver Service’ plus all departments in the Galley, fromcleaning potatoes, assistant cook, Butcher, Baker and then as Chiefcook, with diplomas to prove my ability.
    ByMid November, I was chosen, along with one mechanic. Started with aweek in Aberdeen office, talking through the Contract. This was to bea One off 6 month job, we had two crews who would be relied everyfour weeks , weather permitting. Start and closing dates would becontrolled by the thickness of Ice! It was estimated to start at theend of November and last until the end of March, April at site.
    Theproject was for Conoco Oil Company part of the DuPont Companies, toreopen and test three old second world war Wells.
    Wewould have a special artic class camp to be built at site; our crewwould be 32, including myself and our mechanic.
    Wewould have a one off only supply of food to last the period, a lot ofeffort and method was given to making Menus, type of Foods we couldcarry in two containers.
    Onetwenty foot reefer would run at -20, due to the outside temperature,that was not a problem, we could easily work with the compressorturned off, the 20 foot dry Container had to work at +5 in order tostop items from Freezing !
    Theweight restrictions for the Reefer under cut our allowed weight whilethe products for the Dry container, over loaded our weight.
    Thismeant a very thorough scrutiny of what I had and what I could actualload to the Freezer, where we had weight allowance to spare.
    Icontacted various suppliers to get information on their products,with the question can we freeze it ?
    Iwas able to stock all of our tea and coffee products, UHT Milks, Allpaper products, Serviettes , Toilet paper etc., Most of cleaningmaterials etc in our Freezer.
    OurDry store container also held our Vegetables Eggs, other Dairyproducts and Fruit. Again we did some research in type of vegetablesthat would have a long keeping capability. I was also advised byInternational vegetable suppliers that the best way to prolong thelife of all root Vegetables was to have tem delivered with soilaround them and they must be in Hessian sacks.
    Thesetwo containers would be loaded at the last minute in Aberdeen, thenby lorry to Prestwick International Airport
    Wherethey would be loaded onto a chartered Russian Cargo plane a IL -72 .
    Thatwas the Plan, all I had to do was make sure it worked.
    Thenit was down to London for a three day induction at Dupont /Conoco head office. To learn how to work in Russia, and the political side,With the words from the American HR Manager, “be careful of RussianWomen, they are all trying to find a Western Man to marry.” Toescape the Country.”
    Afterour first trip in and out, we had to laugh at the Pratt who told usthat.
    Thenwe were given a phrase book with advise of what to be careful of inMoscow.
    Ifin an accident, ensure you are not picked up by a Private Ambulanceand must always state “No Amputations” So you don’t wake upwith a Kidney missing!!!!
    TheseAmericans were Paranoid! Lucky for us all our Management team wereScots, our eventual Rig team was Multi National, South African,Canadian, Chinese, Hungarian, British, Russian ,French, German. But agood team all for one and and all.
    Thefocal point of our London meeting was me as the Camp Boss and chiefCook, statement from their Director, “A well fed crew, is a HappyCrew”
    Withall this now in Place and Russian Visas issued we were nearly ready,still waiting for the news of the ice thickness, it had to be 3meters! To support the Camp, Equipment and the lorry’s with Drillpipe.
    Atthis time Kelvin had me and the mechanic fitted out with our ArcticClothing, all good stuff plus another man who came to tell us how todress and prepare ourselves for Arctic Conditions.
    Basicallyto protect yourself from the cold, was not the big thick quiltedCoats, but the layers of clothing you put on your body beforeapplying the outer clothes.
    Becausethe mechanic and myself would fly with the Containers, we had noproblems with weight restrictions on our baggage we could carry, sono problem with tool kits and the other instruments we needed totake.. The plane would have seven crew and us as two passengers plusan Interpreter from Scotland.
    TheMechanic and myself flew together, as we had to be ready to fuel upthe Generator packs for the Containers, So we had 40 Gallon Drums ofDiesel, a Barrel pump , two large funnels and a long length of Pipe,Some pallets with HD Electrical Cable to connect between the Gen Setsand the Containers. an pallet a hand Pallet fork. So in theory ifanything broke down or they could not supply power wherever westopped. We were self-sufficient to look after ourselves. As my oldBoss used to say , “belt and Bracers”

    Wehad a weather slot for the 2nd December. This was delayedas the weather turned warm again!!! Typical.
    Thenwe were put on standby for a go 14th December, drive toPaisley leave our baggage in the office, then drive to Aberdeen toload the containers and pic up our Gen Sets . All loaded to Roadfreight for delivery to the Airport.
    Backto Paisely, stayed in Hotel overnight, out to Prestwick Airport midmorning, to await the Cargo plane to Land. At this time Prestwick wasnot a Commercial Airport, but purely, Charter and Cargo, it was a biteerie walking through this massive airport, with only three people.
    OurDirector also came to the Airport to see our Cargo plane land, veryimpressing watching an IL 72, banking to line up and land, to us itwas a massive plane.
    Soup onto the plane, with airport staff and an Interpreter, all veryfriendly, it became apparent we could not fly until next Morning soanother delay, we managed to get Power to our containers that were bynow on the plane.
    OurDirector arranged a Hotel for all the Russian Crew and ourselves thenorganized a farewell dinner for us. (I really smile now at that part,having since had a long experience working with Russians) Inviting aRussian Air Crew for free Food and Drinks, who were rubbing theirhands!!! After about an Hour my operations Manager pulled me to oneside and said , stop them drinking , they have to fly the planetomorrow!!!
    Thisfell on deaf ears even with the interpreter being used, so my bossall excited, had the waiters physically remove all the Vodka leavingthe table, in fact all Spirits, as these guys can drink anything andeverything. Damage was already done!!!, we wound up by saying goodnight in Russian and English, with big Manly hugs and embraces.
    Everybodyturned up for Breakfast, all looked good, the Russian air crewemptied the butter and Jam portions into their pockets, CoffeeSachets, Sugar Cubes and the small Individual cream and milks, there was nothing left on The breakfast counter. Then they drank loads ofcoffee, off to our Crew Bus. overnight we had become part of thecrew, we would stay that way for the next 6 days or so.
    Atthe table they saw that I was the manager for the Company andrespected me for my position As Chief Cook, Camp boss to them. Mysignature was required on all documents.
    Wehad a final refueling to finish off, the Russian crew were hangingaround the Cargo hatch and talking with cigarettes in their mouths,The Scottish load master just about had a heart attack, told themthey were refueling so put out the Cigarettes, they turned awaygrinned and hid the cigarettes In their hands, one guy came to meand said don’t worry it is not Dangerous!! Who am I to argue as hisPassenger, fuelling finished good, get everybody off the plane, closethe cargo ramp close all the doors, start the Engines.

    WithEngines (4) running you needed Ear protectors, which we had with us.
    Atthis point it dawned on Brian our Mechanic, that this was us, all onour own, a bit sobering at the start, but we soon got to like our newmates.

    Finalgoodbye to all our Managers that had come from the office to see usoff , One final phone call to Sylvia to say good bye, up the ladderinto the plane, British Immigration and Customs came to check beforewe left.
    Wewere assigned to wall seats, strap ourselves in , a safety brief inwhere safety exits were situated etc.,
    Wetaxied around to find our runway, we could not see anything where wewere seated, then the Russian Load ,master came down to our deck ,motioning that we should follow him, up a small set of stairs intothe back of the cockpit.
    Wowwe could see very thing, I asked should we sit down for takeoff, bothpilots grinned and said No! just grab on to the back of their seats.
    Breakson, four Jet Engines screaming on the sides, control said clear fortakeoff, pilot lifts off the breaks and goes into full throttle, weare away, lovely feeling watching the plane eat up the runway at fullspeed until we get a lift, then a gradual crawl into the Grey WinterSky’s, Goodbye Great Britain.
    Allof us were sitting or standing in the cockpit we were told we hadfull run of the plane, showed us the two toilets and the Pilot toldus he would call us once the weather cleared and we could seesomething.
    Oncethe full take off power was reduced it became much quieter in theCabin and the cargo hold, we had two by 20foot containers in the holdplus 5 pallets of other items were taking with us all in all approx.50 tones.
    OurDestination was Nar-Yan-Mar a Military airport in Southern Siberia.But first we had to refuel in Moscow, and check the local weather inNar Yan Mar.
    Wegot called back to the cockpit as we passed the Border intoBelorussia, The air was clear all we could see was great swathes ofwhite snow and railway tracks, vast forests, all very interesting anda different view to what you see from a commercial airliner. WE Bothget a Shot at flying the Plane, use of the steering gear and rudder.It quickly became apparent that I was not cut out to be a Pilot!!butnone the less it was a good experience.
    TheHorizon is turning into lovely blues, Yellows and Greens, sun issetting, and we are now over Russian Air space and have an hour torun to Moscow. Captain tells me that the weather forecast for ourairport is not good, we will land in Moscow, refuel and stay thenight, see what the morning brings, nobody seems to worry about timeor delays!
    Weare going to an old Russian Airport within the Moscow system calledSherivmeto, our Agent in place he says we will stay the night in theAir Crews Hotel, He explains it is not the Ritz but it is warm, thenext five hours I was going to learn a lot.
    WEland and then Taxi to the refueling area, (We Have a Russianspeaking Agent on the flight with us)
    TheCaptain, Engineer our Agent and myself go to the Engineering office,close to the plane, outside Temperature is approx -18c, his officeis warm and smells like Russia! What I found out later is a mixtureof Boiled Cabbage, urine and sweat.
    Thefuel has to be paid for by American Dollars, once the amount is paid,the manager rubs his hands call his secretary, who arrived with ametal tray some plates of cut cheese, slices of Kolbasa and slices ofBlack bread. A bottle of Stolichnaya Vodka and the right amount ofShot glasses for each to have a drink.
    Priorto this flight I had never liked Vodka, Just Gin and Rum. With Tonicor Cola, certainly not neat Vodka!
    Myfirst lesson was how to Drink Vodka! Mainly always eat food whendrinking Vodka, do not mix Vodka with Cola and the such likes, itwill affect you head and stomach.
    Itis normally polite to toast the guests in the room, also to toastGood Health, Later it get down to Family as well.
    Alwaysempty your Glass.
    Afterthat it is a piece of Cake. (I have never stopped since, now drinkneat Vodka and enjoy it, I can tell the difference between Good andBad Vodka!
    Refuelingof the plane completed the refueling of our vodka on going, Then acouple of soldiers turn up to stamp our passports. Back to our plane,to Taxi to our Stand for overnight which is also close to the airport entrance doors. Then we have to start work, break out the two GENSETS ,fuel them and start them and connect to the containers.
    BothContainers are lying in the aircraft Hold, our Gen set are on thetarmac outside, that is why we need the heavy cable. Connect the GenSeat to the controls of the containers. Frozen would not have been aproblem, outside temperature by nightfall; was -18c, but critical toget our other container hooked up our Fruit /Veg / Dairy had to runat +5c, so the contents would not freeze.
    Inorder to complete this exercise we need the load master to lower theRamp so we get the two Gensets outside then we could feed the cablesin, then raise the ramp carefully so as not to damage the cables.
    Alldone, first chance we had to use our Arctic clothing, It worked verywell, in fact with the physical exertion, we were sweating insidethis gear.
    Nowthe three of us in a jeep head for the Crew Hotel. (not really aHotel, possibly in the early years when it was built) it would lookgood , but a few years of neglect, and it was like a very Old YMCA,There was a reception, Check our passports, then given two cleansheets, one pillow slip, and a key to a room, This is not anInternational Hotel, so all notices are in Russian, and our onlyguide was the Load Master, who spoke a little English. OurInterpreter had gone into Moscow.
    Bythis time it was nearly 8 pm Moscow time, we were shown a room withtwo metal hospital type beds a table and two chairs, a naked lampbulb hung from the ceiling, walls had a light green paint very oldand peeling in places. The loadmaster showed us how to make our beds,one of the sheets had a hole in the center this is where you put yourblanket in to make a sort of quilt, This is standard practicethroughout Russia.
    Bedsmade ,we go to another room to meet up with the crew including thecaptain, No Rank in these places.
    Thecaptain briefed us on plans for the next day.
    Firstwe had to check the weather in Nay yan Mar. then check weather forour route.
    Butfirst they all wanted to eat, the Kitchen had closed, so looking atme they suggested we could buy from a local Café and bring back tothe room, BUT they required some $’s . NO problem the Company hadgiven me a whole load of $ to use,
    Captaindetailed two guys to get a Taxi, go buy the staff and come back, ofcourse Vodka was on the top of the list and some bottles of beer.
    Whenthey came back we had Fried Fish, Grilled Chicken, plate of Cheese,jar of pickle cumbers (this is a standard accompanist when drinkingvodka) three big loaves of bread and some tinned Mackerel, somebottles of Mineral water.
    WeAll sat around on the beds, Seven Russian and 2 Brits, starting ourfirst night in Russia. We ha d some paper plates and some paper cups,the food laid out on two Newspapers, (standard Russian Table clothin extreme circumstances, we used toilet paper for serviettes andstarted.
    Firstsome food then a Vodka toast. The Captain wanted to Toast Kelvin.For the food and drinks in Prestwick. I went next with a toast to ourRussian Captain and Crew for bringing us to Moscow safely, and so theevening developed in to toasting, Individuals, Wives, Mothers /Fathers, children, Margaret Thatcher, whom they all agreed was superbas the Iron Lady, For the more difficult conversation, which none ofus could translate, we had my Russian/English Phrase book, By whichtime we had finished the Vodka and had to go and buy more, includingfish. (I have noticed that Russians love fish more so that meat orchicken, this is all ex-soviet states as well)
    MoreVodka arrived, we did not seem to have a problem with a languagebarrier, we went on talk about the more intricate parts of Fishingand Fish. After which it was time for bed. I must say that allRussian accommodation is warm, with this we climbed into bed, I wokeup once in the night wanting to pee, but could not find the bathroom,I used and old instinct, follow you nose, and I found it, It had astrong Smell!!
    Morningwe went to the canteen, Standard Russian Breakfast, Hot Semolina,Half a bread, Lump of Butter, piece of cheese, pot of Fig Jam,assortment of Kolbasa, and hot tea, Coffee was available but the sameshit as we saw before at refueling.
    Itwas good, climbed into our Arctic Clothing and with our Air crewwalked passed Security and other officials, without having to show apassport, no questions. Walk down to our plane, good to hear the Gensets working, Check the fuel in their tanks, hop into the cargo holdcheck our temperatures , ambient temp in the morning was -14c, sodeep freezer no problem, Our Dry store was running OK at + 5 c, so asigh of relief, before a fresh cup of tea on the plane, the plane atthe stand is hooked up to electric supply, Keep their Batteriescharged and give us hot water, also maintain a working temperatureinside. Lovely blue skys, planes landing and taking off all aroundus.
    EarlyAfternoon the Captain came back, with Bad news, Heavy snow at ourairport and it would be closed for about three days.
    TheCrew Hotel was good for one night but not for a long period, so Iphoned our Moscow agent and told him to arrange two rooms in a CityHotel, for two nights possibly three.
    Withthat organized we had to see how long we had until our fuel ran outin the gen Sets, Brian quickly worked it out, if we left them toppedup at 6pm we had to be back at the airport by 10am to refuel. Withthat information our agent arranged taxis from the Airport, to Hoteland a Taxi in the morning to get us into the airport before 10am.Note in those days Road traffic was not too heavy.
    Weobtained a written crew pass to get us out of the airport and backinto the airport. Not using the front entrance!
    SoGen Sets all fueled up, we packed a small bag each, and waited forour Taxi, an old Black Volga waited for us at the gate, with a signKELVIN written on the windscreen.
    Offto Moscow, about a one hour drive, both of us dressed in our Arctickit, arrived at the Radisson Int Hotel, walked into the Foyer in ourarctic clothing and a small bag each, Women at front desk just lookedat us, “what is this riff raff doing here” look. Told them we hada reservation, of yes we have , then was a different smile how willyou pay, CASH!!! I had $5000 in my brief case, so after which we wereaccepted. Told them we were waiting for a weather window to fly on toNar Yan Mar. This brings interest from the receptionists, Nar-Yan-Marwas still an official Secret air base and no westerner was permittedto visit. So who were these men !!!!!!
    TheRaddison was a luxry Hotel, just built, Our rooms were fantastichaving not had a shower For three days and also smelling of Diesel.Had a nice soak in a Bathtub. Met Brian in the Bar, had a drinkbefore dinner, then back to the bar to finish off.
    GoodSleep, ordered some boiled eggs to put into our pockets, robbed allthe Coffee sachets from the room ‘Real Nescafe’ found our Taxidriver waiting for us . then back to the airport a dusting of snowovernight left the road white, Temp was-14 in Moscow. A slippery slowdrive to the airport, good driver,
    Droppedus at the side door our pass was good and we went through with noproblem, out to the plane the Ramp was down which meant the crew wereon board, get the diesel read to transfer fuel, we are using approx.40 gallons a day, now we have to think about refilling our emptydrums, so when we arrive in Nar-Yan-Mar we have a ready fuel supplyas we know nothing of this place, Conoco through Friends in highplaces have managed to get permission to use the Military Airport asa transit for the contract.
    BothContainers and Gen Sets running ok.
    Pilothas no news, Airport still closed and heavy snow forecast so we canlook at another night or two nights at the Radisson.
    Westay in our aircraft and watch the airport, use our Nescafe with ourcrew, only one cup each but appreciated.
    Anothertransport plane next to ours was getting ready to fly, but had to bede-iced first, then we see the ingenuity of the Russians, For aDe-icer, they have an old military truck with a turbo Jet Enginesecured on the back.
    TheEngine is fired up and the truck maneuvers up and down the plane withhot exhaust blowing the snow and ice away. Simple but effective. Fiveo’Clock quickly came, our gen sets are checked topped up with fuelso we are ready to go, back to the City.
    Bothof us feeling confident now, rooms booked, quick shower and bite toeat then Bar, nice evening I managed to fall off the bar stoolwithout too may noticing.
    Askedroom service for more coffee sachets, stole the lot for the planecrew !!
    Backto the plane same routine all works ok, this day we arranged to getour empty diesel drums filled, everything is possible if you Dollars,our airport is still closed, but they see Weather Window open thenext day.
    Onemore night in the Raddison. We quite like it !!!
    Nextmorning we had to get our equipment back on board the aircraft as wewere leaving about 11 am, we were happy about that we were goingsomewhere.
    Thistime the takeoff for me was going to be spectacular, I was given aplace , On my stomach in the Navigational dome stuck under thecockpit, Literally my face feel s as if it is touching the Runway. Iwas excited not sure what to expect.
    Startedto Taxi, Brian is up in the cockpit; my nose feels as if I am only afoot off the white Taxi lines.
    Weget onto our runway, I can see for miles, Breaks on, Engines flashedup, Breaks off the nose dips, I now feel as if my nose is on therunway, we gather speed, wheel stays on the white line, slowly thewheel lifts, as we thunder down the runway, gradually lift into theevening sky, Not forgetting that we are now in the Northernhemisphere. At present daylight in Moscow is approx. 6 hours per day.As we fly North East it becomes less.
    Bankingaway to the East with and evening sun setting and a clear sky, I havea beautiful view of Moscow beneath me, truly spectacular.
    WEsit in the hold have a hot coffee and wait, after about an hour , weare told Nar-Yan-Mar has more snow and the Airport is closed, tryagain tomorrow back to Moscow, I get another thrill as I go back tothe Navigation Dome and experience a landing in this position. WOW tosee the airport lights coming up, then see our runway lights, we arelined up and coming down fast, Our landing light show up the runwayclearly, Lower, lower and finally the runway is in my face, a bitfrightening. Taxi to our stand.
    TheCaptain gives us some good news, we don’t have to unload thegensets, he will let us run them inside the hold, just need to leavea space on the ramp to allow the engines to breath. OH THANK YOU THANK YOU.
    Wequickly grab our bags and take a Taxi with some help from some of ourcrew who want a lift to the city, They negotiated the Taxi fare, Ipaid. We made the agreement for them to come to the Hotel and wewould go back to the airport together, good as we had to get backinside without a Valid pass.
    Agood welcome home drink in the Bar, phoned Sylvia, who thought wewere in Siberia! Found our way to bed and big sleep. After breakfastour Crew met us at the reception, they organized the Taxi back.
    Sidegate, with our crew but NO Passes,, after some discussion with ourcrew and a packet of cigarettes we were once again in the airport, you have to remember this was the days before terrorism.
    WEtook the decision to refuel our Gen Sets before we took off so wewould be ready on landing.
    Asit turns out that was a good decision.
    Onceour plane takes off it supplies the power we require for ourcontainers.
    Soonce again take off and we are on our way , Yipee !!!!
    Thistime we are only one hour away from Nar-Yan-Mar, they tell us runwaysstill blocked with Snow, return to Moscow.
    OKlanding and taking off has lost its novelty. I am now worrying , Ihave to refill two diesel drums be we take off in the morning.
    TheCaptain and Our agent have said no problem they will organize, if youhave $ everything is possible,
    Atthis point I know if we are delayed much longer I will need more $,but at this moment no problem back to the Radisson, they are gettingto know us now ! We just get stares from the other guests dressed inoffice attire, we walk in with our Arctic kit on, Quick bath , phonecall and back to the bar, even the staff are getting to know us.
    Nomore falling off Bar stools, sensible drink then sleep.
    Ourtrip back to the Airport was with our agent, the security at the Sideentrance also remembered us so again Entrance with no Problem. Asmall tanker was by the aircraft ready to fill up our Diesel drums,that done, money paid, we were ready to take off again, our agent wascoming with us.
    Itook up my position in the Navigation Dome, as I did like the thrill,climb up and again another clear sky, with sun setting, great Arielview of Moscow,.
    Sothree and a half hours to Nar-Yan-Mar, we were sitting in the hold,Captain comes down with a smile on his face, WE ARE GOING TO LAND>so to celebrate that he opened a bottle of Cognac, to toast thatfact, Paper cups passed around until the bottle was empty. “Whosays Pilots don’t drink and fly”`
    Wecame into land, Pilots said we had to get our cargo out fast as moreheavy snow was falling, they did not want to be stuck in Nay-Yan-Mar.
    Thewhole airport was in darkness, I had no idea of how we landed.
    CargoRamp was opened, the cold this time could be felt immediately, no-18c this was a -30c and you could feel it on your face, like pinsand needles. We had our pallets lifted out of the plane, drums ofdiesel rolled down the ramp, containers hooked onto to the overheadgantry, slid out and lowered onto the snow.
    Twoguys from Conoco came to meet us, we were taken to one side as ourfriends raised the cargo ramp started the Engines and promptly movedoff into the Blizzard and disappeared, certainly no time lost. All ofa sudden we had lost our home.
    Sohere we are in Nar-Yan-Mar, about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, pitchblack in a snow storm, Our new found friends from Conoco are theExpedition Managers, both Scotsmen.
    Prioritiesare quickly sorted; First get the Containers and the GenSets to theExpedition yard. These are simply hook up to a caterpillar tractorand dragged through the snow, Our Gen Sets and Diesel are place onPallets and driven to the Yard, Not much to see can see in this murk,thank god we fueled up with Diesel before we took off,
    Soconnect the cables from the Gensets to th containers and fire up bothworking great. Very important to get power to our +5 container,outside temp is -28c, as it is early evening temperatures aredropping fast . So all in place all working and secured time for themto show us our accommodation. Luxurious we were in a four bedroomFlat on the third floor. Russian Concrete slab built, But Warm. Fromthe street to inside you come through a type of Air Lock, cold snowstorm outside, into a large entrance, door close to the outside and asecond set of doors open up to the Inside. This room has the Russiansmell, boiled Cabbage, sweat and urine. (you soon get used to it)
    Thetwo Conoco guys had a room each and we were given the other two, Ithink this was about the 22nd December 1987 or 88. I willtry and confirm the year from some old mails.
    Aftera quick wash and made our beds they took us to a local restaurant /Café aptly named “ the Snow Storm”
    Youquickly learn this is another world and Environment.
    NoPoint in reading the Menu, ‘You get what they have’
    Soreindeer Cutlet and puree potatoes, Our Conoco guys pull from theirpockets a couple of bottles of Chilli sauce and we soon find out why,One is it is supposed to kill bacteria and secondly all the foodtastes bland, so chumped through the cutlets, I found a lump of Glassin my potatoes ! I showed it to the waiter, who just put it in hishand and took it away.
    Wemanaged to get an Old bottle of beer, that had so much yeast sedimentin it, the slightest movement caused it to erupt into a snow storm,it also tasted Sour, so we ended up with homemade apple juice and acup of tea.
    Timeto get back to our rooms.
    MORNING,still Dark, we were told we get approx. two hours of Daylight after10am, if it was heavy snow say good bye to the daylight to the nextday.
    DimStreet light showed the Snow storm still in Progress, No food in theapartment so we were taken to the Expedition Canteen.
    Thisis purely for the Russian Company Oil workers, we were allowed to useit, but had to pay cash, not a problem it was so cheap. But selectionlimited, We Could get Hot Semolina, and Fried Eggs, and a sort ofFlapjack with Fig Jam and gallons of Hot tea, mostly made from Bitsof Wood no evidence of tea leaves.
    Herewe are sitting on a 40 Tons of all types of food, I suggested to thetwo Guys, let me open the containers, They were still sealed, so hadto get permission to open them, this took nearly a day. But firstinto the old routine of refueling the Gensets for the containers, Nowwe needed to work with our gloves on, plus our Glasses/ Face masks.Bloody Cold and dark outside.
    Alsoarranged for another supply of Diesel, nobody had any idea of when wewould move out to the Camp Known only as YK22.
    Duringthe morning we got some history of what we would be doing and whatthe plan was.
    Conocowhere in a Joint Venture with a local Company to “Work over theseold Wells” it was called an expedition! At this stage it made mefeel like ‘Cecil Rhodes’ but in the arctic not Africa.
    Theyhad one man at our Drill site, staying in the Russian Camp !!!, theAmerican Camp was still not assembled. They were in contact byWireless, The big question was when did they want us at site, howcould they support us, Diesel they had plenty, also how we would getthere, No big Helicopters available for lifting our containers, so wewould be forced to take them by lorry over the Ice road!!! But when???
    Nothingfor both of us to do at this stage, Just check our Gensets, and Fuelup daily. Eat and sleep we could still not see much due to nodaylight and Snow storms. We really appreciated our Arctic clothesand boots.
    Imade a plan with our two Mates, to cook a Christmas Meal, We haddecided to open the containers in any case. “Nobody had lookedinside since they left Aberdeen” I knew I could easily find FrozenChickens, Potatoes, Carrots and Carrots and cabbage, The biggestchallenge would be to find some salt and pepper and some gravyGranules.
    ChristmasEve we got inside, crawled over the tops of the cargo and after muchsearching by torch light found all we needed, wrapped it in twoplastic garbage bags and brought it to the flat, also added someCoffee, Tea , Sugar and UHT Milk, this was our Christmas Present.
    Wealso took some booze from the local Kiosks, So we battled throughsnow drifts to search as only a few were open, and not much on offer,we did find some Vodka, we found some wine and a few bottle of veryold beer. Back to our apartment, stuck them on the window ledge tokeep cold but not to freeze. (inside window ledge)

    Idecided to have a Bath, water nice and hot but the color of Mud, sodon’t wash your hair !!!! When I emptied the bath it had a thicksediment of Earth and rust in the bottom. At least I smelt different.
    Thenext morning we awoke to a screaming Blizzard. Close on a ‘WhiteOut’ we had to refuel the Gen sets, first one of our funnel’s wasblown away, with diesel still coming out of the pipe we both gotcovered in Diesel, The Goggles saved us from getting the diesel inour eyes. Plus we had lost one of our two Funnels, learning from thiswe tied the other funnel with a length of wire, we would not loosethis one.
    Backat the apartment we got our coats off wash them in the Bath with hotwater, then we Filled the bath with more hot water and added somesoap powder we had found, Washed them in this then rinsed them out afew times, they were losing the smell of Diesel. Then put them on thehot pipes to dry out.
    Itwas lucky for us we had two sets of uniform issued with four sets ofLong Johns and Vests even two set of Boots with felt liners.
    Nobodyseemed interested whether we opened the Containers or Not, which mademe think, maybe they do not have any customs in Nar-Yan-Mar, By whichtime we had enjoyed Xmas dinner and were now looking to plan our nextvisit to our containers, of course choosing a suitable day when wecould see and not get frozen in the process.
    SoBrian an myself with fully charged Torches, made another raid.
    Theforgotten luxuries of Sausages, Bacon, butter, cheese, Tomatoes,Cucumers and Ice berg lettuce.
    Twomore bags were loaded and brought back to the apartment , only fourof us. We lived very well.
    Thenwe had a surprise radio call from the Camp, they had a weather windowto get our containers up to the Camp via the Ice road.
    Sofrantic fueling of the Gensets, plus a spare barrel of Diesel loaded,Brian in one truck me in the other, we packed some food and a thermosof Hot Coffee each, dressed in our kit, loaded our Bags and hop upinto the truck.
    MyTruck was an old military vehicle, the driver has an old Militaryuniform on a craggy smiling face with dazzling Gold Teeth tops andbottoms. Perhaps he and the truck were built on the same day!!! NOEnglish, Only my phrase book, we left approx. 4.300 pm. Now dark, Ihad never driven or travelled in the Tundra, what and experience thiswas going to be!!
    Justas we thought thanks were getting better, Brians Truck broke down,he had the - 20 Container on board so no problems. As we were onlyas far as the outskirts of Nat-Yan-Mar, We decided to carry on justthe one truck!!! They would radio back to get Brians truck towedback.
    Nowit is one truck a Russian Driver and One Englishman, heading out intothe unknown in the pitch Black night.
    TheseTrucks are big Powerful machines with massive tire’s, which alllooked to be new, We had chains fitted to the four drive wheels. WEhad powerful lights in front and a spotlight on the roof operatedfrom the cabin, which was soon to become my job.
    Thecab was warm, so I had to take off my coat and settle into thepassenger seat, ‘No Seat belts in these things’ we left the lightof the Town behind us, all I can see in front is white snow. Notrees, No electric pylons nothing to get a bearing on, It is coldoutside as we can only see crystals of ice in the air.
    Iam wondering how does our driver know where to go, No Satnav, NoCompass, no tyre track to follow as it is also snowing, The driveris swinging out spotlight around and I quickly made out a wooden postin the snow, possibly 3 m high, then locates the next one in thedistance, this is our only guidance, so we must not miss any, now Irealize the importance of searching and finding these posts, so allof a sudden I have an important job to do, me and the driver become ateam and we quickly start conversations that neither of us fullyunderstand , but it passes the time.
    Althoughthe ground looks flat, it is not !!! all the snow just makes it lookflat, underneath we have big frozen Ice ruts, which throw us aroundin the cab, so hanging onto to the searchlight handle gives me a bitof a bracing position.
    Staringinto the white distance and the dazzle of the ice particles quicklymake the eyes tired, I am still busy locating the road markers.Another two hours the driver decides to stop, first to check ourcontainer is still secure, secondly we both need to pee.
    Quickwalk around the truck to check our cargo, out here you don’t haveto hide to have a pee, there is nobody around, only us in the middleof a white wilderness. It has stopped snowing but bloody cold justour cheeks exposed, you can feel the cold trying to penetrate yourskin, next time we stop I am going to put a layer of Vaseline on myface and nose.
    Intothe truck nice and warm, up in the Arctic they never turnoff theengines !!! so sit back open the thermo of coffee, we share that andsome sandwiches I had been able to put together before we left, plusI had some chocolate Bars, my driver was happy with all that, Iwanted to know how long to the drill site, he just threw his hands in the air, either he did not understand the question or had no ideahow long it would take, He had enough diesel for three dayscontinuous running, so don’t worry about fuel, I just had to worryabout my Genset, I am on my own to get fuel to it, Had our coffee andsnacks the off we go crawling into the night.
    Afteranother hour the driver shouts and points up at the sky, I get myfirst clear look at the ‘Northern Lights’ Aurora Borealis , I wasso excited. The Driver indicated this was only a small show and thatthey could get bigger and better, it was nearly 1 am and nothing tobe seen, I was getting tired,.
    Thedriver headed off to a Container he had seen, One lorry parkedoutside, was this a motorway Motel and Café, YES IT WAS.
    Wegot into our Arctic coats/ Hats etc, got out, driver had his Travelbag with him, he opened the door to the container, No lights , but hequickly found a paraffin lamp and matches, so we had a dim light,
    Roomcontained three metal spring beds no mattress no pillows, no idea ofwhere the other driver was.
    Theroom had a has stove with 4 rings, Bottled gas. The burners wereQuickly turned on to try and get some heat into the place, driverproduced an old Black kettle from his bag, went outside to scoop snowinto it then put it on the gas ring,
    Heproduced a good size metal skillet, a bag of Fatty pork Meat, andsome cooked puree potatoes a small onion, a loaf of brick bread,started to fry the pork, once he had a good amount of Fat in thepan, He chopped the onions into the fat , then scooped the potatoesinto the fat and fried the mixture, by which time the kettle had afull head of steam, he then took a slack handful of Tea from a bag ,by which time I knew to be mostly tea Twigs, put them in the kettle,boiled for a few minutes , take the kettle off.
    Sowithin 15 minutes without washing hands, we had hot sweet tea, Fattyfried pork with fried potatoes and hunks of bread, it tasted bloodydelicious, I don’t like strong sweet tea, but I quickly drank twomugs, The mugs , tin plates and spoons were from his Bag, I did notlook to see how clean they were. the gas cooker left burning , I wentto the truck to get my spare trousers and coat. Coat to lay over thesprings on the bed, trousers for a pillow, and slept for two hours,rest my eyes.
    Timeto get ready for the road, still dark outside, this is the land ofcontinual dark in the winter
    Turnedoff the Gas, loaded our stuff to the truck, Checked the load and mydiesel, Closed the door and set off into the Tundra. Still steeringby the tall posts positioned in the snow to denote the Road.
    Allwe could see in the freezing headlights were ice crystals.
    Lateronce the months drew lighter, I had a chance to see how dangerous itwas to drive .
    Afteranother three hours we could see some light in the distance, Was thisthe Rig Site ? as we came closer we could see it was, by the Oilderricks rising into the sky with lights on them, we had to circlearound as we had to find the road into the camp, finally we madeinside, no fences ! just deep channels which support small rivers inthe summer.
    Leavesthe chances on sloping ground of turning the truck over easy.
    Ithink we arrived about8.30 in the morning about 13 hours on theTrack, we saw lots of Containers, some old wooden shacks, We saw apile of new RED containers, which would be later our Camp, would beknown as the ‘United States of Orange Boxes’ These still had tobe joined up, we had breakfast with our Radio Operator / Medic, avery cheerful Scouser,
    Therewere 5 Canadians staying in the camp, plus 4 Americans who 4 whowould put our camp together and commission it, so already things wereshaping up, Now with 11 foreigner’s at the camp, where would wesleep and eat ? First was to unload my container and hook it up tothe Genset, Temp was still good inside, considering it had not beenrun for 15 hours, I would have one more refueling to make, then theywould connect to the Russian Camp Generator, as we had no access to akitchen, the container remained closed.
    Laterin the morning they arranged a radio link with the Town Nar-Yan-Mar,I need to talk with Brian to see when he would set off with the othercontainer.
    Eventuallythey found him, They tried to repair his truck but not possible, sothey found a new truck, which would become free in a few days , they would transfer the container and other items to that truck, theywould inform us his departure.
    Ihad my first chance to contact Paisley Office, via Fax, we had aninstant reply, they were worried, did not know what was happening andwhere we OK! Somebody loved us !!!!
    Aswe had both missed Xmas without communication and would have nocommunication until mid janauary, I asked our HR Manager to send anice bunch of flowers to our wives, for the New Year, saying todeduct the cost from our salary’s.
    Thisthey did , later Sylvia showed me a photo of the Bunch of Flowers, itwas enormous and beautiful and the nice surprise was Kelvin paid forthem.
    Interestingthing, Kelvin had done large contracts, the Channel tunnelaccommodation and catering, The Falkland Island Military Camp andLaundry, The New Hong Kong Airport, Canary wharf Devlopement, and nowour small camp in the snowy wastes of Siberia. Our small project wasin all our news bulletin’s. Little did we know that this small campwas to be our stepping stone into Kazakhstan, other Russaian projectsand into Azerbaijan.
    YK21 was famous in the Office, but nobody knew where it was on the Map.
    Iwas allocated a Cot in a small shed in the Russian Camp, literallyall small containers and boxes bolted together, covered in canvaswith a lovely Central heating system, made from old Drill Pipe weldedtogether. Our door way was an old blanket on a piece of wire, OneMain entrance and exit to our block which was basically a gypsy Camp,but here we were all warm despite the cold outside averaged – 28 con a regular basis, Two more places of Interest was the Kitchen andthe mess room,
    Thiswas run by three females, who were built like tanks, but great peopleonce you got to know them.
    Mealsvery basic, reindeer and Cabbage soup, quite tasty if you shake onthe Tobasco sauce, after which it was Minced reindeer meat cutlets,similar to a burger, with long stick Macaroni. PIckled greentomatoes, Russian Salad with Bottled carrots and Peas. And thickwhite bread, normally about a week old, but Ok if soaked in yoursoup.
    Thekitchen was so small with calor gas cookers, Also an old Range withan oven which used crude oil and water mixture, once lit was very hotand conserved their Gas supply’s, this gave off a thick black smokefrom the kitchen funnel
    Norefrigeration, if it needed freezing you just left it outside, thebottles of conserve where kept in the kitchen to stop it fromfreezing.
    Myfirst look at their products made me realize how spoilt we were.
    Allmeat was Reindeer stacked outside in the snow, No Tomatoes, NoCucumbers , carrots or onions, They did have bottles of Tomato Paste, Bottle s pickled Cucumbers and Tomatoes, No Potatoes. Once a monthmaybe! Macaroni was old maybe made for the Military, in long woodenBoxes.
    Butwith this their cooks produced a Breakfast , lunch and a dinner,nobody complained. To complain would not achieve anything, If youHungary you Eat !!!!!
    Onesmall problem with the Women we found out later, If they got theirhand on a couple of litres of Somergon, there would be no food for acouple of days, until they sobered up. (Somergon being local homemadeVodka, normally about 70% graddus.)
    Letus get to the second important item, The toilet !!!!! If you need topee you just walk down the road turn left and you see yellow snowthis is where you pee.
    Ifyou need to take a crap, there is a wooden hut with a wooden doorhelp on by rubber strips, cut from Old tires used as hinges.

    Onceinside, you have a wooden plank to sit on, if you can bare you nakedflesh to the cold, a long piece of wood locks the door, then big 6 ‘size nails to hang your clothes on.
    Youcan see if you carry a torch !
    Themost difficult part of taking a crap, it is to time it so there isnow queue. Picture a person, dressed in his arctic kit, with thermallong johns! Quilted trousers with bracers over your shoulders, Arcticcoat. Holding a flash light and a Toilet roll , shuffling back intoposition, but being carful not get to far back so you would overbalance and fall into the **** pool at the back of you.
    Aftera couple of weeks the pool had reached a peak, The extra people inthe camp was too much for the system. So a typical Russian solutionwas found, Take the wooden seat platform off, place 40 gallon Oildrums in the four corners, Lower a square frame back onto the drums,Place the seating arrangement on the top, Place a canvas skirt aroundthe Lower part and that was the new toilet, except we had to walk upa double plank runway to reach the door, You were now sitting approxfour feet higher, the plank once covered in snow becomes tricky tonavigate, plus no safety lines, still clutching your flashlight andtoilet roll, certainly a challenge, one saving factor for this Wintertoilet, the extreme temperatures subdued any smell.
    Ihave a couple of photos of our Tundra Toilet.
    Brianis still in Nar-Yan-Mar, waiting for his truck and a break in theweather.
    One the Canadians has couple of Computer games, so we spend our daysdrinking tea, telling stories just waiting for our accommodation toget joined up. We have an old TV for Videos, so we watch all ourfilms over and over.
    NewYear is coming, what will we do. Well I can’ t cook I don’t havea kitchen or any power. Plus our meats are in Nar-Yan-Mar.
    Wedecide to have a giant fire from all the packing boxes we haveopened. Despite the strict Company rules of no Booze a the rig site,we discover that most of us have a bottle of something, so Ivolunteered to make a big soup kettle of Punch, in fact I would saynot a punch as we know it but a mixture of booze and apple juice.
    Iopened our container secretly and took out a couple of boxes ofChocolate bars, at least we could line our stomachs with chocolatebefore drinking.
    Strictrules from Conoco, no booze at site, if caught you would be flownhome. Well that was one way to get a ticket !!!
    Ourtwo camp resident bosses were good, and indicated that they could notbe everywhere, so what they don’t see is no problem, also the factwe are not in a working mode yet.
    NewYears night and the Arrival of Brian to follow.
    Brianarrived midafternoon on New Years eve, good to have his Yorkshire dryHumor back. First thing we did was hook up both Containers to theCamp Generators, so no more refueling.
    Sowith a good plate of soup reindeer meat inside we lit our Bonfire,just stood around looking into the fire and Embers, all veryexciting. Our Fire had attracted our Russian Friends , who take Newyear very seriously, so they came with Glasses and tin cups,clutching their home made Somergone, a 60% spirit.
    Sowe toasted each other with this concoction, all oil workers in theTundra drink this, the old hands drink it Raw, the younger men preferto water it down, which we did.
    Turnedout later that rather than stand around looking at the fire, we soonfound ourselves joining in the in Dancing around the fire, thenLeaping through the flames , which is supposed to bring good luck.
    ThisSumergone is good strong stuff, So we all slept until 11am, no workto do so no problem. No Bad heads drinking clean spirit does not giveyou a headache, but will rot you liver in time.
    Withboth our container’s at site, but still no kitchen, I decide to getsome of our products out and get the girls to cook somethingdifferent for our team.
    Notsuch a good idea as all they know is Reindeer cutlets, Cabbage salad,and Macaroni.
    Asthere is no Room in their kitchen for me to do anything, I decided towait until our kitchen was working. Three large size Russian Cooks ina small space left no room to swing a cat.
    Ithink we had to wait another four days for the Camp fitters to finishtheir job, connect to our own generators, supply water filtration,connect our toilets with Electric “Crap Zappers” Bria and myselfspent two days cleaning out our accommodation, put the mattresses andbedding , in place test the kitchen equipment and we were ready tomove into our new home “The united States of Orange Boxes”
    Wewere all four to a cabin, double bunk Beds One up one down. We hadefour showers which had a limited, hot water supply of approx. 5minutes per person. So no time for singing in the showers.
    Our4 Zapp Crappers, were designed incinerate all body hard waste, whichwould leave a foul smell outside in the mornings, if no wind. You hadto place small wax liner inside a pot which had electrical elementsaround it when finished you pressed a button , the load was quicklyburned and smells ventilated into the Arctic air.
    Itbecame quickly apparent that the wax liners would run out before wefinished the job, so No was outside for a pee, allowing the linersonly tom be used for No 2’s
    Theliners reorder were quickly added to list of urgent requirements,which came in via air freight with important pieces for our drilling.Problem solved.
    Ourwater supply for the filets was a problem, as we took the water froma nearby Lake, which first had to be cleared of snow, then a smallroom cut into the ice were we had our pump, a wood door place overthis to stop it filling up with Snow, Heat Trace wire added to ourlength of pipe so the water id not freeze during the pumping. Thenpumped up to our Plastic Nylon Holding tank , before going throughfilters ready for us to use.
    Wekept two water tanks one for washing Machines and general use, onefor clean drinking water and kitchen use.
    Thewater has to be checked at least 3 times daily to make sure it doesnot freeze up.
    Sonow I am in the kitchen, cooking all our requirements, includingBread and cakes plus other deserts,
    Atthis time I can do nothing wrong, all our different Nationalitieshave food to suit their tastes , it is My and brains responsibilityfor keeping the accommodation clean, once they started enjoying mymeals we had men volunteering to help, the Medic /Radio officer tookover running the Laundry, which was a big help, Work entrances andhall ways were cleaned by all workers in rotation. Which freed me upto spend more time in the kitchen.
    Thereality of all this came to fruition when we reached our Hotel inMoscow, Brian and myself never bought a drink during our stays there.
    Weather.This was a daily concern to all of us due to the Dangerous Climaticconditions, high winds and snow causes a ‘White Out’ possibly theworst condition, as it feels as if you are wrapped in cotton wool,you can see nothing only white, which means you have no sense ofDirection. After witnessing our first Arctic storm, we had life linesattached leading from one hut to the next, IF you had to venture outyou had to hold onto the rope, and clip a waist line to the rope aswell, in case your had dropped the rope. If no life line in place youdid not go.
    Oneafternoon, I was outside for a short walk, no strong winds but nocloud ceiling, which gave you the same effect as a white out, WhiteSnow in front, the cloud also a white color, left you no Horizon tolook at, just 360 degree white cotton wool effect. I quickly droppedto my knees and crawled back covering my footsteps, which weredifficult to see, until I reached our first containers, then I knewwhere I was. Scared me .
    Youalso have to be aware of the chill factors, always wear gloves andnot to touch any bare metal with naked skin, to do so would mean yourskin became welded to the metal.
    Asupply of Vaseline for your exposed facial skin if not wearing goggles. Always carry a bottle of water in your coat pocket. Walkingaround in Arctic conditions with all the layers of clothes on, plusyour Arctic Coat and Trousers makes you sweat, so you have to drinkwater to avoid dehydration.
    Onefinal note, when outside and going for a pee, you have to check thewind direction, not only to avoid the freezing urine, but to makesure you don’t get frost bite on your sensitive parts, cover at allcosts.
    Thiscomes in Various stages:
    1/is the message from Moscow that all persons have turned up at theHotel, not forgetting that our Crew is flying in from all points ofthe Globe.
    2/Then we get a message that all those have checked into the Hotel,made it to the Chartered aircraft to fly them to Nar Yan Mar.
    3/Next will be the weather conditions in Nar Yan Mar , can the planeland !!!!! Based on this, those of us leaving, pack our overnightBags, but we must fly with full Arctic Kit on in case of a forcedlanding. Hand over notes are made etc.,
    4/Thebest message is the one that tells us that the helicopter has liftedand is on the way. It is approx. 1.5 hours from Nat Yan Mar to ourCamp at YK 22. But this was later known to be problem as the weatheron route can change, forcing the helicopter to return or Land in themiddle of nowhere , until the weather clears.
    5/Chopper is seen approaching the camp, puffing a trail of Black smoke,like a train. I some time used to think that they used crude oil andnot Aviation Spirit.
    6/Bags ready start making our way to the landing area, that is anywherewere the Pilots deem fit to land.
    Doorsopen, smiling faces and bags thrown out plus any spare parts. Wegather around welcome the new crew with Handshakes, throw our bagsinside , climb in find a seat, door closes and we are up and away. Nomore than five minutes.
    Onour way to Nar Yan Mar, we just sit looking pleased that we finishedour first stint and looking forward to a drink in the grandmetropolis of Nar Yan Mar.
    Approachto Nar Yan Airport is a bit “Casha Malasha” if we bring any ofthe Russian crew back the pilot land as close as possible to therehouses , just like a Taxi, Not forgetting that the streets haveElectric posts sticking up and electrical cables all around.
    Asa Person who has flown many times in the North sea Helicopters weresafety was all paramount, to witness and fly in these conditions wasan eye opener. But we cant complain or write reports, nobody wouldlisten. Happy to say things have changed since those day, Now theyact quickly after they have a disaster.
    Wehave a exhibition bus pick us up and take us to our YMCA type oilsworkers Hostel, Its warm and they have hot water. Two to a room cleansheets, But No tea or Coffee, or anything to eat.
    Welearn quickly, on our next trip, we all carry Powder army issue mugs,coffee sachets, Milk Powder, Sugar in sachets, and Noodles, Cup-a-Soups etc. cracker biscuits, we won’t go Hungary in future.
    TheConoco Manager meets us and arranges for us to have a meat andbreakfast at the expedition canteen, but we have to pay, its socheap, it was ridicules.
    Alwaysa plan to visit the ‘snow Storm’ to see what food they had andwhat booze they had, have a meal and a good drink.
    Ourcharter plane waits overnight in Nar Yan Mar, if weather is ok we flyback to Moscow.
    Thesereturn flights could also be an adventure. One time we had our flightdelayed for three hours, waiting for a Conoco Manager who was beingflown back from another Rig to take our flight to Moscow , he wastravelling back to the states, his Family had been involved in aiseriousaccident and some were life threatening.
    Thetwo cases of Vodka that was loaded for us, was consumed not only byus but our air crew including the pilots! When I asked for moreVodka, the stewardess said none left! Phone your agent, which theydid then handed me the phone , I made the request, NO PROBLEM , 30minutes we will send more,
    Whenon board the Stewardess took two bottles to the Pilots and Engineers.Such is life in the Russian air Industry. When our extra passengerarrived , we took off for Moscow, nobody worrying about delays etc.,
    Everytime we travelled it was a TU 134, trusted workhorse of the Russianshort haul passenger jets, 2 pilots 1, Engineer and 2 stewards orstewardesses. Load and unload our own baggage, No booze on the wayup to Nar yan Mar, but cases of Vodka on the way back.
    Moscowairports are many, but mainly 4 Airports, Sherivmeto 1 & 2,Domeivdeo and one Vunokovo, then you have satellite holding airfieldsscattered all round. So when you land you pass the main airportlights then disappear into forests, just a hard stand some buildingand sometimes a large hanger, all James Bond stuff.
    Ido remember one scary trip back, terrible weather conditions and wedid not have enough fuel to reach Mosow, Shortage of Fuel at thattime, we had to fly to three Regional airports to refuel, we werelucky ones we had US $, so fuel was available.
    Oneof the names I remember was uUzensk, our plane this time was a YAK42, which does not have a very good safety record according toRussian standards, when we boarded, it did not feel right and we allthought give us our normal IL 134, Some seats had seat belts some didnot. Inside just looked shoddy.
    Wetook off for Moscow knowing we needed fuel, we stopped at a smallairport name I forget, got some fuel , but not enough, then toanother airport , same situation, then The pilot told us all thatthere was sufficient fuel in Uzensh we were heading to Moscow, to addto this message was that the weather was closing in on Moscow and heexpected to hear that some airports would close. So with that goodnews we took off, swallowing copious amounts of Vodka, if you aregoing to die , Die Happy!
    Aswe got closer To Moscow our agent and interpret told us that Threeairports were closed, only Vukovo was open, our pilot said he washeading there, and would give it his best shot, I will neverforget his words, Then the Pilot said fasten your seat belts as itwould be a Hard landing, Bloody great!! First find a seat that hasa seat belt.
    Aswe made our approach in the snow storm, plane bucking from side toside, all of us gripping our Arm rest with white knuckles, we toucheddown, bounced up and came down again, he put his engines into reverseas he could not apply the brakes due to snow and ice, we started toslide sideways down the runway, he would straighten up then sidewaysagain.
    Wefinally came to a halt, thereafter we started to laugh nervously,ended up clapping, just like they do on a tourist Charter. We Taxiedinto the Hard stand, before leaving we all hugged the Two pilots ,bloody fantatstic. Had to wait to get a bus to get to this airport,there was nothing open only us so we could not get a drink. Finallyour bus arrived and took us to the our Hotel ‘Nova Hotel’, gotour room keys but first all to the Bar for a relaxing need drink.Then a shower and change before our meal.
    Ihave to take my hat off to Russian Pilots, they are possibly the bestto land aircraft in Bad weather conditions especially on Snow andice.
    Ithink that has covered my travels on Route to Siberia.
    OurCompany ‘Kelvin” started to book us on BA to Moscow, but wealways had travel restrictions due to excess baggage, we normally carried back spare parts as luggage, quite expensive.
    Sowe ended up flying first class on Aeroflot, with no weightrestrictions, I think we could have loaded a Car on those flights, itdid not have the Finesse of BA, Stewardesses were built like Tankdrivers: but made up for it in quantity, Steak Came lean and thick,Vodka came in a liter bottle and not miniatures and with our smallamount of Russian language, we were made most welcome, apart from theAircraft being BIG, it was normally half full.

    Anothersmall but important thing was the Aeroflot flight always arrivedearlier than other International carriers, so we would get the chanceto pass Immigration quickly, without having to join big long ques. Ifcaught in one of these it could take over an hour to reach animmigration desk.
    Latermy philophesay was if you can survive Aeroflot internal flights, thenAeroflot International was Easy.
    Sothat is the breakdown of Our working in Siberia.
    Isuppose to be fair, I should also make mention of the local residentsof Nar Yan Mar,.
    Therewhere times when we were snowed in had to wait to fly out, by thistime we knew a lot of the Russian Rig Crew and had had invitations togo and eat and drink with them, generally we declined, as eight orten persons is a strain on the product’s they have to see themthrough the winter. But on one occasion a “Tool Pusher” possiblybest paid man on the rig, invited us to his house.
    Ihad taken a selection of Apples and Oranges from our container spreadthem around our group as a small present.
    Hemet us at our Hostel, we took our fruit and wiped out the kiosks oftheir Vodka and Champagne stocks, I remember it was a clear night andextremely cold, must have been about -23 arrived in his large house,with a big closed in verandah, the glass on the inside window paneswas another sheet of ice.
    CommunalCentral heating is good supplied by the State at a very low cost, itis a large water main that circles the village, hot water pumpedaround from a big oil fired plant. All houses have Radiators spacedout through the house so it is always warm, same system applies toall Soviet Cities, Towns and some times large villages.
    Wearrive, family to meet us, women quickly retire to the kitchen, onlyleft are the men, Table is set with home made bread, cold meats,Smoked Duck and various smoked fish, fresh sliced sturgeon, andwinter salads, mostly ‘Russian salad’ Beetroot, pickled Tomatoesand Cumbers.
    Ourbottles of Vodka on the table, which the local prefer to avoid, theylike their own Somergone, the posh word for this is “Royale’their local spirit which ranges from 65 / 70 % nearly twice as strongas Vodka, but safe for us to drink if we break it down with water.
    Afterbeing in the house for 2 hours the Conversation is flowing, the oldguy starts talking about Royale and says he would not drink anythingdifferent, he drank it neat all through the War while working in theOil Fields. Our Medic said what about damage to your Liver. He justgrunted walked out of the room, returned after 5 minutes with two bigGlass Balloons 5 liter size each containing pigs Knuckles and otherpieces of Pork, this had been cooked and then salted , stored in hiscellar for the winter.
    Youdrink Royale, you eat this and you will never have any problems withyour liver he said.
    Goeswith the tradition if you drink Vodka you must eat food, fatty orsalty being the best.
    WhenI look back at that table, nothing was from a shop or Supermarket,The duck was shot in the summer, this guy shoots over 300 duck ayear, his wife and other women pluck the feathers for stuffingpillows and bolsters, he cuts out the breasts, the rest given to thedogs, Breasts are smoked over pine wood fires, then hung up in thecellar, to last them all winter.
    Allfish are caught cleaned and filleted then smoked for winter storage,the Sturgeon, they clean but freeze, they eat this fish Raw. Theycatch reindeer in the spring, Pickle it or if killed later just storeit in the shed as it is freezing then, women smoke some of the meatthe mince it to make Sausages using the Intestines as the skins.
    Tomatoesare quickly Harvested from the Garden they only have a two monthgrowing window, but the use of polythene tunnels has given them alonger period and enable them to grow different varieties. Tomatoesand Cumbers are bottled with a Brine in 5 liter Jars. Potatoes andonions are also grown, but they also don’t have time to get verybig.
    Chickenand pigs are kept, Chicken have Radiators in their Hutches to keepthem warm and in a laying mode, the pigs are there to eat all therubbish / leftovers and supply piglets for the coming year.
    Notmany cows kept, so milk is from Milk Powder or Condensed Milk.
    ForJams , they have a small red berry that grows with the moss in thetundra, full of vitamin but bitter, made into a jam and sweet, it isthe common thing to eat with fresh Tea. Then they have a Blueberrywhich also grows wild but more difficult to find in any quantities,this is used sparingly in pies and cakes.
    Sothat is village life in the Tundra early thirty years ago, but veryhealthy.
    Onthe same night one of our lads decided he could drink Royale with thelocals, big mistake, we had to throw water over him in the morning towake him up for the flight, on the way to the airport he threw up inthe Bus, and we had to help him climb the steps, he was only justsobering up when we reached Moscow.
    Ourtrips lasted until April, where I was instructed to prepare for the close down of the camp, remove all the surplus food to storage in NarYan Mar, this is a story all on its own.
    Ihad the complete camp to inventor. Everything that we used, fromKitchen , equipment our two reefers , Generator packs, Barrel pump,Crap Zappers to Satellite dome and computers.
    Asour crew were on day rates at a high cost , they were sent homeearly, so that left Brian myself and two Camp Managers to finish off,we had two Inventories to make, one for the equipment which would belocked away and staid at site, maybe for use in the following year,One Inventory of what we would transfer to the company warehouse inNar Yan Mar. When we had agreed the separate things, we arranged fora helicopter to come and lift the stuff plus the four of us back toNar Yan Mar. I think this was the first week in April already thesnow was melting and the ground getting soggy.
    TheCamp Manager ordered a large freight helicopter with a stern Ramp.Called a Mii 27, nor,,aly we used the old soviet Mii2 militaryhelicopter.
    Thechopper came and landed as close as possible to where we had ourstuff stored, the Russian Rig Crew came to help load, when we arenearly completed I asked the Pilot what his weight limit was, he justgrinned, load it all on, If I can’t take off, we can unload a bit!!!!! Only in Russia.
    Ourfinal flight to Nar Yan Mar over the Tundra was completely different,no longer a big white desert, but patches of green Grass, lakes andherds of Reindeer. The pilot was good he landed right inside theWarehouse compound as close as possible to the door, making it easyfor us to unload, with everybody helping it was soon stored awayinside, I had a signature, the helicopter took us into the town asclose as possible to our YMCA guest house.
    Onlyfour of us now so no big wild party, we had a couple of days to waituntil a Company Charter plane came to take us back to Moscow. The bigthaw in the Town had started, the roads were dangerous to walk by, aslorry’s and 4x4, came down the roads throwing big waves of Mud andwater over anything that was in the way.
    FrozenRoads are good, as they also make them level, but come the thaw theyleave Gigantic pot holes.
    Wevisited the local store and 2nd hand shop, I bought myselfa nice Russian fur Hat, Shapka which I had for years, Made fromRabbit fur, until my wife threw it out. Gave me good use whileworking in Kazakhstan.
    Onefinal meal in the snow storm, no change in the Menu, No souvenirs tobe had, though I did buy a couple of tins of Reindeer meat to takehome for the family to try.
    Gotour final flight back to Moscow, no hair raising adventure’s onthis flight. Into the Nova Hotel a farewell meal and drinks, nextmorning to the airport, only to find we were not booked but on a waitlist. Passed trough customs and immigration, waiting what seems anage saw some movement in the waiting passengers, Brian’s Name wascalled, but I was out of luck, wait till the next day. Now the bigproblem was to get out, I had passed through to fly, but explaining that I was coming back due to no seats took a lot of explaining.
    backto the Nova hotel only 10 minutes’ walk, checked in again, and wasback in the same room before they had chance to change the bed.Contacted our two Rig Mangers who were staying in Moscow for a fewdays, They invited me to o into the city with them for the day, sohad half a day site seeing, Lenin Museum e, the Bolshoi Ballet andother places, it was a pity I left my camera in my baggage at thehotel.
    Inthe meantime they had arranged to book me Aeroflot first class backto London, making sure I had a seat. Thank You.
    Afterbeing home for five days, I was invited to our head office in Paisleyfor a Debrief and give a full account of what it was like, alsostayed overnight with a nice meal with the big Bosses.
    Itook the opportunity to ask about their future plans for me.
    Don’tworry we have a lot of work for you, un be known to me, my small campin Siberia was part of the Kelvin Experience in Remote site services,only two weeks later we had won a multi-million contract inKazakhstan to operate a remote camp in the Southern part calledTengiz, which was with the Jewel in our crown, a 7000 man camp,supply of all services, Meals, laundry and internal maintenance, evena shop and some bars.
    Notlong at home before I had a plane ticket to Moscow, change airportand planes for the city of Gureyev in Southern Part of Kazakhstan,which was the old Russian name , now called Atayrau. This was shortlyafter Kazakhstan gained independence from Russia, My first trip wewere still able to use Rubles, until the new currency was circulatedthe Tenghi.
    Butmy Kazak experience is another story.

    Picturesof our aviation transport on that contract.
    1/Our Transport Plane the IL 72, super aircraft, You can clearly seethe Navigating dome in the front where I watched the plane take offand land.


    TheTransport Helicopter ME 26, “ what is you safe load limit ? loadit all on , if I cant lift off we will throw some out” !!!!!!!!!

    TheME 8, our transport up to the rig, you sat in with reindeercarcasses, spare parts, if no seats available you stood up for thetrip.
    Areal Russian workhorse in the oil fields, providing no Electricalpoles or cables obstructing the Pilot would land you in your BackGarden.


    TU134, our normal charter to Nar Yan Mar, 2 Pilots , I Engineer andtwo cabin assistants, one toilet ! a good plane but not a good safetyrecord I the last 15 years.


    YAK42, We only used this once for one of our most frightening trips backto Moscow, EXCELLENT PILOTS. (I’ll give it my best shot) as wedesperately looked for seats with seat belt fitted.

    i R
    Last edited by Doc Vernon; 29th November 2019 at 08:22 PM.
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website


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    My memory’s of Russia was of Murmansk in the 60s like others on this site on BISCO charters. I remember the temperatures being -32. Fortuanetly by this era we had Macgregor hatches but even at times had to pour boiling water over the wheels to get them moving, opening and closing was done in shifts by the deck crew at about 10.minute intervals. Yet the harsh conditions didn’t seem to affect the Russians so much.Even their women were employed in street cleaning. What annoyed me was the water hose they put down the hatch insisting they were allowed 5% water content in the ore. Frozen ballast tanks was also another problem. Most Russians were brainwashed to the world outside their borders but today should imagine with the advent of the internet this is not the case. Drunkenness must have been a well hidden problem as most didn’t walk in a straight line. Good buys in their duty free shop only available to foreigners were women’s fur hats, shot guns, Vodka, and tins of caviar. What they considered was first class living standards would be the next thing to slums in the western world. This has probably all changed today as keeping the public in the dark is a difficult problem today.JS.
    Last edited by j.sabourn; 12th May 2020 at 12:45 AM.

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    Interesting comments on Russia John.
    We were there a couple of years ago and from what we saw they are now a very open almost western style society.
    There was little evidence of any poverty, though I am sure it exists.

    As to the cold, remember being in Lulea in Sweden mid December, the last ship for the year before the sea froze over.
    Went out on deck for a smoke, long pants and short sleeved shirt.
    Only there for a few minutes, went to move and my shoes were frozen to the deck, never been so cold since.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Russia like Australia and the USA is a very large country and different parts will have different aspects to. Am not saying they were living in poverty they were living according to their means the same as everybody else.Both Lulea and Oxelosund are in the Baltic and not in the same list as the weather which can be found just past that North Cape. I spent one Xmas in Oxelosund and shortly after in Lulea But they are different countries. Murmansk was a very stark place in the world to me . It was a naval port , all the buildings were 3 and 4 story blocks of flats , which their residents were very proud of. The seamans club there had its usual squad of females supposedly there to learn better English. But obviously all hand picked and didn’t believe a word you said about life elsewhere. Being a naval port was under naval control and everyone had to be off the streets by 2300 hrs. I suppose if one lives that sort of life, , drink which was apparently cheap would be well used. However this was nearly 60 years ago, and times have changed, so who knows unless you go there regularly. Russians are no different than anyone else and the contact over the years that I have had with I found ok. Cheers JS.
    Last edited by j.sabourn; 12th May 2020 at 10:41 AM.

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    My first experience of Russian people was in Pernis refinery in Rotterdam in 67.
    The bus that toured round the jetties picking up people to go ashore stopped at a jetty with a Russian ship alongside.
    They all filed on board, about 8 or 10 of them, all dressed the same, grey macs and black berets and all supervised by someone dressed the same but obviously in charge. All sat staring straight ahead with no conversation and judging by the smell, all drenched in the same sickly smelling cologne, or something meant to be cologne. All filed off and straight into Sarnecki store.
    Never saw them again, fortunately they were not on the bus back as their cologne made me feel sick.

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    As 2nd mate on a new built product tanker, first cargo was to be gas oil, loading in ventspils and Klaipeda, never went ashore, guards at the bottom of the gangway, curfew at 24:00 so if you went to the mission even using the mission bus, if not back onboard by that time, even 1 minute late, no chance of getting back on board. This was in the 70's, very dull place with no communication with the locals.
    In early 80's was in Odessa and things were a bit easier, allowed ashore with no restrictions, went to the ballet, fantastic opera house.
    Later one sailed with Latvian, russian federation officers. Initially they were great, all trained in the old ways but later on the younger ones were not as good. One Latvian mate I had sent into the marketing department and made a right tool of himself, even to the extent of telling on captain to alter bills of lading to get round some port restrictions. Got sacked and the next we saw of him was he being led off an aeroplane in handcuffs after being arrested for smuggling out arms from Russia. It made the headlines when the ship he had organised to smuggle the weapons out switched off its A.I.S and disappeared from marine tracking system only reappearing somewhere off the west African coast.

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    Early 79, left Skaramanga drydock and sailed to Novorosysk.
    Armed soldiers on every mooring rope and two at bottom of gangway. Everyone had to be seen by officials on arrival and picture in discharge book compared with person.
    Same rigmarole on leaving, only I was turned in so they came to my cabin and made me sit up till the compared photo with body in the bed.

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    As for security I do not think that has changed much.

    Going ashore in St. Petersburgh a couple of years ago we had to go through their immigration system.
    To say it was all in is an understatement, not even a fly could get past them.

    Put even half a foot over the line and you are in deep trouble, they have no smile or any form of welcome for you and they take ages just to check your passport.

    You are then given a white slip of paper to come back on board, that takes as long as going ashore.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    While sailing into Poti, not thinking, I took some photos of their war ships.Troops came on board and had us lined up on deck.They went through every cabin.If a camera was found, the film was taken out.Not a fun bunch of soldiers for sure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Arton View Post
    As 2nd mate on a new built product tanker, first cargo was to be gas oil, loading in ventspils and Klaipeda, never went ashore, guards at the bottom of the gangway, curfew at 24:00 so if you went to the mission even using the mission bus, if not back onboard by that time, even 1 minute late, no chance of getting back on board. This was in the 70's, very dull place with no communication with the locals.
    In early 80's was in Odessa and things were a bit easier, allowed ashore with no restrictions, went to the ballet, fantastic opera house.
    Later one sailed with Latvian, russian federation officers. Initially they were great, all trained in the old ways but later on the younger ones were not as good. One Latvian mate I had sent into the marketing department and made a right tool of himself, even to the extent of telling on captain to alter bills of lading to get round some port restrictions. Got sacked and the next we saw of him was he being led off an aeroplane in handcuffs after being arrested for smuggling out arms from Russia. It made the headlines when the ship he had organised to smuggle the weapons out switched off its A.I.S and disappeared from marine tracking system only reappearing somewhere off the west African coast.
    Very nice that the representatives of the community were on Ukrainian soil, in Odessa!

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