|Home||Back||Forward||August 19, 1998: Weather Helps Create This Sanctuary.|
When we had first come up with the idea of doing this study, we had asked our friend Igor Revenko, if he knew a place in Kamchatka that would be wild enough that the bears would be innocent of the usual things that man harasses them with. He thought about it for several months and came up with the idea of the Kambalnoe Lake area at the southern tip of the peninsula. It was probably one of the wildest places left in the world that was productive enough to support many bears.
When we finally set out to come here in June 1996 the first thing that happened to us was that we couldn't get here because of a fog bank with which we have since become very familiar. Maureen was in a helicopter with all of our gear and I in my plane with Igor. She ended up spending a night in a coastal fishing village, Igor and I had to land on a small lake five miles on the other side of the mountains and hiked through a pass in the fog, and soon darkness, to Kambalnoe lake thinking that Maureen might have gotten there before the fog. We spent an uncomfortable couple of days waiting for the helicopter in the rain with no tent or sleeping bags.
As we spent the next few months building our cabin and getting used to our surroundings there were several things that were both puzzling and perplexing about the place. Although there seemed to be no end of brown bears, they were almost a mono culture as far as large animals were concerned and there wasn't much diversity in the smaller animal category either. Bears are not enough of a predator to create this situation themselves but it was only after spending part of a winter here making sure our cubs denned properly that it became obvious what the deciding factor was regarding this observation. Also, no one has lived here since a few Ittlemen left 280 years ago, I believe mostly because the weather is horrendous! That first season here almost drove us nuts with wind, rain and fog and the next spring we realized that winter snow can dominate the landscape in July even after a couple of months of sun. The moist air off two cold oceans precipitates many feet of snow even right at sea level. It made us wonder if this country was too much for us. We later asked Igor why he had not mentioned the weather to us when he told us of the place and his simple answer was that we had never asked.
We eventually toughened into living here. This required having to be careful how we stepped out onto our porch for fear of getting blown away. This kind of storm with rain or snow could continue for five or six days without let up and then only give us a couple of days reprieve before the next one hit. I was raised in southern Alberta near Pincher Creek and thought I knew something about living with wind but this place has it beat by a large factor. The season in progress has finally given us some summer with incredible wildflowers and water warm enough to swim but the weather now seems to have again slipped into its familiar pattern that doesn't require much sun tan cream.
However, this area is an almost perfect place for grizzlies because they have an endless supply of food consisting of five spices of salmon, other fish species such as char, berries, incredible crops of pine nuts and lush, high protein vegetation. The very deep snow and 100 mph winds in winter are only a problem to other animals who don't have the marvelous ability to sleep for six months. Probably the most important thing regarding this wildness is that the climate makes it impossible for man to cultivate or graze the land even though it is very productive much of the year. Also, the climate limits tree growth to dwarf pines and alder that do not protrude above the snow in winter, for the reason that the high speed drifting snow cuts any branch off that sticks out during a storm. This also leaves this area too open for most would-be poachers who like the security of forests to hide, especially with my airplane as a deterrent. So the bears flourish while others, including us, struggle in this land of severe weather and hopefully it will be like that for a long time!
James; We are going to try to get back on submission schedule now that our guests are leaving but they have now missed their airline flight out of Kamchatka because they have been caught in a storm here at Kambalnoe for the past five days with no helicopter getting here, proving once again that this is difficult country. God help anyone who gets the idea that this would be a place to conduct Eco tours! Clients would need a loose schedule. Hope things are going well for you. Kind regards, Charlie;