By Emmanuella Anokam
For African journalists and experts on tour of Gazprom’s production facilities in Russia, from July 17 to 26, nothing could be more fascinating than crossing the Arctic Circle in the Yamal Peninsula.
Some of them who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday said they had known the Arctic Circle in theory, but had the privilege to see it during the Gazprom media tour.
The sun does not set on some days in the Arctic Circle in summer (a phenomenon called midnight sun) and does not rise in winter (polar nights).
About 20 per cent of the entire territory of the Russian Federation is located in the Arctic region.
Very few people live in the Arctic region known for its freezing temperature, which can be as low as minus 60 degrees celsius in winter, and the sun shines all night long in summer, with neither night nor darkness.
Apart from the inclement weather, big flies make life a nightmare for residents of the region, particularly the indigenous inhabitants although the flies are said to be harmless as they do not cause malaria.
The journalists and experts were, therefore, excited when they crossed the Arctic Circle during their tour of Gazprom’s Bovanenkovskoye oil, gas and condensate field, located in the Northwestern part of Yamal Peninsula, an area spanning 1,780 square kilometres.
By the trip to the field, the touring journalists and experts had crossed the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees 33’44” north of the equator, and relatively few people in the world have achieved the feat.
Mrs Nosizwe Macamo, an energy expert from South Africa, said she had never been to the Yamal Peninsula, even though she lived in Russia for several years in the past, hence she found crossing the Arctic very interesting.
Macamo said when she saw it in the tour programme, she did some research and found out that there would be “white nights” but did not realise that it would be for the whole night.
She said she was disoriented on the first night and could not sleep. “But I was excited to be in the Arctic. I count myself lucky. It is an interesting phenomenon, but not an easy place to inhabit except for the indigenous people called Nenets.
“This happens because the earth is slightly tilted and right at the top, so there will not be night/darkness for a period of time during the summer, but night will come during the winter.
“Currently in other parts of Russia like Leningrad, St. Petersburg, among others, night comes very late due to late sunset.”
She explained that in Johannesburg, South Africa, she witnessed a similar weather at minus 60 degrees celsius, which made her to adapt to the cold weather of the Arctic.
She said she was also excited to meet the indigenous people in the Arctic region. “They are down to earth, friendly and welcoming people and live together with nature, which I find very fascinating.
“They eat and drink milk from the reindeers they rear; their houses and clothes are made of the skin of the animals. I love their hospitality.”
Similarly, Mr Michel Ussene of Mitra Energy, Mozambique, said he had learnt about the Arctic through articles, which explained that during summer there would be no night.
Ussene described his experience as amazing, saying he would forever cherish it, even though he slept very little on the first night due to excitement.
“Crossing the Arctic Circle is a life changer because it enabled me to see the inhabitants of the area and the way they live.
“It shows us that the world is more than what our eyes see and that there are so many diversities in the world to embrace,” he said.
Mr Said Ferhati, an oil and gas expert from Algeria, said he was delighted to be among the participants and was impressed by the hospitality of the Nenets.
“It reminds me of the hospitality of the nomads in Algeria. In the Arctic, you experience what is called ‘Tundra’ whereby, the soil has a lot of water but the water is not compacted, posing difficulty for cars to move and for people to walk on,” Ferhati said.
Mr Paul Ilado, Head of Content, Radio Africa Group, Kenya, described the Arctic as a very special place, which very few people had the opportunity to visit.
“Here you experience nature at its best. From the cold to the white nights, never in my life did I dream of getting close to the northern part of the world and experience sunshine throughout the night,” he said.
He said the high point was meeting the indigenous people who lived in the Tundra, adding that they touched his heart by the way they lived and raised their children.
In the language of its indigenous inhabitants, the Nenets, Yamal means “End of the Land.”
Meanwhile, the journalists and experts were presented certificates for crossing the Arctic Circle by Mr Dimitry Stratov, Deputy Director-General, Prospective Development, Gazprom, Dobycha Nadym.
Approximately one-fifth of Russia’s landmass lies within the north of the arctic circle. Russia is one of five littoral states bordering the Arctic Ocean.
As of 2010, out of four million inhabitants of the arctic, roughly two million lived in arctic Russia, making it the largest arctic country by population.
The Arctic region covers parts of eight countries which include Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the United States. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Salif Atojoko