Frosty Evergreen Morning – Warmer in Siberia

It was actually warmer in Irkutsk (28 degrees low) than it was here in Evergreen (19 degrees on our thermometer). Made for some nice photos of frost on the ponderosa pines.


Lake Baikal

Last November we learned that the Baikalsk Pulp plant on the southern shore of Lake Baikal was shut down after 42 years of polluting the world’s most beautiful and pristine lake. We all cheered. But it was a short lived celebration. Just today I learned the plant was to start operation again. That’s the bad news. The semi-good news is that it will operated with a closed cycle pollution control system. Only problem is, such systems haven’t worked in the past. However, Vladimir Putin has declared that Baikal must be protected.

Baikalsk Pulp Plant

We’ll see. Best solution is to shut it down permanently. I gotta have a talk with Putin.

My article on Lake Baikal is scheduled for the November issue of Audubon Magazine. Here’s a short excerpt and a few pics.

“You know, we Siberians live in fear of being exiled to Moscow,” says Leonid Yevseyev, and we both laugh.

Yevseyev, my guide and interpreter and a native-born Siberian, is beside me on a promontory as we look out over a stunning panorama—-the mountain-rimmed lake called Baikal. We stand on Baikal’s remote northwestern shore, watching a thunderstorm hammer the Barguzin Range to the east of us. Here the land plunges a hundred feet to waters that are a vibrant blue-green, so transparent that rocks ten feet beneath the surface are clearly visible in the glaring sun. Bordering the meadow around us is a dense forest of pine and larch, spreading a resinous fragrance. Exiled to Moscow? Leonid and I agree: only if they take us away from here at gunpoint.

Elk Attack. One third of tomato crop lost.

It happened at 2AM. In a well coordinated raid, an invading elk ate one of three tomato plants on the deck of Norton’s office.
A positive ID was made from a bedroom window as the elk fled the scene.

The elk, part of a gang, is suspected of being a tomato addict. There was collateral damage; one flower planter suffered eating wounds from other gang members.

Part of elk gang casing neighborhood

Part of elk gang casing neighborhood

Earlier, the elk gang was seen casing the neighborhood (photo).
Neighborhood elk alert has been raised from orange to red.

Some Thoughts From Serengeti

Some thoughts on Serengeti. While writing the text for my new Serengeti book, I came across some interesting material. Famed psychologist Carl Jung visited East Africa in 1925 and wrote of a “most intense sentiment of returning to the land of my youth.”

That seems a curious statement because Jung had never before been to Africa. But the sentiment is understandable by those of us who feel like we are coming home when we return there. Each time I have visited Serengeti (I’ve spent over 900 days there) I have experienced a strong feeling of belonging. We are all Africans and it is, indeed, the land of our youth. Somewhere, deep in the molecules of our genes, are the echoes of our ancient past. Spencer Wells has corroborated this in his fabulous DNA tracing studies.

Jung also noted (and he could have been referring to Serengeti) the landscape is like “the stillness of the eternal beginning.”

We haven’t begun final picture selection for the book, but I thought I’d post a few happy snaps.

We have another of our photo and natural history safaris scheduled for January 2010 (next year marks our 25th year of running these trips in East Africa). If anyone would like to join us (we limit the trip to 10 participants) here’s a link for complete information:

Machu Picchu nightmare

I guess I had been spoiled. On previous trips (I’ve been there five times) the photography at Machu Picchu had been great – not many people in the ruins if you got there early for sunrise. But this recent trip in April this year was terrible – thousands of people roaming about the ruins all day, from early morning to late in the day. And this during a rainy day. I can understand Peru’s need to promote tourism, but this has been overkill. I’ll never again come back.

Perhaps even worse, Peru’s infrastructure at the new international airport in Lima is terrible. Just to get through customs/passport control on leaving we had to stand in line for over an hour. Mass chaos. Some people would have missed their flight had it not been late on arrival.

Fernandina eruption

Eruption of volcano on Fernandina Island

Eruption of volcano on Fernandina Island

During the recent trip to Galapagos I was lucky enough to be at Fernandina Island during a recent eruption. Tough photography – the only illumination was the red glow of flowing lava as it moved down to the sea. But I got some great shots, soon to be posted on my website

Off to Galapagos and Peru in April

Starting April 9 Barbara and I will be gone, leading one of our photo eco-tours to the Galapagos Islands and then to Lima, Cuzco and Machu Picchu in Peru. This is our third trip to Galapagos and our fifth to Peru. For anyone interested, we will be offering the same trip in April of 2010, in addition to our Tanzania photo safari in January 2010 (my 43rd trip there). You can keep posted on these at (will be updated soon for 2010 trips)