All righty. After our brief inspection of the Commander Islands, we raced back to the Athens and set sail for Kamchatka. But no matter how fast we sailed, we couldn’t keep ahead of the storm – approaching sternwards. That last detail – sternwards – was actually a blessing in disguise: if it had come in from the port or starboard side it could have spelled disaster. So, in a word: phew.
In the photos below it may not be easy to grasp just how high those waves got: much higher than the Athens! Good Lord were they powerful – rocking the boat around like… a bucking bronco. Not for the squeamish. Most of the posse stayed on their bunks for a full two days while the storm passed, with only a few occasionally adventuring out to the dining room ).
It seems a bit strange looking at some of my summer holiday photos and editing them, especially when they don’t even relate directly to the Kurils, even though they were taken on our Kurils-2019 adventure! But we’d gotten to the end of the Kurils, so there were no more of them in line for us to check out. The next island after Kunishir is Japan’s Hokkaido. So we took a right (westerly) turn, and headed toward the island of Sakhalin. I say toward, as we didn’t make it to that island. Instead we stopped at a micro-island just off one of its three southern capes – Tyuleny Island; which is appropriately named, as you’ll see in the vids and pics below: Tyuleny means Seals – Seal Island!
This is getting silly. Our Kurils expedition this year was in summer. Soon – it’ll be winter! So I’d better get back to my tales from the Kurilian side and make some decent progress toward finishing them; otherwise it’ll be Christmas and I’m still on about our summer holidays.
So, as every YouTuber loves to say, ‘without further ado’, let’s get back (far-)east. Specifically – ~40 kilometers to the southwest of Brouton Bay along the eastern coast of the Kuril island of Simushir, namely – at Zavaritsky Caldera.
Zavaritsky is yet another voluptuous volcano of the Kurils. Now, if Krenitsyn is the ‘King of the Volcanoes’, and Ushishir is the ‘Jewel in the King’s Crown’, where does that leave Zavaritsky? Zavaritsky is… the ‘Cherry on the Colorful Cake’, which the king, in his crown, loves to eat, when he gets the munchies. Ok, I have backed myself into a corner with the metaphors, so… let me extract myself from the compulsion to stick with royalty, its headgear and sweet-tooth, and simply state that Zavaritsky is… – a ‘Festival of Vivid Volcanic Color that Couldn’t Be Fuller!’
There’s another volcanism feature on Kunashir definitely worth a visit: the fumarole ‘fields’ of Mendeleyeva Volcano. Last time we strolled across one such field; this time we walked along the river toward the second. And a wonderful walk it was too. Though it was a ‘mere’ eight kilometers one way, another eight back, it still took our group of office dwellers the full day to cover it. Still, taking our time meant the meditative-enjoyment factor was fully guaranteed!
To get to the nearest fumarole field you take the forest path; to get to the furthest one you take… the river! The overgrowth either side of the river is just too thick for trekking. So it’s on with the Wellingtons and off you splash, enjoying the views all around as you do!…
Woah. Bright green volcanic discharge. I wasn’t sure whether to say ‘urrggh’, or ‘woweeeee’!
The bush with the pink leaves. Actually, one side of the leaves is the customary green color; the other – that there bright pink. Mutant foliage!
Along the banks of the river – the highway for the local inhabitants:
The deepest bit of the river:
In places the constant water erosion reveals secrets of the periodic table in the stone:
The further up we got, the more often did we have to switch on the ‘4×4’.
Suddenly – ruins of Japanese sulfur mining buildings:
After two or three hours, we finally make it to the top. Time for our habitual ritual when we’re atop mountains or… fumarole fields: sit, chill, meditate, zone out, or whatever else you want to call it…
The multicolored volcanico-fumarolio are a wonderful sight to behold, and none of the strong odors that normally accompany such sulfuric sights as these.
Pleasant surroundings, comfortable, calm. The only thing disturbing the peace and quiet – the buzz from the drone. But given the quality of the vids it takes – it is forgiven ).
Of all the many colors here, perhaps the most outstanding are the rich reds and awesome oranges. Clearly plenty of ferrous oxide round here…
Alas, time to head back…
…And not just to the Athens. It’s almost time for us to head back to civilization: our Kurils adventure is drawing to a close (.
The next port of call on our Kurils-2019 adventure was… not one of the Kurils ). Nope, it was a next-door neighbor: the southernmost point of the island of Sakhalin – here – on the end of Cape Aniva, where there is a lighthouse of the same name. Very impressive it is too – check out the pics and drone-vid:
Next up for us – in fact, our last Kuril Island of this year’s expedition – was Kunashir, which, luckily, happens to be covered in outstanding volcanisms. To the north there’s Tyatya; to the south of it there are Cape Stolbchaty and its crazy columns; and further south there are the multicolored fumarole fields of Mendeleyeva Volcano and the hot mud baths in the Golovina Caldera. Each instance of volcanism – spectacularly beautiful in its own right; but all together they make sure the island of Kunashir would – if it were in China – geyt a full KKKKK rating!
We were here five years ago, and I wrote plenty about this phenomenal island then and showed you a ton of pics. Here, I’ll just be complementing that earlier narrative and photography with some extra-special new impressions.
Alas Tyatya wasn’t ‘open for visitors’ when we were there – the weather was too bad and the huge waves didn’t permit us a safe landing. But we did get a rerun of Mendeleyeva’s fumaroles and the stone pillars of Stolbchaty.
If you had to describe Kunashir with just one word, what would it be? ‘Ура!’, of course (in Russian), which means ‘hurray’ in English. Accordingly – basalt graffiti thereof:
Onward we sail further and further south, with it getting warmer and warmer as we get nearer to the equator. We keep wondering if, sooner or later, the waters around these parts might become warm enough to take a pleasant dip in… a quick check – alas: not yet. So we continue on our merry way southward – toward our next Kuril: Urup, which comes from the Ainu word for salmon trout. Probably named that way as the island is long and thin like a salmon. But wait – so… does that mean the Ainu people drew maps? How else would they know the shape? Maybe by climbing up a neighboring volcano and seeing it that way?
Or could it be named after the salmon that perhaps inhabit the small island’s… streams (no rivers; no lakes)? Maybe there are salmon trout here. To the north, as far as Paramushir, all the islands are too small for salmon trout to reside on them. And to the south, perhaps, the climate’s too warm for a northerner-fish such as the salmon trout? But just here in between (also on neighboring Simushir), there well could be salmon (there was on Simushir – I saw them myself). Not that we found out – we passed Urup by. We’d landed there last time and there’s not a great deal to see onshore that can’t be seen from the sea (see the below pics), so we just missed it out this time…
Severe Kurilian landscapes…
Woah – killer whales! Maybe they’re after the salmon? What else would they be doing next to an island called Salmon?!
But why take pics from the Athens? Let’s get a drone up! So our American friends did just that…
Evening approaches; in rolls the fog; time for us to move on!…
Next up – Iturup; that rhymes! Surely this will mean something fish-related in Ainu? But of course: it means jellyfish! That’s funny; the island neither resembles a jellyfish, nor did I see a single jellyfish swimming about in the sea around the island. Stop. Perhaps those long capes the jut out quite far into the sea were deemed jellyfish’s tentacles?! But I digress…
In the next pic: hot stream coming down from Baransky Volcano! In the steeper places: hot waterfalls!
Up here the water’s literally boiling! It cools down enough to be able to bath in it some 400 meters further down…
Woah – here’s something new since last time: neat concrete steps. Just what the doctor ordered (to go with the prescribed recuperative natural spring water:).
Down we go…
Oh no – repair work going on!
Not to worry: two of the upper pools had had their repairs completed:
And anyway, the best bit of all – the full-on hot-spring waterfall – was further down, ahead of the repairs…
Aaaaaaah. What a place! 42 – no two ways about it. And it gets even better for you, dear readers…: drone footage! Could this possibly be the first ever drone footage of these waterfalls in the history of the Universe? Again: 42!!
Must get back here one day. Simply mandatory… That goes for all you readers as well!
The rest of the pics of our Kurils-2019 expedition are here.
Yesterday you’ll recall we were on Sumishir being bowled over by its Zavaritsky Caldera. Today, sailing southwest along the string of Kurils, we first took in the rather plain Broutona and its bay of the same name (named after the British naval officer and explorer William Broughton). And after that – two small islands together referred to as Chyornye Bratya – the Black Brothers, with one called Chirpoy, and the other – Brat Chirpoyev (Chirpoy’s brother!), here.