Many a diamond, gold nugget, and mammoth tusk – in permafrosted Yakutsk.

Hi folks,

Today, excursions – of a Yakutskian kind!…

We had a day to fill in the city, and fill it we did, with plenty of assorted brief visits to wholly interesting and rather unique places of interest (one place was truly unique – the mammoth museum: so unique it’s probably the only one of its kind in the world).

First up, Yakutskian bling and glamor!…

The Treasury of Yakutia is, as the name suggests, a collection of the precious – precious stones, precious minerals, precious metals, and precious… mammoth tusks, all of which have been found and dug up on the territory of the republic. The exposition isn’t too big – just three or four rooms – but you can spend a good hour there, maybe more.

As you walk in, you’re met with striking examples of what the proper dress is for the sub-minus-50-degrees temperatures here:

Gold – in the various forms it is found in in the wild (which, it turns out, are numerous) :


Such a mysterious planet we live on: first there’s the Big Bang filling the world with hydrogen and helium, which later formed into star clusters. Thermonuclear synthesis inside stars created all manner of elements, then stars exploded and the accumulated matter flew off in various directions (that’s the briefest of explanations, it has to be said:). That there nugget cooled out of liquid gold. I wonder… where exactly did it cool? After the explosion of the supernova that formed the Solar System, or on Earth – cooling together with other materials? The answer, of course, will never be answered for sure. All the same – curious…

Technological nuances of the jeweler’s profession:

Items cut from stone and bone – signature works. Not bad at all!

All the colors of the rainbow – in precious stones:

Here’s a Yakutian exclusive – the rare mineral charoite, first discovered only in 1978, and only found here. It, together with malachite, is considered to be a symbol of Russia.

It goes without saying, the king of the stones – a girl’s best friend – features here large, including in rough, raw form:

And cut form:

Diamond jewelry:

Special device for testing the authenticity of diamonds:


‘Turn on’ … ‘Diamond’
‘Turn off’ … ‘Not a diamond’!


Next up on our tour of Yakutsk’s museums: the mammoth museum.

// Unfortunately, I had to sit in front of my laptop for a couple of hours at this point so I missed the whole of the mammoth museum! Great shame! So here are a few pics from my travel companions, and a few words:

The mammoth museum is quite small, but well worthy of a visit. Hard to imagine beasts with skeletons such as these once roamed around here. I wonder, is this a woolly rhinoceros? ->

A mammoth… mammoth!

Machairodontinae, etc.:

The museum is currently being overhauled, with expositions being restored too. As a result the museum is now formally closed. But if you smile and ask politely…).

Not only do they exhibit mammoths here, they study them too. And they… experiment on them also. The latest experiment is really something (are you sat down?). They plan to reanimate mammoth DNA and, not going into details, a (living!) she elephant will be put upon to join in the experiment and months later – out pops a mammoth! Or something like that. At least, that’s the objective. Of course it’s not as simple as that, so the locals are working with both Japanese and Korean scientists to help them reach the goal. Things aren’t going so great so far, but they’re persevering. Well good luck to them!

Mammoths once roamed here in such quantities that, today, the legal extraction of their fossilized tusks is of… mammoth proportions: thirty, sixty or a hundred tons of tusks (depending on whom you ask). How many tons are extracted illegally is of course hard to tell. Sometimes not just tusks are found, but also mummified mammoths with hide and fur intact. Not all such mummies are retrievable: they rot quickly. But some do make back it to the museum so the biologists can try extract some DNA.

Meanwhile, next up on our excursion program – the Melnikov Permafrost Institute.

The main laboratory is underground – which make sense for an institute that’s all about studying the subsoil…

‘Underground laboratory’

We head to the lower level:

Every time I see a map of the permafrost of Russia I’m amazed that more than half the country’s territory is constantly frozen:

The lift had broken down; we descend by foot ->

The walls of the tunnel – eternally frozen earth:

The temperature down here is always – all-year-round! – approximately -10-11˚C.

Door to the laboratory:

Judging by all that frost on the door and around the frame, it looked like the workers hadn’t been through it since last year; they were still on their New Year holidays:

Asked if we could leave an engraving on the walls, the guide told us we could go ahead; any etchings would soon disappear. Petrovich duly did the honors:

Interesting excursion; however, it was a bit of a let-down – especially compared with the mammoth museum. Little info was forthcoming about the subject at hand. The lab and the museum could be made so much more interesting. They could tell all about how permafrost forms; how it evolutionizes; what the situation is like a few kilometers down into the earth; how buildings, roads and bridges need to be built on permafrost… They could really go to town. For now though – no one’s going to any towns.

All the same – thank you. And we head on on our Yakutsk excursion…

Actually, our excursioning stopped there. For some reason the Kingdom of Eternal Frost was closed! Still, I’d been there back in 2013. Check out the pics.

And that was our Yakutsk cultural-historical-icicle excursion done. A great day!

Back with more Yakutian tales and pics tomorrow…

The rest of the photos from our Magadan–Moscow road trip are here.

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