9 At the Departure Site
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74 At the Departure Site What an Explorer Does. The Departure. The Ussuri River. Vegetation near Shmakovka Station. Reptiles. Rodents. Birds. Leading an expedition necessitates the following skills: one must (1) be abletoorganizeateamandbeabletocompleteallpreparatoryworkwell before the expedition begins; (2) know how to collect samples; (3) be able to keep a journal; (4) know what to pay attention to by discriminating between valuable and useless information; (5) be able to properly store collected samples; and (6) be able to process materials in a timely fashion. The latter point must not be neglected, and special time must be carvedoutforit.WeRussiansoftenfailinthatregard.Typicallywhenan explorer returns home he immediately delves into new tasks unrelated to the material he collected. Journals are subsequently processed only in fits and only during time off. And for those in military service, this meansthehoursallocatedforsleeptorecuperatefromtheday’sexertion. What is an expedition? What exactly does the researcher do on such a trip? Unfortunately there are no strict rules; much depends on who the researcher is and how well he is prepared. It is very important that a researcher actually wants to go where he is going, and he must firmly believethatnothingismoreinterestingthantheinformationhecangather atthattimeandplace.Causeandeffectisoftenrevealedonlywhensome small, hitherto unnoticed phenomenon suddenly becomes important. This emerges only from careful and accurate observation, which is the 9 At the Departure Site 75 result of knowledge and field experience. If someone is only just starting out and has a supervisor, it is critical that this mentor is knowledgeable. He will immediately bestow the novice with proper study methodology. The first part of the expedition, the preparation period, had now passed, and next was the journey itself. The eve of departure is always fraughtwithproblemsanddifficulties.Everythinghastoberevisitedand thought about: nothing can be forgotten. You have to send telegrams, pack up personal belongings, call people on the telephone, and so on. The whole day is spent running around the city and fulfilling final duties . The whole evening is lost to letter writing, and it’s impossible to sleep that night; all the while troubled by a single thought: is everything done, is everything ready? It’s barely light the next morning and you’re already out the door. There’s some more worry by the ticket counter at the train station, but finally the station bell rings, the whistle blows, and the train starts moving. That’s the moment when an incredible weight is felt lifting off the shoulders. All concerns are in the past. There is true peace of mind with the knowledge that for a full year you’ll be out of bureaucracy’sreach,andforafullyeartherewillbenobothersomeregulations or telephones. There is a feeling of freedom, the upcoming task is embraced enthusiastically, and you wonder where all this newfound energy is coming from. We had our own wagon car, which was hitched to the back of the train. Nobody bothered us, and we made ourselves at home. We spent the day having friendly conversation, looking over maps, and making plans. It was overcast, and the rain fell incessantly. There was a vast, hummocky marsh on both sides of the railroad, inundated with water and fringedwithstuntedvegetation.Monotonoustrees,telephonepoles,and depressions flashed by the window. The day was long and melancholy. Finally it turned dark, and we lit candles in the wagon. Exhausted from the excitement of the previous days, and lulled by the rocking wagon and the rhythmic clatter of wheels, we all soon fell asleep. WearrivedatShmakovkaStationthenextday,wheretheexpedition was to start. The rain had stopped overnight, the weather had cleared somewhat, and the sun shone brightly. Rain-soaked leaves glistened as 76 The 1906 Expedition though freshly varnished, and mist rose from the ground. We were met at the station by the riflemen, who showed us to our quarters. The remainder of the day was spent bundling equipment and organizing our packs. The next day, May 18th, was allocated to the riflemen to make sure all was in order. They took care of last-minute preparations: they customized their unty, sewed knee protectors, and prepared their ammunition —the last chance before setting off. One can’t account for all possible scenarios; personal experience is most important. As long as there are no major things forgotten, the small problems would take care of themselves. P. K. Rutkovsky and I took advantage of our free time that day to look around. The Ussuri River is quite sinuous near Shmakovka. If one were to pull the river taut on the map it would likely double in length. I would not say that the river has a large number of...



Subject Headings

  • Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China) -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
  • Dersu Uzala.
  • Arsenʹev, V. K. (Vladimir Klavdievich), 1872-1930 -- Travel -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
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