15 The Great Forest
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134 The Great Forest Advice from a Tazy. Birds in the Forest. Geology of the Sinantsa. Night in the Forest. Manzas of the Taiga. A Ginseng Plantation. The Detachment’s Return. An Elderly Chinese Guide. The Ancient Trail to Saint Olga Post. The Forest of the Sikhote-Alin Foothills. Fatigue and Insufficient Food. In the morning I woke to the sound of voices. It was five o’clock. Judging by how the horses were snorting and loudly swishing their tails, and how the Cossacks were swearing, I could guess that the gnus were bad. I quickly dressed, slid out of my mosquito net, and was met by an interesting scene. A swirling cloud of countless blackflies hung over our camp. Thepoorhorses,tremblingandswattingtheirtails,hadburiedtheirfaces right into the smudge fires. There was a layer of dead insects piled on the ash where the camp fire should have been. They had fallen onto the flames in such numbers that they had actually smothered the fire. There are only two ways to save yourself from the gnus—giant smudge fires or moving quickly. Sitting still is not recommended. I gave the order to saddle the horses and walked over to a nearby tree to collect my rifle. I didn’t recognize it at first. My rifle was coated in a thick ashygray patina of blackflies stuck to the oil on the barrel. I hastily gathered my instruments and, not waiting for the horses to be saddled, went on ahead along the trail. 15 The Great Forest 135 The trail forked a kilometer from the Tazy’s fanza. The right trail led to the Ulakhe River, and the left went toward the Sikhote-Alin. The Tazypausedatthisspot,pointedtothetrailweshouldfollow,andturned to me: “Captain! Look road good. Horses go, you go. Horses no go, you no go.” To ears unaccustomed to them, phrases such as this might be mistaken for a nonsensical smattering of words, but I understood immediately . He said that we had to stick to the horse trail and avoid the foot path. The Tazy turned back once the horses arrived, and we set out along this new trail up the Sinantsa. Theforestherewasdense,mixed,anddominatedbypine.Therewas evidence all around of a strong, recent flood: eroded banks, logjams in the river, ruts, ditches, knocked-down trees, and tufts of dry grass stuck in the bushes. When they flood, the rivers in the Ussuri Kray have a tendency to change where the crossings are from one place to another, and finding a washed-out trail is not easy. The men fanned out in search of it. Eventually the trial was picked up, and we continued on cheerily. We came across multiple animal tracks along the way, including many tiger pugmarks. We flushed deer and boar on two occasions. We shot at them, but no one got a kill. This was because the men were too excited and got in each other’s way. The Ussuri forest can seem empty, an impression due to the lack of songbirds. Every once in a while I saw Eurasian jays. Uttering sharp cries, these twitchy birds darted restlessly from one branch to another. Wanting to observe them, I tried to approach closer. The jays tried to hide in the foliage at first, and flew off only when they noticed that I was actively pursuing them. In flight, the patches of blue and white on their wings made them appear more attractive than they actually are. Every once in a while we heard strange noises in the forest, which soundedlikeadrumbeating.Soonwesawwhowasresponsibleforthese sounds—it was a black woodpecker. Mistrustful and easily spooked, fromafarthisbirdcanlooklikeacrowasitiscompletelyblackbutwitha 136 The 1906 Expedition dullredcrown.Itflewfromoneplacetoanotheremittingshrillvocalizations and hid from us behind tree trunks as all woodpeckers do. Some hazel grouse were huddled in damp thickets by the river. Startled by the approaching dogs, they flew off deeper into the forest, and begantowhistleamongthemselves.DyakovandMelyanwantedtohunt them, but the grouse wouldn’t let their pursuers approach. I convinced the riflemen not to waste their time and to keep moving. A large raptor flushed from a tree. It was the king of the night—the Eurasian eagle owl.1 It landed on a spruce snag and looked around in alarm. It flew off as soon as we drew closer, and we did not see it again. The geology of the Sinantsa River valley was straightforward. This wasatectonicvalley,startinginthesouthwest,thenturningnorthalong the Sikhote-Alin.2 There were outcroppings of fine-grained granite near Idagouzainthemiddlereachesoftheriveraswellasontheleftsideofthe valley. Further down the valley we saw porphyritic felsite, decomposed applite, and almond...


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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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