31 The Bear Hunt
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315 The Bear Hunt The Aokhobe River. The Drift Fence. A Coastal Trail. A Terrifying Beast. Three Shots. My Escape. The Brown Bear. A Trophy Buried in the Ground. Based on Sign, Dersu Reconstructs My Struggle with the Bear. Our Return to Camp. The next day, which was September 7th, we continued our journey. We came to a Chinese hunter’s lean-to, and there were two trails leading from it. The first went down along the Sinantsa River while the second went to the right, along the Aokhobe River (called the Ekhe in Udege, meaning “demon”). Had I followed the Sinantsa, I would have ended up right at Dzhigit [“horseman”] Bay.1 But then the coast between the Tyutikhe and the Iodzykhe Rivers would have remained unexplored. I therefore decided to follow the Aokhobe River to the sea, and explore the Sinantsa after that. At first, our route went south for 2 or 3 kilometers via a small trail alongtheuppermostandrightmosttributaryoftheSinantsa.Themountains here consist of porphyry, limestone, and mineralized felsite. I saw many veins of silver-lead ore, sphalerite, and copper pyrites. Uponreachingapassof270metersaltitude,Ipausedtolookaround. The tall, bare ridge of the Sikhote-Alin stretched to the northwest, and I 1. By following the Sinantsa River, Dzhigit Bay is approximately 60 kilometers to the northeast. 31 316 The 1906 Expedition could see the Tyutikhe River to the south. To the east was the Mutukhe River, and to the west the Duntsa River (a tributary of the Aokhobe). The latter was our proposed route. Fire had destroyed everything here; the only forest that remained was in the valleys, where it looked like isolated islands. Afterashortrestatthepass,wedescendedtowardtheDuntsaRiver, whichflowsthroughasmall,meanderingvalleyofbirch,cork,andMaximovich ’s poplar. We soon happened upon some kind of fence, which I immediately understood to be a drift fence. It stretched perpendicularly across the Aokhobe valley, then continued up one of its tributaries for a total of 14 kilometers. In front of the drift fence was a fanza and yard surrounded by a tall enclosure. There were some cages behind the fanza that were arranged almost like a stable. The Chinese kept deer inside these cages until their antlers grew to sufficient size and maximum value, at which point the velvety antlers were removed from the live deer. There was an ambar on stilts to the right of the fence, which contained red deer skins, dried antlers, and more than 190 kilograms of sinewharvestedfromthehindlegsofthoseanimals.Cookedantlersand dried tails hung in rows under the eaves. WefoundfourChinesehuntersinthefanza.Atfirsttheywerefrightened , but when they saw that we did not mean them harm they relaxed, and their subservience transitioned to friendliness. Three more Chinese men arrived at the fanza that evening. They began telling the others something and swore terribly as they did so. Dersu found the whole thing to be amusing. For the longest time I could not understand what was going on. It turned out that a bear had fallen into one of their pits. It freed itself immediately of course, and began to destroythefenceandscatterthecoveringsthatconcealedthepits,which meant that the Chinese had a lot of work ahead of them to get the drift fence back into shape. As the fanza itself was small, and the inhabitants hadalotofstuffinthere,Idecidedtokeepmovingafewmorekilometers and spend the night under the open sky. The trail continued through the Aokhobe valley and stayed on the river’s left bank. There are some particularly well developed river terraces here, with a foundation of massive crystalline up to 4 meters tall. The Bear Hunt 317 Although the middle reaches of the Aokhobe River valley are treeless, the area is completely unsuitable for agriculture: the hard, rocky soil is covered by only a thin layer of dirt and is easily eroded. An open, mixed forest grows on the shadowy mountain slopes, consisting of pine, cork, linden, oak, poplar, birch, and walnut, among others. In the sunny areas there are Asian hazel, bush clover, Sargent’s cranberry, and meadowsweet bushes. Near the river (where it was damper), there are thickets of thin-trunked willow, alder, and aspen. There is a sizable Chinese population in the lower reaches of the Aokhobe River, which appeared no more than twenty years prior.2 The Udege used to live there, but as a result of this influx either died out or moved elsewhere. If you were to look toward the valley from the sea, it would appear quite short. At one time this was a deep bay and estuary, and the Aokhobe River mouth was once located there where the valley now narrows. The searetreated...


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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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