37 A Dangerous River Voyage
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376 A Dangerous River Voyage The Iman River. An Udege Boat. The Hunting Village of Sidatun and Its Inhabitants. Slavery. Raftng the Iman. The Rapids. An Ice Floe. The Boat Crashes. The Armu River. Ontheoldmaps,theonesdrawnupin1854andusedunderTikhmenev’s tenure as governor-general of the Primorskaya Oblast, this river was calledtheNiman.1ThewordisManchurianandmeans“mountaingoat.” It is easy to derive another word from this: Iman. The Udege use an abbreviated name, Ima, and the Chinese add their own ending to this, khe (meaning “river”), resulting in Imakhe. The Iman is already quite a large river by the time the Kulumbe flows into it, and has a width of 100 meters, a depth of 3 meters, and a water speed of 8 kilometers per hour in periods of low water. The Iman River valley has alternating sections that are denuded or tectonic, with the former typically found where the river flows latitudinally and the latter where the river flows longitudinally. The Tkhetibe, Armu, and Kulumbe River valleys can be considered extensions of the Iman’s denuded sections. 1. The Primorskaya Oblast was a massive administrative region created in 1856 that included the entire Pacific Coast of Russia from what is now Chukotka to Primorye. In 1884, it was protracted to include only present day Primorsky Kray and southern Khabarovsky Kray (Stephan 1994). 37 A Dangerous River Voyage 377 The Iman had not yet frozen over; in fact only its fringes were icy. We could see some small people of some kind bustling about on the far bank, opposite of where we were standing. They turned out to be Udege children. We could see a yurt and an ambar a little further downriver in a willow grove. Dersu shouted across the river, asking the children to lend use of a boat. The startled boys looked at us and ran off. A man then emergedfromtheyurtwithguninhand.Heexchangedafewwordswith Dersu, then got in a boat and brought it over to our side. An Udege boat is a long, flat-bottomed canoe, and so light that a single person can easily pull it ashore. Its front end is flat, but its bottom protrudes forward and curves up like a ladle or a spade, making the wholethingseemabitawkward.Butthisdesignallowssuchaboatto,for lack of a better phrase, “roll” atop the water, as opposed to cutting into it. With such a high center of gravity it would seem that the boat would be unstable;infactitrockedsosuddenlywhenwegotinthatIinvoluntarily grabbed at its sides with both hands. But once we settled in and pushed off from shore, I saw that it really was quite stable. The Udege man stood and used a long pole to push us across. He pushed into the current with strong strokes, the water parted around us, and we gradually ferried our way toward the far bank. We eventually floated down to where the yurt was located and disembarked on the edge ice. A woman came out to meet us with the frightened children hiding behind her. She ushered us into the yurt before her, then sat by the fire on her haunches and began smoking her pipe. The children remained outside to stack fish in the ambar. The yurt was drafty and the wind whistled through it. A fire burned in its center, and the children ran in from time to time to warm their cold little hands by the flames. I was surprised at how lightly they were dressed: their shirts were open and they had neither mittens nor hats. They seemed almost impervioustothecoldastheyworked.Ifoneofthemwouldlingerbythe fire longer than the others, their father would yell and chase them out. “Buthewascold,”IsaidtoDersuandaskedthatheconveymywords to the Udege. “Let him get used to it,” our host responded; “otherwise he’ll starve to death.” 378 The 1906 Expedition I had to agree with that logic. Anyone who depends on nature’s raw bounty must still interact with it during harsh times. I started asking the Udege about the Iman, and learned that in its upper reaches the river flows parallel to the Sikhote-Alin and that its source is opposite the Tyutikhe River source. How strange! The water in the Iman flows off the watershed only sixty-some-odd kilometers from the coast, but it moves west, then takes a long, circuitous path in order to eventually reach the same sea it started out so close to, to begin with.2 The upper reaches of the Iman are covered with dense mixed forest. It was hard to imagine a more desolate or wild place. It was only at the start 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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