Journeying through ice is much like playing chess: Following the opening one recognizes move by move the regularities. But making one's way through Russian bureaucrazy is similar to a game of chance. Despite being in possession of permits from the national park authorities and the Federal Agenvy for Safety (SFB) of the Russian Federation, we are constantly being confronted with new regulations and conditions. These are preventing us from continuing on our way through the ice-free waters to Franz-Josef-Land - our time is running out. In the high Arctic regions the period of time during which the ice is open is very short.
Despite having to wait all this time, the atmosphere on board is good! this is due, besides intensive conversations and the amount of literature on the Arctic we have, to the meals that Raimer is preparing for us. Language barriers are easily overcome when our agent and his assistants help with the understanding of the texts on Russian food packages. Why can it not be this easy on the administrative level? This wish is yet to be answered...
Russian and German media pick up on our unfortunate situation
We are lying in the very last corner of the coal harbor in Murmansk. The mast on the "Dagmar Aaen" is hardly recognizable in this forlorn area, even for people who are familiar with the expedition ship. It is marked with an arrow on the map. At midnight when the sun sets, the cranes offer an interesting impression; they resemble praying mantis. But we are fed up being here in this sooty and smoky harbor and we want only to continue on to the high north.
Unfortunately, the problems with the border guards concerning our departure from and entrance to the country have not as yet been solved. On the one hand, surprisingly for us (as well for the authorities we confronted), our journey from the Russian city of Murmansk to Franz-Josef-Land, which is Russian territory as well, through the international waters which lie between them, is being classified as a departure from and an entrance to Russia and in this case the visa we were given do not apply. On the other hand, there is no possibility to make entry on the islands. Still, the Russian authorities are asking for authorization for this passage, although they are unable (at least theoretically) to inform of where we can apply for this authorization. We will describe all of these matters in more detail later.
The Russian and German media have gotten wind of our unfortunate situation. For example, the local Blog 51 has informed areas far from here and on Saturday a Russian station filmed both the ship and its captain in the harbor. Following the interviews they took today with the border guards, they are planning to broadcast their report nationwide. The "Hamburger Abendblatt" wrote last Sunday "Russian detain Arved Fuchs in a coal harbor".
Since yesterday, there are other yachts here in the harbor as well. Just like the Polish ship directly in front of our jib boom, five other ships sailed in a regatta from Archangelsk to Franz-Josef-Land. Although the same conditions apply for them as for us, quite apparently the authorities are applying double standards. According to the crews the other yachts, they had an "Open Border" status and had absolutely no problems with the authorities responsible for them (and for us as well!). A precedent has obviously been established in our case.
Together with help from members of the Bundestag, who have become involved, and the German embassy, we are working very hard at finally being allowed to leave for Franz-Josef-Land. We have lost a lot of precious time.
We will hopefully soon report - on the "Start" of this demanding sea voyage and no longer on this time-consuming and nerve-wracking game of chance in this Russian harbor.