IRKUTSK, July 11. /TASS/. The Baikal-Alaska historic-geographic expedition, which explores the old route of Siberian merchants to America, begins the most extreme, marine, part of the journey as it left the port of Okhotsk on Tuesday, the project's head Captain Anatoly Kazakevich told TASS.
The Baikal-Alaska expedition started in Siberia's Irkutsk on May 30. The explorers will repeat the route of Siberian merchants, who founded first settlement in North America 150 years ago. They will cover the route of more than 11,000 kilometers within three months on board a sectional sail ocean-class catamaran, which they will have to transport over two dividing ridge in the Irkutsk region and in the Far East.
"We are in the Sea of Okhotsk. The mood is great, getting accustomed to the conditions. Sails up - one of them carries the TASS logo. We expect tailwind, south and south-eastern, which, forecasts say, will be moving right towards Madagascar, exactly where we are moving," the captain said on the satellite telephone.
In Okhotsk, he continued, the Iskatel (Adventurer) catamaran passed a marine test on the way from the Ayan port. There, the crew changed partially. New members replaced those who were onboard from Yakutsk along the Far East's rivers.
"It is the port, the merchants from Irkutsk passed during the Russian-American campaign, when they made Alaska Russia, and when they explored territories of Siberia and the Far East," the captain said. "In the recent 150 years, we are the first who came from Irkutsk to Okhotsk by water."
The visit to Okhotsk, which is known for being the birthplace of the Russian Pacific Fleet and as the first Russian city in the Far East, is an important benchmark both for the expedition, which repeats the old route, and for the locals. This year, Okhotsk, and the Pacific Fleet, too, celebrate the 370th birthday.
"It is very symbolic, that right on the eve of this date, the Baikal-Alaska exhibition called on this port," the city's head of administration Roman Pukhovets told TASS. Now that the logistics centers have shifted, the port has lost its former glory, but thus its historic importance is growing and attracts foreign tourists, he added.
Visitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand make stops in Okhotsk as their tourist groups cruise the Pacific Ocean. The local history museum tells them about the specific features of the Russian and Evenk life in the time of the Russian-American campaign. However, the official continued, Okhotsk is not that popular among Russian tourists: getting there is possible only by plane, Okhotsk cannot be accessed either by sea or roads, unfortunately.
To Bering Island
Meanwhile, a group of the expedition, representing Shelekhov's Museum, is departing Irkutsk on Tuesday heading for Kamchatka, where the researchers will explore the Bering Island, which is connected with the founder of the Russian-American campaign, the museum's representative Nadezhda Dulepova told TASS.
"We plan to explore the north-eastern part of the Bering Island, and, if we are lucky, also the Medny Island. We plan to collect great ethnographic material. Our special interest is to clothes and household objects of the indigenous people - Aleuts. In the XVIII century, Shelekhov collected quite many objects of the kind and gave them to the Irkutsk branch of the Russian Geographic Society, but they all were lost in the fire in 1879, when half of Irkutsk burned down."
She added, the expedition team will reunite fully in late July in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
The expedition features about 20 people (six-eight at every stage). They are residents of Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Yakutsk, and Kamchatka. The finish is due on August 30 in Anchorage (the U.S., Ala).
The expedition coincides with the 150th anniversary of Alaska's sale, to 210th anniversary of diplomatic relations' establishment between Russia and the U.S., and to the 200th anniversary of the Russian squadron's arrival to Hawaii. TASS is the general information partner.