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Russia’s Underground Museum of Permafrost frozen in time

November 23, 16:50 UTC+3 KRASNOYARSK

The deepest hall of the unique permafrost museum in Igarka, in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Region, which was previously used for research purposes, will be soon open to visitors

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© Museum of Permafrost

KRASNOYARSK, November 23. /TASS/. The deepest hall of the unique permafrost museum in Igarka, in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Region, an east Siberian port on the Yenisei River, which was previously used for research purposes, will be soon open to visitors.

The museum is one of Igarka’s main attractions on the tundra-covered Taimyr Peninsula. Its small wooden building is decorated with carved sculptures of mammoths, muskoxen and cave lions.

The permafrost museum is famous for its underground halls where thermostats do not rise above minus 4-6 degrees Celsius. This temperature is ideal for maintaining the permafrost in its natural condition.

The museum’s halls, which go as deep as 14 meters, were dug manually in the late 1930s - early 1940s. Visitors can take a look at the ice dating back to the mammoth era, bird cherries, which are 49,000 years old, and larch-tree trunks, which are even older.

The permafrost museum also features an exposition dedicated to the dark history of Soviet political repressions, the history of Igarka and the construction of the secret Salekhard-Igarka railway, which was abandoned after Josef Stalin’s death in 1953.

According to Anna Usoltseva, the head of the museum’s historical department, 500 visitors came to the museum last year, which is a big deal for the remote northern facility.

The museum began as a laboratory founded in 1936 to study permafrost.

The museum’s ‘birthday’ or foundation date is considered to be March 19, 1965, when the then laboratory chief, Dr. Alexander Pchelintsev, opened an exposition dedicated to permafrost and the history of its study.

"Flora and fauna samples frozen into ice or permafrost should be the museum’s exhibits," Pchelintsev wrote in his diary.

Maria Mishechkina, the museum’s former director, told TASS that the laboratory organized its first excursions for local schoolchildren long before the museum’s foundation, in 1942. One of the underground halls served as a biological storage facility with frozen lizards, bumblebees, butterflies, and other insects and fish.

According to Mishechkina, the museum earlier welcomed more visitors when navigation on the Yenisei River had been more active. Cruise ships ferried in many tourists to Igarka, she said.

"We always paid attention to Japanese tourists," she said. "They visited the museum wearing facemasks and carrying radiation dosimeters."

A small ice-skating rink was built in one of the museum’s halls. A time capsule with a message for 2045 was buried under its ice in 1950. The capsule reportedly contains World War II newspapers. Two more capsules were placed somewhere in the museum in 1974 and 1979 but their location was not recorded.

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