The circumnavigation expedition of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society arrived at the port of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores on December 24. The passage here from Timor, where the travelers were almost caught by a hurricane, was successful. The weather finally pampered Stanislav Berezkin and Evgeny Kovalevsky. Although this stage of the route was not without adventures.
The Russian Ocean Way sailboat set sail from the coast of Timor on December 21. Small problems of a purely accounting nature arose when leaving the harbor due to the lack of Internet. The lifting of the anchor also caused difficulties.
“Manually lift the anchor. Having to raise 50 meters of chain by hand is a mockery, but the anchor winch is not working. We leave the amazing country of East Timor for the mysterious island of Flores, where Komodo lizards live and active volcanoes smoke, where the purest lakes amaze with incredible color. Indonesia is waiting for us," lead scientist of the expedition, Evgeny Kovalevsky, noted in his diary.
The sun sets quickly and by 20:30 the world around is absorbed by darkness. But the night passes calmly, without squalls and thunderstorms. The ship moves smoothly along the island, the presence of people on which is indicated only by rare lights. The moon peeks through the gaps between the clouds. It's like its smiling and winking at lonely wanderers, asking: “How are they doing?”
“How we miss the tranquility of the ocean. Tired of headwinds and storms. When the ocean is calm, the stars blink and jump into the ocean, the moon seems to point the way to the sailboat with a path on the water, dolphin brothers bring joy with their friendliness. The watch is just wonderful!” Kovalevsky shares his impressions.
However, it's cold on the night watch. They have to put on extra clothes. On the evening of December 22, the pyramid-shaped islands float by in the dark. Smoke is coming from the tops of these cones.
“This is an active volcano. We're going through a volcanic zone. I'm thinking about how great it is to touch planetary processes. Volcanoes are the life of planet Earth. Being very close to the zone of such activity, it is as if you are joining the laws of the universe.”
It's getting light by seven o'clock in the morning. As soon as the sun appears, it immediately becomes unbearably hot. The crew is trying to establish communication with the coastal headquarters, but it is not possible to call or send an SMS message.
“Something's wrong with the phone. There is no connection. We warned Yulia that ‘Iridium’ is junk – if there is no connection, it is not worth starting rescue work. They need to be patient for four days until we arrive at the island of Flores," Kovalevsky said
On the way to Flores, the expedition's sailboat was caught in a thunderstorm that raged for two hours and doused the ship with fresh water.
The travelers were accompanied by dolphins, their backs sparkling in the sun.
When approaching the island, a strong counter current manifested itself. Its speed is more than two knots. But beyond the northeastern cape it becomes weaker. A cargo ship is coming towards the crew. This is the sixth ship of the day.
“We've been moving straight-on for a long time. We decide not to change the course, so as not to confuse the captain of the cargo ship. And so, 300-400 meters before the collision, the cargo ship takes to the left. We are moving to the right," said Evgeny Kovalevsky.
The ocean was bright blue all day. Just some blurred clouds stretched along the horizon. There are more and more fishing boats around, which stay closer to the shore, which has already appeared within sight. A haze is moving over the peaks of the mountains.
“A lot of fishermen seemed to be lined up on purpose to the right and left of our sailboat. In the dark, it is difficult to understand the trajectory of their movement, since only the white lights indicating the longboat are lit. There are no green and red running lights. Sometimes one of the fishermen, according to a logic that only he understood, would break off and rush across in front of us. We had to notice this maneuver, to have time to evade. Another problem is the nets on the longboats. You cannot get in them – this can cause damage to the propeller shaft, propeller, or rudder. The ropes of these nets are as thick as an arm. In the morning, four hours of intense games with Indonesian fishermen end in a draw – no one was injured," jokes Evgeny Kovalevsky.
On the afternoon of December 24, the expedition vessel enters the port of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. The name of the island was given by Portuguese sailors, amazed by the number of flowers that grow here.
The port of Labuan Bajo is the starting point for trips to the national park on the islands of Komodo and Rinca – to the "kingdom of dragons". It is the habitat of unique lizards: Komodo dragons.
On July 1, 2021, Siberian travelers Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin set off along the route of the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century: Ivan Kruzenshtern’s (1803-1806), Yuri Lisyansky’s (1803-1806), Otto Kotzebue’s (1815-1818, 1823-1826), Vasily Golovnin’s (1817-1819), Fedor Litke’s (1826-1829), Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev’s (1819-1921). The international project of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society "Following the paths of Russian explorers" is dedicated to the 250th birthday anniversary of Krusenstern and the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors. These events for a long time determined Russia's leadership in the development of the oceans and the discovery of new lands. You can learn more about the project and provide all possible assistance in its implementation on the website of the expedition.