Photo of the Week: Permafrost Institute, Yakutsk, Russia – August 2013
Yakutsk in Russia has the coldest winter climate of any city in the world, and is built on ground that is permanently frozen all year round. It is the biggest city to be built on permafrost which obviously has its challenges for infrastructure. Most buildings are built on concrete piles to elevate them from the cold ground, and the best techniques have been studied for many years by the Yakutsk Permafrost Institute. So while we were there we thought we’d attempt a visit to the Institute, and even more tricky, a tour in English! They occasionally run them, but as it is a working institute, it is hit and miss depending on whether there are groups of visitors. We were lucky on our arrival – after confusing the poor receptionist with our poor Russian skills, she called one of the researchers who spoke a little English and was patient enough for our Russian! He gave us (extremely) warm fur coats to wear and led us down into the ice-covered basement which was a constant -8 degrees C while explaining to us some of the work they do. We also got to see a replica of a baby mammoth found perfectly preserved in the frozen ground nearby in 1977 (the original is now in St Petersburg), and as testament to this find there is a statue of a baby mammoth at the Institute entrance. Such a fascinating place to visit!