All-terrain vehicles SHERP, Expedition

“To the East” expedition – Permafrost

In the last couple of day the expedition was surely moving “To the East!”. The mountains have been changed by the borderless swamps, locked in permafrost. Vladimir Shilnikov has written another brilliant report about the travelers’ adventures and the surrounding nature.

  • We rise early now. We wake up at seven, then have breakfast, and take off in an hour. This is the ideal scenario, of course. Sometimes there are hold offs, technical or fueling. But in any case we try to keep to the schedule. Eleven hours on the road, one hour for lunch. Three remaining evening hours are for dinner, looking at the pictures, reports and if someone is lucky, fishing or other entertainment. Not much free time.

  • However, let’s move on. I will write about the nature. Although at the moment it doesn’t deserve detailed descriptions. There are no more steep mountains, massive waterfalls or rapid rivers. There are only swamps, woods, bushes and hillocks. The forest here is still not very tall, but very dense sometimes. Considering heavy swampiness around here, I wouldn’t like to find myself here on a motorbike or a car. But on an ATV it is fine. The ATV can go even straight by the azimuth. However, we don’t use it as a battering ram, because it is just wrong. We can always find a passage or a terrain specialty, to continue moving, sometimes in a zigzag, but keeping the optimal route. This is Pavel and Alexey’s work. It is called Navigating officers’ job.

  • The forest still consists of larches. There are simply no other trees around here. Although, as far as yesterday, we encountered a couple spruces. But they are more likely to be called a system error then a tendency. The birches are more like “shrubs”. There are plenty of them here, but they are knee-high or at most reach waist. Willow bushes are also very common here. They are the ones obstructing our pedestrian walks, legs get stuck in them. Not all of the terrain is covered with this kind of plants, there is also a lot of plain (or almost plain) fields. Amongst trees and bushes there are also open glades with grass. Often it grows along the shores of small and big lakes. (By the way, when in Essey was a farm, they were collecting hay around the settlement and they didn’t bring it from far sides).

  • There is a lot of hummocky marsh. People say that it is dues to thermokarst phenomenon. I’m not going to even try to explain what it is, there is a lot of information about it in the Internet. Hummocks are rather unpleasant for passersby, although it is often a savior in some place like a swamp. It is faster and easier to move on them, compared to lowland. In lowland there are swamps. Although, they are everywhere around here, but more about it later. An even land with grass is soaked with turf water. Often has an even bottom. Wellingtons go not very deep, about ankle high. But the soft substance slows the ATVs a lot, making us press the gas pedal and change gears. Eventually it gets to you, and your eyes start looking for hillocks and bushes, because the ground there is harder.

  • It is axiom that swamps are everywhere. Every step is followed by a slurp and water coming from the ground. If you look around you will see the white hats of cotton grass, and this plant loves dampness. Swamp is everywhere – in the lowland, on the slopes, on the hills. There are only a few places that are dry. More often than not those are rare high forests with reindeer moss. The depth of the swamps is around the same everywere – up to thirty centimeters. Lower there is permafrost.

  • Possibly, permafrost is the reason for some phenomenons. For example, we encountered small lakes with sticking out dry logs on the entire surface. At some point the bottom ice had melted and the ground went lower, consuming the forest that was growing on it. Now the trees are dead and stay on the surface with their dry trunks up. Considering that these lakes exist on all the maps they must have appeared long ago – how long I wonder? A hundred years, or three hundred? Everything is possible, because the larches don’t rot in water, they simply harden. Time up North goes by slowly.

  • Imagine this: clear sky, bright sun, beautiful sarroundings and ATVs Sherp in this perspective. What is your first urge? Take your camera out and take another masterpiece picture for the expedition. Or alternatively, take a video camera and shoot a beautiful caravan passing by, that would deserve an Oscar in the very least. But we have also got another secret weapon among our technical devices. Quadcopter, or so called drone. Gadget widening the horizons with its abilities. God didn’t give us an ability to fly and see our Earth from the sky, but DJI company gave us a device that helps a little bit to overcome that border and see our world from above, at least on a monitor screen. And 4vision successfully helped us lay our hands on this wonder piece of technology.

  • So, weather, lighting and the plot let us create another masterpiece. And that means that Dima will rise Phantom 4Pro into the air now. It looks really simple, but inside it holds highly intellectual contents. It is a flying object. With its help we will see how beautiful the world around us is when looked from above.

  • The power is on, there is a short connection by signals between the receiver and the sender, and on the tablet we can see a signal that it is ready. The drone, like a bird on a start, stands holding its supports on the ground. Then it receives a command and the rotors start spinning quickly. In a moment our Phantom goes up. It is managed by Dima’s experienced hands. He sits in the ATV with a remote control, while the quadcopter keeps rising. Then it turns, as if looking around, picks a suitable point to start shooting and begins recording the video. There is a great camera on board Phantom 4Pro, and it is able to shoot video with high resolution of 4K. It also has stabilization. The shoot material is really smooth, without twitches or shaking. (The specialists say that if need be this camera can be used to shoot video on the ground and the quality will be superb.) The entire video material is saved on a flash driver microSD. It is very convenient. It has small size, video can easily be transferred from one device to another, it is fully compatible.

  • In any case, we are still in the air. The height that the drone can pick up is around a kilometer and a half. Technically it can go up to two, but we haven’t let our expensive helper that far off yet. It has lots of useful functions that help manage it and position it in the air. For example – there are all sorts of sensors on board to that can pick up signals from top, bottom and back. They help copter to stay intact in difficult conditions where it is full of different obstacles – branches, mountains etc. Another useful function is auto return home (to the place of start) in case the copter loses connection with the remote control or if the battery is low. And it can not only go straight back in direct line, but in a so-called clever return – by its previous track.

  • The time of flying depends on the battery charge. The battery capacity doesn’t last long. We haven’t flown it for more than twenty minutes. We could do longer, but we didn’t purposefully use the accumulator to the full capacity.

  • OK, finally our flight finishes. With help of Phantom 4Pro we made some unique footage form the top, sides, panorama and the episodes of still and moving ATVs around. We also haven’t forgotten about the nearest river with fast rapids, a mountain slope, a swamp and a lake. A lot of unique and stunning footage that will be part of a future film about the expedition were shot with help of quadcopter Phantom 4Pro, that was created by very talented engineers from DJI. And we are really grateful for it. We would also like to thank our general distributer of DJI products – a company 4Vision.ru, who kindly gave us the equipment.

The organizers and participants of the expedition thank their partners and sponsors:

The company Ravenol, the main technical partner

Iridium Russia, thanks to them the team will always be connected. The equipment for the data transfer was made available by the companies “Satellite mobile technologies” and “Iridium 360”

Product sponsor for the expedition – the company X5 Retail Group, managing brands “Pyaterochka”, ‘Perekrestok” and “Karusel” for the support of the idea of moving to the east

Technical partner Paptor U-Pol

Garmin Russia – for the navigation and action cameras Garmin Virb

Webasto – technical partner and sponsor of the expedition

Company “Dinakor – strength technologies” and brand Kubota

Company DJI alongside the 4vision.ru – the provider of quadcopters for the video shooting from the air

4×4 Club and brand Warn

“Medical technologies of survival” for the organization of the medical part of the expedition and the expedition’s medical kits

KB “Radar”, transport company “Promit” for the help in transportation of the cargo to the East

Informational partners of the expedition:

National Geographic Russia, Popular mechanic, Men’s Health, strana.ru, vesti.ru, Russia.travel.ru

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