Expedition Extreme Cold: Traveling With Siberia’s Reindeer People

Swedish explorer Mikael Strandberg is no stranger to the remote places of our planet. Over the course of his 27-year career, he has traveled to 121 countries and spent more than 2500 nights in a tent.

His journeys have taken him across Patagonia on horseback, into East Africa on foot and through Yemen’s Empty Quarter with camels. But his latest expedition may be his most challenging yet as he visits the coldest inhabited place on the planet to travel with the indigenous people that live there.

In late January, Mikael set out for Oymyakon, Siberia – widely considered the coldest place on the planet with permanent human settlements. In the winter, the weather there can be brutal, with temperatures routinely dropping below -75°F. It is so cold in fact that the average temperature falls below freezing for seven months of the year and the mercury once dipped to a record -96.2°F. Winters are long and harsh and even during the brief summer months the ground remains permanently frozen.

You would think with conditions that challenging the people that live there must be a hardy bunch, and you’d be right. They are a nomadic people known as the Eveny and they have inhabited the region for thousands of years. During that time, they managed to domesticate the reindeer that wander the area, turning them into draft animals and even riding them occasion. This unusual partnership between man and beast has earned the Eveny the nickname of “Reindeer People.”

Over the next few months, Mikael will travel with the Reindeer People, starting in Oymyakon and ending at the Sea of Okhotsk on Russia’s east coast. The journey will cover a mere 373 miles, fairly short by Strandberg’s standards, but considering the conditions he is already encountering there, it will be a demanding expedition none the less. He expects to not just battle the elements however, as his route passes through a mostly-unmapped wilderness filled with wild animals and other natural challenges.

Strandberg will be joined on this expedition by fellow explorer Yegor Makarov and photographers Yuri Berezhnov and Misja and Keisja Alexandrov. The plan is to not only map the region but also make a documentary about the Reindeer People for OutwildTV that will air later in the year. The team expects to be traveling in Sibera gathering video and images until mid-April.

The expedition is already underway and Mikael is sharing dispatches on his blog. As you can imagine, the picture that he paints with these stories is a cold one. Extremely cold.

By Kraig Becker

[Photo Credit: Mikael Strandberg]