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Earth Sense: Siberia a bracing destination in winter
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Many people like a quick winter break in Florida’s warm weather. Others want something more bracing. The hardiest people take a winter tour through Siberia.

You may have seen the troubles that come with travel in that part of the Russian Federation on TV. The British series “The Long Way Around” with Ewan McGregor of “Star Wars” fame and Charley Boorman illustrated the struggle of three motorcyclists on the way to Magadan, crossing flooded rivers and waterlogged, muddy terrain. But that was just the summer.

Winter tours through the coldest part of the Northern Hemisphere are offered on www.visityakutia.com.

Participants have a chance to experience 60 degrees below zero and dirt roads heaved and buckled on top of permanently frozen ground. Verkhoyansk, one of the waypoints, holds the world record for the coldest temperature ever measured in a city.  

The exact number given varies, but most textbooks agree to minus 96. The February trips don’t encounter many real snow storms because the intense cold prevents the buildup of weather systems that carry enough moisture for making snow.

But the snow from last year’s fall season is still around and can also produce a blizzard when it gets blown around by the wind. Tours during March are more likely to run into fresh-falling snow, along with deep drifts that can block the roadways.

Yakutia, now called Sakha Republic, offers grandiose landscape views if one can endure days with 10 or more hours of driving. Lovers of mystery might choose a summer trip to the “Valley of Death,” located along the Olguidakh River.  

Decades ago, locals reported finding strange metal objects in the area. They are said to be shaped like cauldrons, measuring some 20 feet across, with sharp edges.

Written reports seem to always include illustrations, not photos, so it is up to the individual to decide whether to believe in UFO landings, Soviet nuclear experiments or meteorites. Earth scientists might point to ice lenses in the ground that heave upward and form dome-like structures.

Even if no remnants of alien civilizations are found, this Yakutia tour promises adventurous days of exploring, fishing, camping and river rafting. Like in Alaska, the soil sits on top of permanently frozen ground and gets waterlogged in warm weather.

Swarms of mosquitoes can therefore lessen the fun a bit, but one gets to travel through landscapes rarely seen elsewhere.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.