Winter in South Sakhalin

The south of Sakhalin Island has been hit by a several snowstorms over the past week or so, and after a period of less than normal snow coverage, this corner of Russia is finally starting to look like it’s supposed to.

Heavy snows, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk 

Cars got stuck…

Heavy snows, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk 

…and everyone had to help with the digging.

Ice fishermen, Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin Island 

The sea at Okhotskoe is now frozen, and ice fishermen flock down there by the dozen.  A couple of weeks ago part of the ice floe broke off taking a large number of fishermen with it, who subsequently had to be rescued:

A total of 442 fishermen, many of them drunk, were rescued on February 3 from ice floes off the Mordvinova Bay in the south-eastern coast of Sakhalin after a massive ice sheet broke from the shore, officials said.

“The last people, who had refused to leave their equipment and catch behind, were persuaded … they were taken away in special baskets fixed to a helicopter,” an official from the Emergencies Ministry said. Around 70 fishermen had refused to be rescued without their equipment.  Interfax cited a ministry official as saying that many of the fishermen rescued from the ice floes were in a state of “heavy alcoholic intoxication.”

Despite repeated warnings from the authorities about the risks involved, particularly during this year’s unusually mild winter, fishing through holes drilled in the ice remains a time-honoured tradition. Practitioners, often fortified with a supply of strong alcohol and armed with heavy gear, including drills, rods and nets, can stray far from the shore in search of favourable fishing grounds.  Fishermen regularly have to be rescued from ice floes in Sakhalin and are often reluctant to part with the heavy drills they use to bore through the ice, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

Around a third of the population of Sakhalin is estimated to survive on fishing. On February 3, around 3,000 people came out to fish on the ice sheet along Sakhalin’s south-eastern shore in defiance of specific warnings from the emergencies ministry.  Strong winds then prised off a section of the ice measuring around 25 square kilometres, which then broke up into smaller ice floes that drifted some 2 kilometres from the shore.  Because of mild conditions, the ice around Sakhalin is currently only about 10 centimetres thick, compared to a normal winter thickness of at least 50 centimetres.  A total of 90 personnel, three helicopters and 20 boats were mobilised for the rescue operation, ferrying fishermen from the ice floes to the shore over several hours.

Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin Island  

A view of the shore, taken standing on the sea.

Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin Island  

Huge chunks of blueish ice had been broken off and pushed upwards by the sea.

Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin Island  

Compare the above picture with the one I took of the same headland in late September.


9 thoughts on “Winter in South Sakhalin

  1. Frosty! I hope that wasn’t your SUV that is stuck in the snow. I’m guessing it took some persistent effort to get it THAT deep and at that angle in the snow.

    I’m guessing that snow-cats or snow-mobiles are handy there this time of year.

  2. Not cool to get caught on a chunk of ice floating away! And it looks like your lack of snow earlier this winter has been made up now. Lot’s of snow for you now. Stay warm.

  3. Hi Tim,
    Your SUV looks a little different than the last time I saw it some 10 weeks ago.

    Catch You next week, I HOPE.


  4. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Russia: Sakhalin Photos and Interview

  5. Yeah, that’s my Landcruiser in the snow. It isn’t actually stuck as badly as it looks, it was driven into a snow bank on one side rather than the whole thing buried to its nose. Naturally, I chose the most dramatic picture. It took a bit of pulling out though. And two young Russian men trying to pull a car out of the snow is an example of reckless idiocy which might go some way to explain their high mortality rate.

    The kid isn’t mine, of course. He was just helping his Dad shovel some snow out of their driveway. He was awfully cute though.

  6. ***A total of 442 fishermen, many of them drunk****
    Hehehe… Too bad no one has taken any video footage of this rescue mission.
    It would be hillarious to watch. As much or even more than watching one of those “US or UK celebreties” checking into a rehab clinic over the weekend and than declaring on Monday they are healthy as a penguin.

  7. Love that comparison pic of the sunny Sakhalin beach…… gives me hope of possible warm days ahead!!

    Cant wait

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