Our stop the next morning was the village of Chapoma on the Kola Peninsula. Like Gridino it used to be a viable fishing community. It is now barely hanging on, populated largely by pensioners. There are only 30 permanent residents although others come for the summer. This particular village does not have any roads to nearby towns. There aren’t any nearby towns. The only access is via sea (in the summer – the White Sea freezes in the winter) or helicopter. Food for the single grocery is delivered monthly. We were admonished not to purchase anything at the store because anything that we bought, even candy, would be unavailable for the locals until the next supply run.

In the 1990s a research expedition visited this and other White Sea villages and found that the inhabitants were satisfied with their situation. I doubt this is still the case.




Our Zodiacs landed on the sandy beach located where the Chapoma River runs to the sea. There is at least one company that offers fishing tours on the river with accommodations in the village.

More homeowners in this village are trying to keep their houses painted and well-maintained.

Ron Wixman

Tour staff member Ron Wixman is explaining the whimsical but effective "down spout" used by this homeowner to capture rainwater. During the explanation the owner came out to chat with us. She was very pleasant and seemed amused by a group of western tourists.

Main Street, Chapoma Village

This was the main street of the village. There are clearly vehicles in town that made the road, but we didn't see any. The major users of the road were dairy cows, one of which can just be seen.

Dried fish and birdhouse

There was a lot of speculation as to the reasons behind the "antlers" on the birdhouse, but we didn't come to any definite conclusion.

The small fish hanging from the clothesline are a local specialty. They are dried and used for snacks like we might enjoy buffalo wings. We were told they are particularly good with vodka.


Some young heifers. It wasn't clear if the dog was herding them, guarding them, or just hanging out with them. They pretty much had the run of the place.

Firewood stash

This property had quite a firewood stash! It may have been a sauna or perhaps the home of one of the year-round residents who was stocked up for winter.

Chapoma war memorial

This simple war memorial lists the villagers of the Chapoma, Pyalitsa & Strelna areas who were killed in WWII. There were additional names listed on the other side of the memorial. It must have been a significant percentage of the male population. I wonder to what extent it contributed to the decline of this village. There would be as many as 5 or 7 men with the same last name.

The building in the background is the former school, now closed.


I was struck by the attention to detail on this residence. There are elaborate "gingerbread" bargeboards on the eaves and the windows are finely detailed. Lace curtains are in the windows.

We were told that if nothing else on a house is painted the entrance or at least the door would be. That is certainly the case here.

Child on scooter

We saw several children at play. There was a deserted playground with an extensive jungle gym, but the kids preferred scooting around the plank sidewalks.

Chapoma River

The former Chapoma fishing cooperative is located on the banks of the river -- the large buildings in the background. I have been unable to verify whether it is still operational. It was as recently as 2013.

At one time due to the declining catch of fish, the Chapoma cooperative had begun to poach baby seals for their prized white coats.


This was the library and community center, now defunct.

Chapoma Garden Plots

This homeowner had created a number of planting beds using recycled materials of various kinds.

Waiting to leave

After our tour of the village we waited for the Zodiacs to pick us up. I included this picture to show the way that the lifejackets were stored while we were ashore. Needless to say you didn't root through the cans to find the specific vest that you had taken off. They were all pretty much identical. Ship staff kept watch over our belongings while we were ashore.

As we traveled farther north, we left the warm sunny weather behind. Although it was pretty typical July weather for northern Russia, it was a tad nippy by Virginia standards!

That afternoon the ship visited another village named Pyalista. It was even smaller and more remote than Chapoma and we elected to remain on the ship.

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