The next morning found us at Kuzokotskiy Island. This island is now a haven for kayakers, but it was one of the worst outposts of the gulag system back in the day. We saw a number of poignant reminders here.


Unfortunately I can't remember the complete history behind these signs, which were maintained by a man who lived on the island. He came out to greet us and his story was translated in part. There were two signs. This one, inscribed with the word "sacred," and another one facing it inscribed "nothing sacred." I have a notion that they related to the gulag prisoners who suffered and died here, but that might be incorrect.

Forest beauty

We entered the forest through the "sacred" gate. The beauty of the area justified the sacred label by itself.


The forest undergrowth consisted of these low-growing plants, lichens and mosses. Somewhere in this area we encountered a tiny frog. I continued to be amazed at the variety of animals and plants that are adapted to these conditions.

Glacial scarring

Once we reached the other side of the island we were treated to this rocky shore that still bears the scars of glaciers that have worn it smooth.


This tiny collection of plants growing in a crevice of the rock included grass, moss and cup-shaped fungi with a lichen or two thrown in for lagniappe.


On the far side of the rocks we found this sandy beach.

Colorful rocks

A bit farther down the beach was this jumble of varying rocks: black, blue, pink and grey. Tom, our geologist, could be observed fondling various rocks and explaining excitedly their age (old) and origins.


The rocks, gneiss like so many that we saw, showed evidence of a tumultuous past. As I recall the black inclusion was ancient lava from deep in the earth's core.

At present we are planning a 2016 trip to Iceland and Greenland. Tom is listed as one of the staff on that trip and maybe I can get him to explain all the things that I've forgotten. Except that my brain will probably be overflowing with new things by then!

Beach flower

I expected seaweed and the like along the tidal flats, but we saw a lot of this plant in areas that were inundated by the tides. Sometimes the flowers were blue, as here, and other times they were white. I've not been able to find out what it is.

Tree versus rock

In the conflict between tree and rock, the tree will usually win. This small pine tree is making big rocks into small rocks by sending its roots into every available crevice. The freeze and thaw cycle helps too as water gets into the cracks, freezes and expands. The poor rock doesn't have a chance!


Walking back through the forest we came upon this very large and colorful mushroom.


This stump is a reminder of the gulag days. The prisoners sent here faced almost certain death due to exposure and starvation. Their assignment was logging. Trees were cut with axes or handsaws and then hauled out by the men without any help of power tools or vehicles.

In the years since the camps were disbanded, many of the stumps have grown "caps" of the native reindeer lichen.

Gulag camp

These deteriorating huts once housed prisoners and their guards. The conditions were brutal for both.

These huts were located on the "nothing sacred" side of the island.

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