10 The Danger Hidden High In the Mountains

The Danger Hidden High In the Mountains

Posted on October 11, 2012 by team


Back in 1996 orbiting satellites detected a huge ice lake near Khorgos river on the Kazakhstan-Chinese border. Last summer there was sent a research expedition to that place and the specialists were shocked: a catastraphic mudslide could happen in any moment! The lake was called “Kapkan” (“Trap”).

At the border with China they are building new infrastructure now with inhabited localities. They plan to turn the border crossing territory into the large transit and logistics center between China and the rest of Eurasia.

EMERCOM often flies here.

They are investing hundreds of million dollars into the project. The center of international cooperation is growing very fast, but nobody thought about mudslides and floods which could happen near the basin of Khorgos.

The huge construction site appeared right in the steppe.

They are building railroads, automobile roads and bridges.

People are already settling here.

In the Soviet times only border guards and militarymen stayed here. Natural disasters were not the main threat then.

Khorgos has considerably changed.

And this is what is happening on the Chinese side. Their buildings grow even much faster.

The Chinese have already built a city for 80 thousand people.

The guys are working with enthusiasm.

And they keep smiling.

Two years ago there already was a mudslide at the Khorgos, it destroyed all protective structures there. So the authorities decided to develop and realize the project that could protect the territory from such natural disasters.

They are cleaning and strengthening the riverbed now. 3,5 million dollars was provided for this.

The riverbed of the Khorgos is being expanded and strengthened at the distance of dozens of miles. Today it is 328 ft wide and 20 ft deep.

But the main danger is high in the mountains.

It’s not always easy to get to the headwater of the Khorgos, the weather changes rapidly.

We have to go up for almost 4500 m (2,8 miles). The carrying capacity of the rotor falls at such height, so each kilogram matters.

Sacks with ammonium nitrate are being loaded into the helicopter.

There are 20 sacks, 110 pounds each.

The helicopter is flying to the valley of the Usek river.

The Dzhungarsky Alatau is characterized but numerous deep lakes, rivers and steep gorges. These places are virgin, nobody has ever lived here. Only two expeditions have flown to the area. Meanwhile, the helicopter turns to China.

It’s hard to breathe at such height. The air is very cold.

It’s the mountain permafrost zone or the moraine. Glaciers are not eternal, they have a period of formation, melting and destruction. And these periods last for millenia. The final phase is the formation of moraine lakes which is now happening in Dzhungarsky and Zhetysusky Alatau. The basin of Khorgos has 38 glacial lakes in general. Twenty one of them are on the Chinese side, the rest are on our side.

Such lakes grow in the beginning of July and till the mid of August. Then it becomes colder in the mountains and melting of glaciers becomes slower.

Several lakes can form on one moraine.

Those mountains behind the lake are Chinese ones.

And this is where we were flying to. Kapkan (Trap) is not just a lake but a system from five cascaded resrvoirs.

The most dangerous one is this lake number 2. The height is 3450 m (1,86 miles) above sea level.

If anyone got here he/she would not be able to go any further being “trapped” – on the right is China, on the left and straight are impenetrable passes. That’s why they called the lake “Trap”.

The scientists were shocked when they saw the lake for the first time. It stretches for almost (0.62 miles), its volume is 3.7 million of cubic meters (2 300 cubic miles).

If Trap breaks through the huge amount of water will flow down collecting the waters of other lakes on its way. Mudslide is a mixture of water, mud, ice, stones, tree trunks etc. Rapidly flowing down it only increases its mass on its way. If it approaches the Khorgos it can be stopped by a very huge dam only.

A dam cannot be built in the area with no roads. The only thing they can do is to decrease the volume of the lake and not to let it overflow.

The higher level of the lake is the more ice is melted by the water. Those black circles are pipes which help to pump the water out. There are ten pipes like this on Kapkan. 60 litres (16 gallons) of water is pumped out each second. From 3,7 millions of cubic meters of the water only 2,1 remained. The plan to continue the work next year too.

The helicopter should be unloaded fast.

Twenty five people are constantly working at the lake. The working conditions are rather hard. Due to the lack of oxygene each movement is hard to do. Many of them suffer from mountain sickness: its symptoms are headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness. People change each two weeks. When it first snows the camp will be removed.

This is how they protect themselves from ultraviolet.

This girl cooks food for the group.

The people are going to the lake.

Here they are making a so-called “evacuation channel”.

The lake water will not rise above the bottom of the channel.

It is made deeper by explosions, this is why they brought the ammonium nitrate here.

One explosion raises dozens of tons of stones in the air.

Here you can see how much they have managed to lower the lake level. More than two millions of tons of water has been pumped out.

The specialists are examining the place of the explosion.

They should also check if the pipes are not damaged by the falling stones.

“Kapkan” glacier is 41 million of cubic meters of pure ice.

This is what grows here.

The lakes are half-frozen.

Through the gorge we come to the valley.

Khorgos is also a corn capital of Kazakhstan. Now it’s the time of harvest.

Corn piles are in each yard.

People live their life and do not think about those dangers which hide in the far glaciers of Dzhungaria.

via voxpopuli

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10 Responses to “The Danger Hidden High In the Mountains”

  1. Alain says:

    I didn’t know that Russia (and the rest of the world, except Burma, US and Liberia) used the foot as a length unit ? Interesting to share that unuseful information to everybody, English Russia webmaster !

  2. komar says:

    very interested facts good stry and nice pcs
    (great britain – foot to)

  3. Perkunas says:

    In Russia is a metric system, just for easer understanding its not hard to convert it.

  4. America says:

    “CAT” yet another example of world class American export goods that Tiger tries so hard to deny the existence of! lol

    “Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT), also known as “CAT”, is an American corporation which designs, manufactures, markets and sells machinery and engines and sells financial products and insurance to customers via a worldwide dealer network.[2][3] Caterpillar is the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines.[2] With more than US$70 billion in assets, Caterpillar was ranked number one in its industry and number 44 overall in the 2009 Fortune 500.”

    “Manufacturing – Caterpillar products and components are manufactured in 110 facilities worldwide. 51 plants are located in the United States and 59 overseas plants are located in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and Sweden.

    Caterpillar’s historical manufacturing home is in Peoria, Illinois, which is also the location of Caterpillar’s world headquarters and core research and development activities. Although Caterpillar has contracted much of its local parts production and warehousing to third parties, Caterpillar still has four major plants in the Peoria area: the Mapleton Foundry, where diesel engine blocks and other large parts are cast; the East Peoria factory, which has assembled Caterpillar tractors for over 70 years; the Mossville engine plant, built after World War II; and the Morton parts facility.”

    So much for your point that American manufacturing is dead and we all work at fast food joints making minimum wage.

    • (r)evolutionist says:

      Hey, America: They just laid off 33 per cent of workers at my factory. “Economics” was the reason given. Guess 33 per cent of hard working manufacturing workers will be cooking your hamburger next week. America, your best days were in the quasi-socialist pro-unionist 1950s and 1960s. Don’t look for “Happy Days are Here Again” anymore (forever).

    • Jeebs says:

      We all work at fast food joints really?

      I love the stereotypes people think up lol

    • Snowbee says:

      You tell ‘em, America!

    • Tovarich Volk says:

      Back in the 90’s, I worked for a tree cutting service in South Carolina. When I was there, we had did a long term lease on an AWD Caterpillar Backhoe. The manufacturing placard on it did have a a Peoria Address on it, but the placard also pointed out that the particular model that we had wasn’t actually manufactured in Peoria, but some city in the UK.

      I don’t recall the particular city that it was manufactured in because this was 18 years ago, but I recall clearly that it was made in England, so I really wouldn’t be surprised at this point if Caterpillar also has manufacturing facilities in China, India, or some other place overseas where the labor is cheaper than unionised US labor. — ISO 9000 certification makes such things possible.

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