Traveler, adventurer and instructor in survival Andrey Solovyev from Voronezh has been living for more than 100 days on the shores of Lake Labynkyr in Yakutia hoping to see Labynkyr Devil. 32-year-old man went to the Lake on foot, he did not take anything that he could need for wintering. He lives in a small wooden house, near he made a dugout to store his little stockpile of food. 31 October, a journalist visited Andrey and asked him a few questions.
I decided to spend the winter on Labynkyr Lake for several reasons. Firstly, the Labynkyr phenomenon: the lake is very unusual. I am interested in the legend about Labynkyr Devil that was seen by many people. Secondly, I would like to test my survival skills because I’m an instructor of tourism and survival. I would like to gain new experience in a harsh climate of Yakutia, gain knowledge, check myself, whether I can do it or not.
In Voronezh, I went camping very often. Now I lead groups in backpacking. I travel a lot. I researched almost all mountain ranges in Russia: the Caucasus, the Urals, Altai, Putorana plateau, Yenisei Ridge, the Eastern Sayan, the Academician Obruchev Ridge. I’ve already researched a great part of the mountain system of Russia.
How did your relatives react to your plan?
They got used to my crazy plans.
Did you warn your relatives that you were going to the northern lake, where there were no people within a radius of 150 kilometers? And what did they say? “Okay, go”?
Yes, it was so, it’s not my first experiment on survival. I’ve already went hiking for so long, for several months. So they got used to.
What’s the most difficult thing in your experiment?
The most difficult thing is psychological factor. No physical exertion, not chopping wood, not fishing, not lack of food, and not even loneliness. Sensory deprivation, if I may say so, a limited range of emotions, no new impressions, everything is the same every day. This is the most difficult, if talk about overcoming yourself.
What is your typical day?
I wake up at six in the morning. When it was not so cold, I swam in the lake or spilled water over myself from a bucket. Now I wipe myself with snow – it’s about seven in the morning, an hour before dawn. Then I eat breakfast and go to chop wood. Before lunch, I check my net to see, whether the fish was caught. Then I make rounds around the Lake, sometimes I climb into the mountains trying to add some variety to the daily routine. I walk around the local surroundings, I go five or seven kilometers, not so far.
Do you have any hobbies? Perhaps you’re writing a book there?
Yes, of course! I’m writing a book, recording the temperature every day. Before that I was fixing the water level in the Lake. I write and record everything that happens, all that I see.
Are you ready for winter? What have you prepared?
I have prepared berries, herbs, infusions. During winter, I’ll fish in an ice hole.
What do you eat?
Did you take canned goods or any food?
No, I took no stocks of food at all.
You have strict rules of wintering? They say that you give up all the benefits of civilization?
Yes, I gave up all the benefits of civilization. With regard to the strict rules, I discipline myself: as many people, sometimes I do not want to get up in the morning. But I get up and chop wood – not only for this day but in advance, so there would be some reserve. Sometimes laziness overpowers, but fitness and temper help me to cope with it.
What can stop your experiment?
It means, tomorrow you may wake up and say, “That’s it! I’m tired, I collect things and go home”?
No, of course not, it’s unlikely
You have already faced cold weather, how do you feel?
It is now -20 C (-4 F) at night, it’s fine. At daytime it’s -12 (+10 F) for now.
Can you imagine what is -50 C (-58 F) degrees? How are you going to survive?
I’ve already survived in such cold. In the Highlands of Altai in January and February it was -50 C. I lived there without an oven, so I don’t worry.
What you wear during winter?
I came here without any warm clothes, I had only sweaters. But Alexey Prokopevich Dyachkovsky sent me today via EMG Office Oymyakon (Russian geographical society) a kuhljanka (The peoples of the North wear this upper fur clothing with fur outside). It is very warm, I can lie down in the snow and sleep well. Thank you very much.
Do you have there any phone or radio?
Nothing from communication means.
They say you live even without a passport, do you hide from anyone?
No, I have a passport, who told you that? I have everything what I need.
How did you get to Labynkyr Lake?
I reached Neryungri by train from Voronezh, then to Yakutsk by car. I spent a few days at my mate’s place in Yakutsk, then I went from Yakutsk to Tomtora by car and then from there I walked on foot 10 days to Labynkyra. My backpack weighed 70 kilograms with my belongings. I also had to return: I have divided my luggage into two parts: 30 and 40 kilograms. First, I dragged 40 kg, then I came back and took 30-kg luggage. So, I walked 325 kilometers from Tomtora.
How are you ging to reward yourself, if you successfully finish your experiment?
I didn’t think about it.
How long are you going to stay on Labynkyr?
I plan to stay here until spring. But I haven’t decided yet when exactly I back home. I can even stay till June.
What do you miss more?
I miss books! I have only two books that I’ve already read three times.
What are these books?
Encyclopedia of Survival and Freedom of the Shaman, Vladimir Serkin.
Do you believe in Labynkyr monster?
I guess, it is found here. I just need a chance to check it.
Did you see it?
Aren’t you afraid to live in such conditions all alone?
No, I got used to it.
What are your plans after wintering?
I want to published a book about the Labynkyr Lake. I write slowly about all the people that I meet here, about local traditions. I try to cover everything.
How often do you meet people?
Today was the first time in last 3 weeks.
This morning I read in the media that you are to be evacuated.
No, these are rumors. Everything goes according to my plan. MOE has no right to evacuate a person during the trip.
Why didn’t you bring a gun?
It’s primarily due to the weight. And I wanted to use the skills and tools of ancient Yakuts: bows, spears.
What wild animals have you already met?
Quite often I see bears, elks, deer.
Tell us about a meeting a bear.
I met it on the road to Labynkyr. It weighed about 200 pounds, was 150 yards from me. Firstly, the beast didn’t notice me, so I took out my camera, took some pictures, video. Then it moved towards me, but something scared it, so it ran away. The other day, I woke up in the morning, went out and saw an elk near my house. Two weeks later, an unexplained dark carcass floated in the Lake. I could not identify it.
You want to say that it was Labynkyr Devil?
It is quite possible, but I can’t say for sure. Strange things happen. In September, I established a very strong, robust net, but it was almost shredded! There were such big holes, no fish could do them, even a pike could not bite through the net.
What will you do if you come across it?
How will you act in critical situations?
I will not call for help. I will rely only on myself.
Don’t you want to go home?
I had such thoughts.
Sometimes they are in my head, but I try to master myself. Cold and hunger are not the biggest problem, but it’s difficult psychologically.