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Overlanders Unlimited This is a forum to discuss expedition vehicles and trailer options, a place to talk about builds, modifications, and designs, as well as past and future adventure trips.

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  #31  
Old 11-30-2008, 04:19 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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November 25-28, 2008: Novosibirsk

Busy in Siberia?s capital

Right from the start we scheduled a stop in Novosibirsk for several days. The reason for that: Here, our vehicles and trailers were supposed to be modified for the cold. Spikes have been attached to all tires ? on vehicles and trailers as well as the backup tires. Additionally the engines and transmissions will receive a felt insulation as protection against the cold. Basis for this planning was the assumption that we would have to deal with Siberian temperatures by Novosibirsk at the latest. But still the thermometers show temperatures around zero degree. The Chrysler-center in Novosibirsk is the last possibility for the necessary changes before we reach the Altai Mountains where there will definitely be snow. Therefore and despite the extraordinarily high outside temperatures, we are in the middle of the vehicle remodelling. Several Russians told us that nature uses this long period of mild temperatures to prepare itself for an extremely cold winter.

After expecting difficulties in the garage ? once again the gateway was too low for our roof construction ? now everything works according to plan and to our utmost satisfaction. The garage was rearranged especially for our two vehicles and the entire mechanical team was waiting for us. In a special garage, several men were spiking our tires. The first set is already fitted with spikes and returned to the Chrysler dealer in order to be assembled to the vehicles. Evgeny ? who has some vehicles himself ? has a lot of experiences when it comes to the protection of engines against the cold. Now he is supporting the mechanical team with the insulation. Matthias was able to take the first vehicle and trailer to the car wash. Finally we will (even by colour) be recognized as expedition team again and stand out among the other car traffic. Despite the cooperativeness and the focussed work, Matthias is afraid that we will have a long night ahead of us in order to get the vehicles completely done.

Besides the necessary modifications against the cold there were other reasons for the long stop in Novosibirsk. Two important aspects were the presentation of our project at the Technical University as well as the personal contact to the German Consulate General. First we were invited to the consulate. There, we met all the people who are responsible for the support of our project. Since that time we are extremely happy to know that this great team of the consulate will back us up all the way to the Bering Strait.

Nobody knew that the press conference at the Technical University the very next day would top the positive impression of the work in the garage and the consulate general! The entire event was characterized by a highly professional, intensive and successful cooperation between the consulate, the university and DAAD. In regards to location, technology and the announcement of the press conference we can assure that they made a good job of it ? everything was prepared at best. Therefore the project presentation turned out to be a huge success. After we were welcomed by the principal who also informed us about the university, we had a short conversation concerning the topic ?renewable energies?. When entering the ballroom, we were overwhelmed by the big audience and attending TV-teams. The room was packed. Further listeners were standing in the hallways and in front of the rearward wall. Matthias made a very short presentation of the project and relied on the interest and the questions by the audience. An animated conversation about the cars, the expedition and renewable energies ? Russia?s future market ? developed between the vice principal, the consul general and Matthias on the podium and the journalists and students in the audience. For the first time there was another item on the agenda: An invitation for tea and pastries which we gladly accepted. After the two meetings with the consulate and the university, Matthias said that we could have taken another Jeep with all the interested and cooperative employees from both facilities with us on the road.

Our next goal ? the Russian-Mongolian border ? is about 900 kilometers away. Whenever possible, Matthias is already sitting in the Chrysler-showroom to prepare our border crossing via telephone with the help of an interpreter.





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  #32  
Old 12-06-2008, 03:15 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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November 29-December 01, 2008: Altay - Mongolian Border - Olgy

Mountains, snow and another border!

In the afternoon we hit the road from Novosibirsk towards the Mongolian border with the completely re-packed and frost-resistant vehicles and two new expedition participants ? in Novosibirsk, the TV-journalist Hendrik Pfefferkorn and cameraman Marco Schwarzer joined the expedition. We had 900 kilometres and the drive through the scenic Russian region Altay ahead of us. This mountain stage presented us three challenges: the first snow, heavy inclines and declines - and all that during night time driving. As long as there was enough light we have been able to take some nice photo and film shoots: flock of sheep, wild horses, cows walking by, green rivers, snow covered hilltops and scenic wooden bridges.

About 50 kilometres before we were supposed to reach the Russian-Mongolian border, we reached our accommodation, the hotel transit in Kosh Agash. The surprise was, that this hotel was the best hotel in the area ? the only one with restrooms inside. We thought that the entire second floor was reserved for us but in the evening we saw that a Mongolian was occupying one of the other rooms and at night time another four Mongolian women moved into a room on the second floor. As we woke up in the morning and started to get ready, we noticed how efficiently the premises got used: Besides us, another 10 to 15 Mongolians have been sleeping in these two rooms which were not occupied by us. Luckily, we thought to be alone for the entire evening. Due to the fact that the only restaurant in Kosh Anash was closed that day, we went to the supermarket, bought plenty of food, and improvised the cooking which was not really tasty, but at least we had a cheerful dinner together.

On Monday morning we left towards the Russian ? Mongolian border in bright sunshine. First topic in Kosh Anash: we had to be present at the border office, because of our female translator who is supposed to accompany us till the customs clearance at the Russian ? Mongolian border. This unexpected extra appointment made Matthias feelings change into apprehensiveness in connection with the upcoming border crossing. From this point our way was snowy, straight and uphill for many miles. We could see the beginning mountains and a vague idea of a right turn at the horizon. Right there we decided to make another stop to take some photo and film shoots. Scenery, Lands-end-atmosphere and the fantastic light had to be captured in photo and film.

Immediately after we left the curve behind us, we reached the border town Tashanta. Right in front of us were the border superstructures of the Russian side, two cows on the street and primarily no traffic at all. Surprisingly the custom clearance at the Russian border was really fast. They knew that we were coming, waited for us and after three hours we were able to cross the border. With its impressive demonstrative bigness, Russia said goodbye for a while: The no man?s land between Russia and Mongolia is an over 20 kilometres long fenced mountain range.

Mongolia welcomed us with a big sensation: Not only that the entire border office was informed that we were coming and all worked overtime, furthermore they did their job in an absolute record time as well. Within 45 minutes the Carnet ATA?s got stamped, the passports have been controlled and the entry approved. Additionally, those friendly officers allowed us to take pictures and film them, which were forbidden on all the other border offices. Icing on the cake of our entry was that our guide Nasaa waited as arranged directly at the frontier. A happy reunion with Matthias made this uncomplicated entry perfect.

After a short stop for tea and noodles, we had to handle the first real off-road passage: With snow flurry and a visibility of down to two meters, Nasaa directed us and we followed an around 55 kilometres long snow covered mountain track. Luckily we had our guide with us, because we would have never believed Matthias that this track was the right way. We were really tired but in this way we reached the hotel in Olgy one day earlier than planned. Now we are ahead of the designated time in our schedule, primarily owed to the successful cooperation at the border crossings. We would like to thank all the Russian, Mongolian and German authorities for this great support. Thank you!

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  #33  
Old 12-06-2008, 04:09 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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December 02 Olgy - Hovd Tract leg with mountain action


Different strokes for different folks: Our day started with an entirely unlikely breakfast. We ate shish kebab and soup in a Turkish restaurant. - Who knows when we will get such a square meal for the next time? Meanwhile a person with obviously different breakfast habits than our own had breakfast in our hotel room. The evening before, we found a raw piece of meat on bones in the freezer and when we came back from the Turkish restaurant to load our vehicles, we noticed that this ?different? meal was gone. Luckily we could abstain this special breakfast choice of the hotel!

Not only regarding the breakfast, but also with our telecommunication we crossed a border yesterday. We lost our service right after we left Novosibirsk and it came back only for the short border crossing from Russia to Mongolia. Luckily, Matthias was able to put or on-board solution with satellite-telephone, -fax and ?email into operation after no modern terrestrial communication worked! Nonetheless, on every milestone we are looking for reliable internet connection in order to send pictures and reports in higher quantities. The publishing house Ullmann and several other editorial departments as well as the project-page are constantly waiting for new information. In an exhausting one-hour-long action in a public internet caf? in Olgy, Hendrik and Astrid have been able to send the latest report from the border crossing from Russia to Mongolia and three pictures to the office in Limburg. It seems like we have to set new standards for this in Mongolia.

According to the upcoming kilometres, the next stage was quite short with just 200 kilometres from Olgy to Hovd. Therefore our photographer and film team spent much time on the street ? it was not very far anyway. But, this stage was the first one without a regular street at all. We slowly moved forward on tracks out of sand and stone. Besides that, we had to manage two mountain passes with a over 2.600 metres. Due to the heavy trailers, we had to drive in low gears for many kilometres.

The scenery was breathtaking. Lakes, a 4,000 metres high crest, snow covered mountains and ridges out of sand and snow were on our way. Sometimes in between it felt like we were driving through the desert. As far as we could see ? and that was really far ? there was no tree, no bush and definitely no other vehicles. On the 200 kilometres long road we crossed only one road sign. More than once we needed our Mongolian guide Nasaa to get us in the right direction.

As the scenery was beautiful then ever ? a wide tableland, lakes right and left and a sunset as kitschy as it could be ? we were challenged by a real off-road mission. Right in front of us, a truck broke into a frozen lake while trying to cross it. The two drivers had already piled up the freight next to the truck and made themselves a rough-and-ready tent out of a rag. That?s not much in contrast to the -24 ?C and a strong wind. They had been waiting for help for two days now. Without further ado, Matthias activated the winch. With full brakes and eight blocking tires, the Jeep and the trailer got pulled closer to the truck by the winch. Even together with the second vehicle with 8,5 tons in total, it was not possible to move the 12 tons truck which has already been frozen into the ice. With all possible effort and both vehicles, we tried for about 1 ? hours to help the truck drivers, unfortunately without success. We hope that the bulldozer which is on its way to rescue them arrives quickly in order to get these two drivers out of this life-threatening situation.

Nasaa?s family heartily welcomed us in their home when we reached Hovd. We were offered a great dinner and had good night?s sleep in our sleeping bags.





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  #34  
Old 12-06-2008, 04:49 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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December 03-05, 2008: Hovd - Gobi - Altay

Along the desert towards the hydroelectric power plant

Matthias already awoke with the feeling that the vehicles had to be checked after 200 kilometers of humpy earth road. Intuitional driving: The feeling was correct! Both exhaust systems had to be fastened and numerous screws had to be retightened. At dusk ? after the inauguration of F1 and F2 by Nasaa?s mother and after saying good-bye to his very kind family ? we set out for the Mongolian city Altay which was 450 kilometers away.

Again, we had to drive on humpy earth roads made of stone and sand. Unfortunately it was dark once again, so that we did not see much ? if anything at all ? of the mountains and lakes which were located only few kilometers outside of Hovd. This definitely had to change! Today?s section leads us through the Gobi Desert. We all wanted to get the impression of it. Accordingly, we were driving to exhaustion before we stopped for some sleep in the cars. We awoke with the sunrise over the desert. The break was well worth it ? the view was breathtaking! Despite minus 27 degrees outside temperature, we all jumped out of the cars with our cameras in our hands. Unfortunately, besides the touristic highlight ?Gobi Desert by sunrise?, we also had to refuel the vehicles (including a tank-to-tank fuel transfer). Now even the last member of the team got an idea of the expected temperatures ahead of us.

The landscape of the desert was very impressing ? the pictures that our photographer took are self-explanatory. Not only the landscape but also the encounters we had, were very special. A goatherd came up to us ? after spending the night outside between his animals ? to ask for a drink. A caravan of camels crossed our path. We also met truck drivers at a nomad family who did not have enough fuel to continue their journey. However, our tanks were empty as well ? and the bio ethanol which we could have donated to them from our big tank would not have done any good to the Russian truck. After these experiences in the desert we were all very surprised to find the 12,000-inhabitant city Altay only kilometres away. The contrast could not have been any bigger!

The main message of our expedition is the usage of renewable energies. This topic is also of crucial importance in Mongolia. Already, every second Mongolian uses renewable energies for his supply. The country offers all necessary resources for the use of wind, water and sun to generate energy. Starting in Altay, we headed towards Mongolia?s biggest hydroelectric power plant - The power plant Taishir: The dam with a height of 45 meters will restrain 930 million cubic meters of water once it is completely filled in five to eight years. Nature is taken care of, even while restraining the water: Only additional floodwaters of the Zavkhan River are restrained ? the other water follows its natural course. An engineer explained the dam?s sphere of action to us and guided us through a tunnel underneath the impressing city wall. With this construction, the Mongolians are on the right track to ecological energy generation.










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  #35  
Old 12-11-2008, 01:17 PM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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December 06-08, 2008: Gobi Altay - Arvaiheer - Harhorin - Nationalpark Hustai

On our track from Gobi Altay to Bayanhongor we were faced with every imaginable surface like: a hard humpy earth road, difficult-to-drive sand tracks with heavy potholes, snow tracks, up- and downhill on brown grass as well as a nearly endless high plateau with a well drivable road combined with comfortable new and perfectly even asphalt on the last 10 kilometres before we reached our goal. That was not Bayanhongor anymore, but Arvaiheer. The reason for this spontaneous change of our stage goal: All of a sudden the price of the heated garage for the vehicles was 20 times higher than agreed in the beginning.

Due to the fact that we passed the friendly Mongolian border check so quickly and that we came along so well driving a lot at night even though we had to stop twice to work on our trailers, we are ahead of our schedule. We enlarged our lead to the plan with our journey to Arvaiheer. Accordingly we have some more relaxed days as usual before us, which is a good feeling for a change.

Because we altered our stage goal from Bayanhongor to Arvaiheer we had to cross a stream course by night. We were not sure, if it was frozen or not. Right before the river we made a refuelling stop. The routine visual check of Jeeps and trailers was negative: A number of things were loose due to the shaking and a tension belt of one of the pontoons was ripped off. With a storm of sand and snow combined with temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius, even simple repairs like those turned into a big action for the entire team. To fasten the belt, we had to remove the fender from the trailer beforehand. Luckily there was a yurt colony at the stream course where we have been able to warm up and eat some fresh made noodles directly after we had our two hours of work. Therefore we were strengthened to drive through the night.

Later at another repair action we had a strange encounter: We passed through a giant valley ? 30 kilometres to the left, to the right, behind and ahead of us ? just this huge valley but not any single person or boundaries. After a ground hit in a big pot hole, Matthias decided to change the front shock absorber of F1. Right when we jacked up the vehicle on a stone pile, a car rushed by, stopped and parked right next to us. Four Mongolians got out of the car and asked about the expedition and the repairs. We immediately got invited to horsemeat and vodka. They made an improvised picnic with all their supplies and in the end we received another bottle of vodka as a present. As it turned out later, one of them was the owner of a big Mongolian company. Finally it felt stranger than ever, when they gave us a music CD each and Evgeny as well as Matthias two DVDs where the business man acted as Chinggis Khaan.

The next stage after Arvaiheer was Harhorin, where the entire team had to check the jeeps and the trailers again for shaking damages and afterwards could rest in a comfortable hotel. In the old city of Chinggis Khaan which is now an UNESCO cultural heritage, we got an anglophone guided tour through the museum and the buddhistical temples. From this place, an overnight stay in a yurt was supposed to be organized ? not an easy task. Matthias already slept in a beautiful camp at the foot of the impressive dune Elsen-Tasarhai during his scout tour through Mongolia. Unfortunately we had no chance as that camp like many others have been closed for the upcoming really cold winter and no more accommodation was possible. Consequently, this stage lead us 250 kilometres further in direction of Ulan Bataar into the yurt-camp of the national park of Hustai.










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  #36  
Old 12-21-2008, 02:34 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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13.-15.12.2008: Ulan Ude ? departure to Jakutsk

With the Amazons to the lama-school

A really hard decision had to be made today. Due to a contact of the German Embassy in Moscow ? who we would like to thank again for his dedication ? we met Slava Bulatow in Ulan Ude. He had different things prepared for us. Unfortunately these things did not work out because of the previous border-crossing which caused our timing to shift. It was absolutely necessary, though, to visit one of Russia?s most important Buddhist temples. Our reasoning: This sanctuary needs to be seen if you are visiting Buritania. The miracle of this Buddhist temple ? which, in Buritania, is called ?Datsan? ? is a sitting lama which has not aged for the last 70 years. Furthermore we were welcomed so heartily when we reached Ulan Ude that we just could not refuse this request.

The concerns which made it so difficult for us to accept this proposal spontaneously were complex: The next section to Jakutsk ? with a distance of 2,560 kilometers ? was ahead of us. We wanted to accomplish this part without stopovers ? this alone was already a big challenge for the entire team. The weather forecast for the route to Jakutsk said there would be fog, a lot of snow and temperatures down to -50 degrees Celsius ? not very good conditions for a fast accomplishment of the route. The team wanted to start early and have the whole day for driving. We were afraid that by agreeing to the suggested trip, we would loose half of the time that we are ahead of the schedule right now. All in all, the conditions to reach Magadan by December 26 are difficult enough as it is.



In the end the trip to the Buddhist monastery ?Gandan Dashi Choinkhoryg? proved to be one of the best decisions that we have made so far! We did not just get an insight into the most important Buritanian Buddhist center, but also found new friends in the Baikal-Amazons as well as Slava and his son Roman who were also on board. While some Amazons were happy to drive the 30 kilometers to the monastery in the Jeeps with Matthias and Evgeny, we enjoyed the walk in the rising sun through the area around the monastery. Each and everyone of the expedition team probably used some of the numerous praying drums on this trip to ask for the success of the expedition, an accident-free drive or similar helpful aspects. Furthermore we were informed about the history of the monastery and the lama-school. This early Sunday morning trip was definitely worth it!

Back at the hotel, Swetlana, head of the Baikal-Amazons, had arranged a TV-team. Because of the interviews of Matthias and Evgeny, we almost made up for the cancelled press conference the day before. Afterwards we all had lunch together. We told our friends from Ulan Ude what we experienced the day before at the border ? which we have spent without a warm meal. Therefore they wanted to send us on the way to Jakutsk well-prepared. Of course all this hospitality, the interesting program, the presents (the day before we were given Buritanian balm which is some kind of herbal liqueur) and the happy tri-lingual conversations over the last 20 hours were more than enough. But additionally, when we were ready to leave, they provided us with a contact for an accommodation in Jakutsk.



This encounter especially delighted us. We hope that one day we will be able to pay them back for their hospitality. We will definitely keep in contact with the dedicated and interesting off-road drivers of the Baikal-Amazons and follow their activities. We would like to especially thank Karl Bauer from Moscow and Slava from Ulan Ude for the preparation of our stay and their perfect support in Ulan Ude.

After this great encounter and the successful visit of the temple, we were well-prepared for the long way to Jakutsk. Our first landmark on the route was the city Chinta which was about 800 kilometers away. We reached Chita about 24 hours after leaving Ulan Ude ? unfortunately we also used these 800 kilometers to get completely lost. After getting stuck in a courtyard, the local police was a big help for a change: By the help of some very friendly policemen, we were freed from the dead end and escorted to the outskirts of the city. There, we continued on our journey but due to difficult and very rugged tracks, the driving was tough. We are curious to see how long the drive to Jakutsk will finally take. One thing is for sure: The news about the -68? Celsius temperatures in Jakutsk seems to be true. The outside temperatures are getting colder and colder. Long ago we reached the minimum value of -39? of our digital thermometer ? for now, our makeshift outside sensing devices show a temperature of -46?. Brrr?









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  #37  
Old 12-27-2008, 11:31 PM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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December 15-21, 2008: Chita - Jakutsk

XXL-section with obstacles

Shortly after our departure from Ulan Ude, the outside conditions became even more difficult than in Mongolia: Temperatures of down to -52? Celsius were extremely straining for people, machinery and material. Furthermore, we were on our 2,650-kilometers section from Ulan Ude to Yakutsk, which we wanted to cover non-stop. This burden became clearly noticeable very soon. Within about 200 kilometers, totally unexpected damages occurred on the special rear-axle-differentials (from the free accessories market) ? the original differentials have been replaced during the vehicle modifications ? of both cars. This made a direct continuation of our journey impossible.

The problem about these momentous breakdowns: First there was an unmistakable damage on F2. After a hara-kiri rescue-procedure in less than -50? Celsius and action which could fit in the program ?daredevils without nerves?, we had a transport to a garage in the next village (about 120 kilometers away) with the name Aldan. There, they were able to diagnose the damage and order spare parts from Germany. Starting at the industrial plant about 24 hours later, the journey to Jakutsk continued for the F2 and its team via truck and trailer skip. Unfortunately, only 100 kilometers after continuing the journey, an identical damage occurred at the leading F1. This time the consequences were even more dramatic and unpredictable. Matthias decided that the already broken down F2, as well as the trailer and all team members should continue to Jakutsk, where the necessary spare parts were supposed to arrive 24 hours later. He himself spent the night at the damaged F1 and was towed ? in a ten hours long procedure ? back to the garage in Aldan, to gain clarity about the damages as fast as possible. The organisation of further urgently needed spare parts, which were supposed to be brought along from Germany, happened under most extreme time pressure.

Meanwhile, the team, which by now was on the road for three days and nights, continued its journey towards Jakutsk. A sudden new obstacle occurred here as well: Before entering the city Jakutsk, you have to cross the Lena. The unbelievable: Not a single bridge exists for this big city! Not even before or behind the city. You do not have another choice but to cross the river. In summer time there are ferries, in winter it freezes. But at the moment the crossing of the frozen river was only permitted for a specific load which we had more than exceeded. Therefore our trailer and the Jeep had to be reloaded onto a smaller truck. Once again a lot of organizing via telephone: Who is doing what? Where does the crane come from? How much is the truck? Can Jeep and trailer be reloaded? What happens when Matthias arrives piggyback with the F1 at this exact same spot the next day? What does all this mean for our time schedule? The catalogue of questions seemed to be unlimited!

At this point we would like to thank all helpers for their effort during this very difficult five-day section! It is unbelievable how many people from Ulan Ude, Jakutsk, Aldan and Germany have made an effort of tremendous intensity to find solutions for this section ? which has been characterized by unpredictable difficulties ? and helpful participate.

Altogether the entire team was working nonstop for five days with hardly any sleep. Matthias reached the city only a few hours after our own arrival in Jakutsk via a special minivan. With a hotel in the city center as head quarters for the next two days, we were able to manage many things: The receipt of the spare parts which were organized by Extrem Events, the upcoming repairs at F2, photo- and film-shootings of the city for the book by the Ullmann publishing house and the documentary of the expedition, travel preparations for all team members and preparations for the continuation of the expedition to the Bering Strait in January with the next team. Due to the current situation and the excellent infrastructure in Jakutsk ? a great garage with a professional and extremely helpful boss Serafim, an international airport, the possibility to purchase missing things in the city, extensive film- and photo-possibilities, as well as authorities which can issue the necessary permissions for the drive through Chukotka ? Matthias decided that both vehicles will be prepared for the drive through Chukotka and the crossing of the Bering Strait in Jakutsk, and not (like previously planned) in Magadan. Furthermore, the team change will be relocated from Magadan to Jakutsk, too. After making sure that all team members have a return flight to Germany, Matthias drove back to Aldan tonight via the special minivan to repair F1. As soon as the Jeep and trailer will arrive in Jakutsk on its own wheels and by its own accord, Matthias will have provided a good, secure and warm location for the Jeeps by rescheduling the necessary work and all organizational concerns from Magadan to Jakutsk. An excellent basis has been created for the continuation of the expedition in January.
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Old 12-27-2008, 11:52 PM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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December 21-27, 2008: Jakutsk - Magadan

How to build a rear axle differential on Christmas due to boredom

I was still in Aldan on the 24st to repair the expedition vehicle F1 and drive it together with the trailer MJ46 to Jakutsk - which finally was successful (arrival 25st 1.00 a.m.). The reparation as such was extremely difficult and together with my Russian companion Dima, I needed two days and nights for it, due to a wrong delivery of the rack & pinion set of the spare parts distributor. As in Russia everything is possible, we manage to build the differential out of 2 wrong differential sets together with the support of some helpers from Aldan.

How? Take a too thick ring gear, destroy it for testing purposes and turn it to fit with an axle turning machine of a gigantic size. Therefore one has to modify those machines, which means a lot of ours of work, after stopping the production of industry parts with the help of an understanding manager. To use those huge machines, one has to produce a suitable clamp tool out of a chain set of a crawler which is not in use any more (instructions on demand :-)). Same procedure for the bevel gear shaft, after determining the necessary measures in uncountable installations and demounting in advance without any measuring tools. Furthermore, ideally some old screws with special thread measured in inches are needed. These have to be modified to screw thread carving tools with the help of a rasp. This effort similar difficult as a puzzle is necessary to carve new screw threads in the ring gear.
Later on, let an exceptionally gifted, old Russian mechanic whet three 0,2mm space discs by hand and them with other discs of the wrong modification sets. From then on there are only some more hours of patient setting test, the manual construction of a gear clamp as well as a special lifting tool and self-made thick washers (on the above mentioned huge axle turning machine). There you are, a differential (otherwise only available in the USA for a lot of money) build out of nothing.

To make it perfect it is recommended, to accept the hospitality of helpers when the tiredness and the cold in the big halls are overpowering, to pay hundreds of telephone Euro, and not to feel annoyed with it - of course. Reaching Jaktusk on 24st December together with Dima who kept me somehow away to be able to drive, I flew to Magadan 3 hours later (at the crack of dawn) for discussion and other remaining topics. Evgeny also flew there via Habarowsk.

The remaining team which accompanied me to this point were already flown out on the 24st with the last plane and has sooner or later reached Germany.

At this point again many thanks to the excellent team which accompanied me and Evegeny since Moskau:
Astrid, Joachim, Marco, Hendrik you did a great job. I had much fun travelling with you. Thanks for all the support and the mutual, basically never-ending, laughter.

The new team will arrive in Jakutsk on January 15, 2009 to start the journey through Chukotka towards the Bering Strait.

Finally, thank you to all for the supported first part of the expedition with approximate 22,000km from Paris to Jakutsk and I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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  #39  
Old 01-24-2009, 01:48 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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Second part of the expedition

Right now the expedition team is still in Germany. The designated departure date is Friday, January 23, 2009. Due to the preparations of the return to Russia and the upcoming most difficult part of the entire project, the team needed some extra time in Germany and thus will depart to Jakutsk by today.

The time was also used to create two more short movies - find them here: http://pny2009.com/cms/front_content...cat=659&lang=4

The movie clips now cover the entire driven track. Considering that the communication possibilities will become less, the team now has a satellite messenger which will show the current location online. Therefore it is now possible to follow the driven route via this card:

http://pny2009.com/cms/front_content...cat=707&lang=4.
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Old 01-31-2009, 06:05 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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January 23-25, 2009: Back on track

It was a troublesome start - hopefully now everything bad is covered right from the beginning.

First of all we had to pay almost 1500 ? for our excess luggage at Frankfurt Airport, which should not be the case. Furthermore we became problems with the Russian administration for the first time since the expedition started ? apart from that they always exemplary supported us ? because they confiscated my signal pistol and ammo right at the Domodedovo Airport with the reason that an important document is missing.

Right before our connecting flight was leaving, they let me go ? unfortunately without my signal pistol and ammo. Together with Marco, 240kg luggage, 2 luggage carts, 3 employees of the ? in my opinion - most impolite airline ever ? S7- and 2 police officers, we ran through the corridors, hallways, security checks and over a special entrance to the luggage compartment where additional four helpers were waiting to load our stuff in the last seconds before take off. Afterwards Marco and I stepped inside of the airplane, the doors directly closed and we started.

In Novosibirsk the fight with another employee of the S7 airline continued after 16 hours waiting at the airport, because they charged us another 1000 ? and acted like they where displaying. Again, we barely reached our flight and this time with a special bus for me and Marco. It really suc*** to travel with the S7.

42 hours after leaving Germany it got nicer when in Yakutsk. Serafim perfectly prepared our arrival. We were picked up and already at 6:00 am they opened up their garages for us to store our equipment. Now quickly to the hotel so we can start early enough with the modification and preparation of the vehicles for the hardest track at all. I planned 4-5 days for this.

Ulrich, our photographer is going to be here January 28th, Konstantin from Moscow at the 29th and Kasper from Zurich at the 30th. We are going to meet Evgeny in Ustnera which is about 1000 kilometres away, where he will directly travel to from Magadan?
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Old 01-31-2009, 06:12 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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January 26, 2009: Modification/preparation of the vehicles

Our job right now is the maximum weight reduction and the preparation as well as modification for one of the most challenging off road tracks in the world with parts which have never been managed before.

We checked everything, really everything for usefulness. If we do not actually need it anymore, we sell it or give it to poor people. Not only clothing but also equipment. We just take what is absolutely necessary.

As planned right from the beginning, we dismounted our roof-boxes in order to send them to Fairbanks where we are going to mount them again. That is necessary because our emergency exit on the Bering Straight will be through the removable front roof halves of the PNY Jeeps. The front tanks will be given to the local people of Uelen.

Furthermore, we exchanged one of the two subsurface tanks that we accidentally ripped a hole in. We established the satellite communication system and navigation system (laptop, fax, GPS, compass, emergency signal, emergency radio communication etc.), reactivated a closer contact to the University of Alaska, turned on our new tracking device, started to release one of our trailers from the frost numbness, fixed the electric of F2 and exchanged the oil seal of F1.
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Old 01-31-2009, 06:23 AM
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January 27, 2009: Strip my trailer

?Does everything has to upset me?? That were my thoughts when the ?Sesaria? hotel (written in German as I understand it in Russian) all of a sudden wanted to charge us with a doubled price. I hate stuff like that. Before our departure, we stayed in the Polar Star Hotel and everything was ok. Now we decided to stay in a simpler hotel.

For an according price you can easily ignore dirty rooms, a smelly bathroom, drain pipes passed on plaster, leaky bathtubs, lukewarm water, no roomcleaning service at all, no towels, greasy walls, broken closets, no blankets, insulting employees, falling sheathing, self-floating bathrooms due to the leakages etc. However, if the price doubles while excluding breakfast at the same time, then Matze really gets angry.

Ok, so far, a little bit of frustration - now back to the modification activities. Four mechanics, Marco and I are parallel working at the two PNY Jeeps and the trailers. Today we worked on my trailer. ?Strip my trailer? was the slogan after the special trailers survived the toughness since the expedition started without any problems ? They did a great job.

Then we started to demount, grind, weld etc. everything that is not essentially necessary. The unbundling of the specially designed trailers started. A total mess when the last melted ice out of the smallest corners, makes you wet after flowing down the dirt of the trailers ? everything because you have to work lying on the floor underneath because a car hoist does not exist. Little by little we will dismount the trailers until nothing is left but the frame. By then we should have been arrived in Uelen. The before/after pictures will be published in about two days. Furthermore we started with the installation of the auxiliary heating system from Webasto, exchanged the second fuel tank, replaced the previous trailer couplings with the current and new special ?nato? trailer coupling from Rockinger for extreme off road driving and mounted the third winch at the vehicles.

Totally exhausted we hit the sacks at around midnight. Already at 5:00 am we have to get up again to pick up Ulrich (our photographer) at the airport.
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Old 02-11-2009, 10:24 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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January 28-February 01, 2009:

During the last three days there was a lot of work and organization as well as arrivals/absence of team members going on.

On the 28th early in the morning, I picked up Ulrich Kaifer - our photographer - from the airport. He arrived in Jakutsk without complications. Now we were three people and completely addressed ourselves to the mentioned modification of the vehicles.

It was great that we were also able to meet some old friends in Jakutsk:
Thomas Beil and Uwe Lay. Thomas, to whom I sold a motorcycle some time ago, travelled with his friend to Oimjakon with. Both supported us organizationally and brought material to Jakutsk and back home. We sincerely thank both of them for their help.

Konstantin Savva arrived on the 29th. Our second Russian team member came from Moscow and took care of the special permits right away. We were four.

Kaspar Mettler arrived - after some delays and flight changes - on the 30th.
After a 48 hours long flight he was directly involved in the garage work for another twelve hours. He perfectly faced that exhaustive task and did a great job. We were five.

Now we were simply waiting for a message from Evgeny who was supposed to let us know when he would arrive in Ustnera (1000 kilometers away from where we are right now). That's where we wanted to meet him in order to jointly continue our trip. Unfortunately, it didn't develop as planned. Two days ago Evgeny let us know that - due to urgent business affairs - he had to stay in Magadan for another 10-14 days. That's not what we had in mind. Now we were missing a driver and had to change the teams. Marco in F2 with Kaspar who is now driving the F2 on his own responsibility. Konstantin, Ulrich, and myself in F1.

As of today, February 01, 2009, after receiving great help by Serafim and his team - Artyom, Valarie, Dima, Micha, Sonja and Dima - we are heading towards Belibina.





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Old 02-11-2009, 10:29 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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February 01-03, 2009:

Sometimes I am wondering if certain incidents can be called normal or coincidental, for example Kaspar Mettler. Only a few days before my departure, Kaspar called and let us know that he wanted to take part in the most challenging parts of the expedition. We made it possible and integrated him in the team. Only 2-3 days later I received the news that Evgeny will not ? or maybe a lot later ? be able to join us. Eventually we will meet him in Pevek. Not only that we are now missing an experienced off road-driver but also the driver of the second expedition vehicle. Neither Marco nor Konstantin ? possibly limited Ulrich ? can drive the Jeeps through thousands of kilometers of tough terrain. Kaspar can do it. Already after a few days we know: Kaspar ideally fits in our team. He is an experienced, reasonable and reliable driver and team player. He is a perfect match. We are very grateful for this. Altogether we have a great team at the moment. Uli, Marco, Konstantin ? all of them professionals in regards of teamwork, fairness and cooperation. Uli and his great humor, Marco and his Bavarian easy-going nature and Konstantin and his Russian calmness.

Since yesterday 4 P.M. we are on the road again and it seems that Yakutia presents us the same challenges as in December when we arrived. The region and its down to -52? Celsius is the reason, that everything is very difficult.

Today, for the first time we saw a phenomenon which is dreaded by each and every driver around here: Nalid Ice.
What it is, how it occurs, and what kinds of risk it implies:
Generally it occurs when a river totally freezes all the way to the ground due to coldest temperatures. The oncoming water cannot flow underneath the ice anymore. Therefore it squeezes through or over the ice. At some points water bubbles up to a height of several meters appear. The overflowing water does not freeze right away and is not stable enough to cross it. Vehicles that drive over it will break into the ice and freeze up ? if they are not recovered fast enough. Some vehicles/trucks wait for weeks or even months to be recovered. At the river Setorym we experienced Nalid Ice. Fortunately it only broke open for about 10/15 cm. We were able to cross it.

Meanwhile we arrived in Ustnera. After almost exactly 42 hours of non-stop driving. All of us are awake for about 53 hours (if you disregard the three 1-hour sleep stops in the loneliness of Jakutia). Today?s task is still ahead of us: We have to prepare the vehicles for the next section which will lead us along the Kolyma river to Syrianka.

The people in Ustnera have warned us that due to the low temperatures, there will be a lot of Nalid Ice. Furthermore there has been a storm two days ago which has covered everything in snow ? damn!







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Old 02-11-2009, 10:34 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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February 04, 2009:

We had to rearrange our plans and decided to spent the day in Ustnera. After all, five hours of sleep is not enough to make up for the 60 hours that we have been awake, to face the dangerous 400 kilometers to Syrianka. Everybody advises us to be careful. At the same time they also help us to make some tricky adjustments to the cars and organize special icebreaker bars, etc. We will set off tomorrow morning again.

In the evening, our friend Vitalie from Ustnera invited us to his mother's birthday party. We were served with the best specialties from Jakutsk, like intestines of young horses and other treats. We spent four hours amid his family. Dancing and singing are a tradition, therefore also we performed a German song and - after some shots of vodka - danced with women in the age of our mothers. It was a great celebration. In other words, it was a very nice farewell from civilization to the hardship of the Kolymar area.

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Old 02-14-2009, 01:25 AM
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February 05, 2009: Start of the winter roads

After having loaded about 850 liters of fuel and produced the correct bio-ethanol mix ratio, we left Ustnera at around 10 a.m. Temporarily we felt like captains of a ship: With initial 1.2 bar air pressure (lateron we reduced to 0.7 bar due to heavy snow drifts) and a precautionary measure which was going to pay off - we removed the stabilizers - the vehicles were rocking like in rough seas. The reason: Without the stabilizers, the lacing bond is improved. Furthermore, the electric disconnectors - which will freeze when breaking into water - cannot threat us with removed stabilizers.

After driving about 90 kilometers on a winter road towards Magadan, we reached the small, unimpressive junction to Szyrianka. This point marks the beginning of Chukotka's tough winter roads. From here (about 600 m above sea level), we followed our first winter road section towards Sasyr. The 60 kilometers long track lead us over the rivers Burustach and Andigitschan. During this 15 hours long drive, altogether we covered a distance of about 220 kilometers, crossed three mountain passes of up to 1,300 meters above sea level, helped two truck drivers whose truck broke down with an engine damage by making an emergency call to their head office via satellite telephone, drove through the aquarium* and winched my Jeep and trailer several times out of deep snow after getting stuck while breaking through the snowy surface. The winches definitely proved their value with the Jeeps and trailers (weight about eight tons) as well as the special trailer coupling system from Rockinger. These systems ensure the most extreme lacing bonds between vehicle and trailer - which we had often enough. The winter roads are tracks that were cleared by 6x6 or 8x8 trucks.

They lead cross-country, along or through/across rivers, woods, hillsides, plains, etc. Just where the trucks are able to get through. Often we were driving with 6 mph or less and passed through valleys or high plateaus and over passes which were of impressive beauty. On one of the plateaus there must have been a fierce storm not too long ago. It looked like an area after an earthquake. There were jags, ice and snow drifts of several meters everywhere. In the surreal light of the headlights they looked like broken earth.

En route we met truck drivers in their extreme Urals and Kamaz, which were keenly struggling through. They told us about several open rivers that are not freezing due to warm water. We should be cautious when crossing them. After arriving at the open river at 3 a.m. we stopped and prepared ourselves for the night. It was too dangerous to cross the river at night. By good coincidence, we saw a convoy of trucks coming towards us the next morning. The trucks only barely crossed the river. We saw how a Kamaz, that was not able to scale the meters high ice step, was recovered out of the river. Not far from where the trucks were crossing, Kaspar found an old, destroyed bridge. It won't carry the trucks, but we hope that it will bear our vehicles which would save us from a difficult winching action.

*The Aquarium: For truck drivers an infamous little lake close to the third mountain pass on which usually forms a lot of Nalid Ice. In the morning we met truck drivers that told us that it was 5 cm thick. In the afternoon it were already 30 cm and when we arrived we broke into the ice to above our axes. We had to drive through it because we would probably break even deeper in the ice the next morning and damage the vehicles at the wildly upwards pointing ice, broken by trucks. Consequently, we could not - as planned - stay the night at the third pass (temperatures at such altitudes are usually 10 degrees warmer than in the valley), but had to continue driving in order to prevent the wheels, breaks and axes from freezing after driving through the water.

Feeling group: After six hours of sleep and an extensive breakfast in a beautiful landscape at sunrise, the power was back. Before, the exertion was wearing us out.






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Old 02-14-2009, 01:35 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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February 06, 2009: Sasyr

The little bridge resisted the weight of our Jeeps. Additionally we passed a large area of Nalid Ice without any problems because it was already frozen again. The day was saved. A difficult section was completed.

Along our further way we spotted a basecamp of reindeer shepherds between some trees. It was temporarily abandoned. Nevertheless we were impressed. 1.5 meters above the ground there were some planks of wood tied together. The sheperds usually sleep on them in furs. There is only a makeshift cover for protection. Already yesterday we saw traces of one or more shepherds with a large number of animals. We followed the traces - but without meeting them.

Around 5 p.m. we arrived at the native village Sasyr which is about 85 kilometers away from our resting place for the night. It is mostly inhabited by horse and reindeer shepherd families and has a long tradition. Here you can also find the only museum which shows the history of the Ewene tribe. Less than five minutes after our arrival we were surrounded by approx. 20 children. They were really happy when we bought them chocolate from the little store. Immediately one of the children invited us to his home. Upon arrival, the family served us tea and pastry.

Afterwards we drove around 70 kilometers on the worst humpy earth roads through woods to our current nightly resting place in deep snow at -48? Celsius.







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Old 02-14-2009, 01:40 AM
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February 07, 2009:

I miscalculated narrowly.
Waking up in the morning was not due to the alarm clock ringing or because we were well-rested, but because of the engine shut down of F1. We did not want to refill the tanks at night and in icy temperatures. I calculated that the leftover fuel in the main tank should be just enough until the morning. It didn't last for the last half hour. It's out of question that a tank-to-tank fuel transfer directly after waking up and in the freezing cold is not really fun and that everybody is abruptly wide awake. The first beams of sunlight and a landscape that no painter could have imagined more beautiful made up for everything.

Our breakfast is always interesting. The crowded space conditions usually ask for acrobatic performances (this also applies to the picture editing that Uli accomplishes while driving, with a lot of dexterity and even more patience - in the front we hardly even hear his slight to medium cursing about another bruise on his head or similar anymore). Considering that breakfast is the only meal that we have in a state of rest - without driving - we try hard. As we are cooking in the vehicles, we have to turn the three sleeping places along with the interior equipment into a kitchen. Accordingly, some modification measures are necessary. :-)
But afterwards it's cuddly. Out of question, that three men can comfortably sleep in the Jeep. :-) This morning, for example, my bread - with a thick layer of jelly - which I had placed on top of my cup which was standing at the edge of the GPS which is mounted next to the radio equipment gave way to gravity. Before reaching its final position with the jelly on the bottom, on top of the hydraulic control, it grazed the radio cable, the steering wheel, then the laptop and finally it slid down along my pants and the seat fur.

By now we mostly drive in rivers or through river beds over driftwood. In one of these narrow river beds we met Vitali and Kirill. Both of them live in a 2.5 x 2.5 m tent. They are working on freeing a 6x6 Urla-truck that broke into Nalid Ice in mid December. The vehicle is one single, gigantic block of ice. The trick is to release the truck as one ice block from the river and to tow the 9 x 3 x 1.5 m block from the river onto land via an ice ramp and with two other supporting trucks.
An enormous task. It will take approximately two weeks. Afterwards it will take another week to get rid of the ice by using large Bunsen burners and get the truck rolling again. Another truck will tow the damaged vehicle 200 kilometers into the next village where the repair can start.

We hope to arrive in Syrianka in around seven hours.









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Old 02-14-2009, 01:44 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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February 11, 2009 - Part One

We are crawling forward with 3 mph - actually too slow. The extremely intense, hard, and bumpy winter ways do not allow higher speeds. After approximately 3 days of non-stop driving behind Ustnera (we always slept only few hours in the taiga) we reached Syrianka yesterday afternoon. We immediately started the search for a warm garage and accommodation for the night. Thanks to some friendly helpers, we succeeded in both. The garage was big enough for the vehicles and the trailers and despite Sunday break, we have been allowed to start with the check and repair of cars and trailers. Meanwhile, a part of the team bought supplies for the upcoming 1500 km to Bilibina. Konstantin organized a room for us (5 men in 3,5m x 3,5m) where we finally were able to stretch out (see Ulis notes *). Irina, the friendly, elderly matron cooked for us and in the meantime we were able to wash some things.

Matthias Jeschke

*Ulrich Kaifer
Finally a hotel

We had a small, cute apartment with one room and a small kitchen. The bathroom gave an extremely good impression. I had the honor to use it first, which I thankfully accepted - after 3 days of abstinence. In contrast to all past showers, this one had a shower cubicle. This is very helpful, because otherwise the bathroom is always totally flooded. Directly when entering the cubicle I realized my mistake. Firstly, the cubicle was not attached to the shower tray, whereas it was skewed and secondly, it was not possible to close the door completely. Gosh! Flooding again. Much worse was the fact, that the temperature of the small jet of water was only adjustable between burning hot and freezing cold. Finally wet I had to realize, that my shampoo and lotion were frozen, as they have been stored behind the back seat during the last part of the track. While getting out of the shower, I carelessly grabbed the towel bar which broke out of the wall and dashed to pieces. Finally, I left the bathroom dry, clean, and happy.

Another small misfortune was happening to me a little later. We had the opportunity to clean our dirty clothes in a washing machine. Kaspar looked after it and was astonishing quickly finished with washed but wet laundry. The washing time could not have been more than 20 minutes. The heating was not - as usual in Russia - preset to sauna temperature. I intended to change that with a red rotary knob, keeping in mind that normally the heating in Russia are working on full power - the room temperature is only adjusted by opening the windows.

The existence of a red rotary knob should have made me hesitate, but as more or less greenhorn in this area I courageously turned it up. The opening of the fairly big air relief valve resulted in a reasonably amount of really brown mud on the relatively new painted wall. I was totally puzzled, that I closed the valve even after estimated 3 seconds. I was able to clean the wall and left the slop in the room corner as it was. The damage was kept to a limit.

Afterwards we had a quite nice evening in our little kitchen. The lady at the reception made a warm dinner for us with food that we bought for that occasion. Two beers and the warm meal later I was quickly so tired that it was hard for me not to fell asleep at the table. Kaspar and I (as oldest members) have been allowed to share the bed, the others were sleeping on the floor in their sleeping bags. Unfortunately, there was only one blanket for us both, what makes me decide to make my own blanket out of two bedcovers. At the beginning that worked perfectly well as I fell asleep right away, but in the middle of the night I woke up, because I was freezing. After a hard struggle against the well-known inner temptation, I put on my sweater, was continuously freezing at my legs, and had a barely good sleep.

All in all, I was happy to experience civilization again, and about the opportunity to have a shower and sleep in a bed.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:34 PM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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February 11, 2009: (2)

There was no time where we didn?t receive hospitality and helpfulness from the Russian population. It will be very difficult up to impossible without those friendly Russian helpers. You suddenly need a special tool, welding equipment, a lathe, a garage or whatsoever. At this point we want to say thank you again to everybody who we were glad to meet and who helped the expedition team directly or indirectly - we are really grateful.

The next evening we continued our journey with a 380 km long and stressful drive on the Kolymar River. This mogul piste covered with ice holes - a result of air blisters which have been crushed by passing trucks ? was a challenge. Numerous times the tires broke through, into little razor-sharp ice caps and we drove through them, ran over stones and trunks etc. That we did not have any tire damages so far, neither with our PNY-Jeeps nor with the trailers, encourages my opinion that we definitely have the best off road tire in the world with us on that expedition - The Goodyear Wrangler MT/R.

It took us 16 hours for this nonstop driving in -50? C - where we crossed the arctic circle as well - until we finally and totally exhausted reached Schritnikolimsk, a little village in the middle of nowhere. Within minutes after our arrival we were welcomed by townsfolk and journalists. It is a really nice little village built out of wood on the bank of the Kolymar River. It is clean and the tiny little houses are mostly beautifully presented. That this tiny village ? where they have winter nine month a year ? even has town privileges results from the time of Katharina II as we heard.

Due to the extreme winter tracks that demands everything from us and the PNY-Jeeps we have to stop every couple 100 km for checks and repairs. Luckily we once more had a little garage with a temperature of around 0?C, where we were able to do the necessary work.

If anyone asks about the tracks we are driving, there is only one thing to say: Every ordinary off road vehicle would already have failed at the slope angle without e.g. a broken bumper etc. You can hardly explain how destructive those tracks are. Thousand of holes and bumps, high ripples, trunks and branches, steeply up and down rides in riverbeds and much more while we are additionally dragging the trailers behind us. Everybody knows, that this is not possible until the end without any damages. We just did not know when the first big problem would occur. Of course it was possible any time near under these conditions and then - tonight - it happened. It happened in a narrow pass around 50 km after Schritnikolimsk. High taluses with a height of up to 1m left and right, so narrow that only one PNY-Jeep at a time was able to drive through the way which was covered with high ripples and fractures. We tried to drag our trailers ? driving in first gear with gear reduction - as I saw my trailer through the rear-view mirror with the front pointing to the sky. Firstly I thought the trailer coupling broke but that was not the case. It was the frame where a part was broken off. Now we had to improvise very quickly due to the coldness and Ural-trucks waiting behind and in front of us to drive through. We built a kludge out of tension belts and cleared the street within one hour dragging ourselves in the scarp 300 meters further.

After the Ural-trucks passed we had to make a difficult turn in order to drive back slowly towards a small village named Nalimsk which we passed 30 km before. We asked the mayor of that little village where only traditional people from Jakutia live in line with the nature, if he knows somebody who can provide us with welding equipment or maybe directly weld something for us. He told us, that there is only one possibility the next morning and invited us to stay overnight in his mayor room. Ulrich Kaifer, Kaspar Mettler, Marco Schwarzer und Konstantin Savva slept between chairs, flags and tables while I slept in the PNY-Jeep to make sure that the engines ran smoothly in the -50? C cold environment.

The next morning, we received the repair possibility as promised by the mayor. Ivan, an employee of the local coal-fired power plant took us to his place. He had a little transformer to run a welding machine. After he spread furs underneath the trailer and created a frame out of a steel door box he began to weld. It took him the whole day for the repair and the preventive measures ? of course outdoor as they do not have any garages there. In the meantime he invited us to tea and cookies even to horsemeat afterwards. Due to the extensive amount on horse intestines in that meat it was not easy for some of our team members to finish the plate off, which the nice mother in law loaded brimful. At around 5 p.m. we were going to leave and when we slowly and carefully drove down the main street of the village more and more children, juveniles and adults showed up. They even waved out of their windows while they were watching us.
We had to stop several times to explain, take pictures or let them sign the PNY-Jeeps. They even baked bread for our 700 km long way to Tscherskie which we will have to drive in walking pace. It just started snowing when we finally left.







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Old 02-25-2009, 12:37 PM
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February 16, 2009: New short message from the expedition team

Team reached Bilibino after difficult and exaustive track / intense troubles en route / one PNY-Jeep with trailer in snow flurry in the ditch / trailer tumbled down / nevertheless nothing crucial destroyed / no injuries / team in good health / very friendly welcome of all in Bilibino / report follows
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:41 PM
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February 19, 2009: (1)

It was a tough section to Bilibino with many obstacles. But finally, we made it.

The team is in Bilibino, just like the vehicles and trailer.
Crazy things happened to us on our way behind Shishmaref. F1 had and has no engine power; we had to deal with frozen brakes in Tscherski; we received the news that we were not allowed to enter Tschukotka; Trailer2 lost a complete wheel including brake drum, etc.; wheels on both trailers were blocked by ice and the entire F1 along with its trailer skidded into a ditch.

One step after another:
The tension was huge when we continuously became slower and finally ? due to the performance problems of F1 and the resulting additional consumption ? had to refuel just 5 kilometers before the city. I was about to explode when I also received the news from J?rgen Graf that we have to stop in Tscherski and will not be allowed to enter Tschukotka - We did not receive the special permission. I was totally mad ? what happened? Hastily I called J?rgen and got the information that the authorities did not receive the necessary insurance forms and thus correctly denied our permit. Unfortunately, this had to happen just 40 kilometers before the territory border. We owe the same night's receipt of the permit to people, authorities and institutions that trusted us. Many thanks to all involved people and authorities at this point (when ? according to our GPS ? reaching the ?border to Tschukotka? the next evening, we celebrated and cherished the crossing).

With only 1000 1/min of F1 in gear reduction, we reached Tscherski where the police was already waiting for us. They were expecting us for a long time and were happy to welcome us in sound condition. After the obligatory control and after reporting our expedition to the ones in charge, we were led to a warm garage. There, the team checked and repaired for quite some time, before exhaustedly falling asleep on the seats in the garage. The plan was to sleep for about 2 hours only and get up at 4 a.m. to drive towards Bilibino. However, we were woken up by the first workers at around 10 a.m.

We were hoping that the performance problems of F1 were due to frozen water from the auxiliary tanks. Unfortunately this was not the case. Thus I decided to continue our slow driving without performance on our upcoming ? 380 kilometers long ? section towards Tschukotka. Just when we were about to leave Tscherski and attached the trailer, we noticed that my brakes at Trailer 1 were frozen. Therefore we had to unfreeze them with Russian burner lamps*. What a nice work at -50? C. At that time, we did not know that we would have to do it again on this section.

Just out of Tscherski, in the middle of the Kolymar, we found the truck in an accident. It broke into the ice only 10 days ago, even though it was driving on the main lane. Crazy. Fortunately there was another truck that took care of the two wet drivers, who were able to save themselves out of the driver?s cab in the last second. Otherwise they would have frozen to death within minutes.

*) Burner lamps are irreplacable for all acrtic truckers. They burn fuel - in our case also ethanol - in adjustable fire beam which are pointed at the frozen parts. This way it is possible to unfreeze e.g. the oil pan, the gearbox, the axles, the brakes.




February 19, 2009: (2)

Then, the course of the road led us north-east on the Kolymar River and one of its channels for many kilometers. The temperatures were below -50?C when during a pee stop at some point during the night we noticed that a wheel including rim, tire, brake drum and spacer was missing on Kaspar?s trailer (T2).

The route has become a narrow trail about 100 kilometers ago and is difficult to drive. Taking into consideration that the wheel could have been lost anywhere and because there would be no chance to find it at night, we decided to continue our drive on three wheels (that?s what we will do on our upcoming 380 kilometers long section from Bilibino to Pevek as well. In Pevek we expect to receive the necessary spare parts).

It would be better not to stop in this cold atmosphere and the additional occuring wind. The reason why we had to stay for about another 3 hours at this place was due to the fact that when Kaspar was ready to go I noticed two blocked wheels at T2. The breaks were frozen. In order to continue driving without the risk that this would happen again (this was probably also the reason for the loss of the other wheel), without further ado we disabled the brake function of T2 by disassembling the break leverage and removing the brake shoe from the blocked wheels in a tough repair action (key word: burner lamps) on the winter road (later on in Bilibino we removed
each and every part that somehow was a part of the break from T1 and T2).

During the following drive was dedicated to the mistake-diagnosis of F1. We used the diagnosis computer to check all parameters, perform tests and compare data of both vehicles in drive operation. I was just sitting in F2 and evaluated information with Kaspar, when the next obstacle on this rocky way to Bilibino was announced via radio: "Matthias, Sh**, I got stuck." In heavy snow flurry, F1 and its trailer went astray and skidded into a ditch. Thereby, the trailer tipped over and turned on its side. Now it was time to stop thinking and sort things out. We had to retrieve both vehicles as soon as possible. First we detached the trailer from the vehicle and put it back on its wheels by using our winches. Then we pulled it on the street with our Warn winches and idler pulleys. It was a little bit more difficult to retrieve F1 because it was stuck deep in snow and because of the strong inclined position that caused the engine to turn off. We had to recover it first. Then we also pulled this vehicle from the ditch with our Warn winches and idler pulley. It was a great performance of our winches, the team had to admit.

After another 20 kilometers we finally reached Bilibino. Once again we were surprised by the things waiting for us there.



February 19, 2009: (3)

We did not know what to expect in Bilibino. Will we have an accommodation, perhaps a small hotel, a garage? How will the authorities react when we arrive? What will we manage to complete?

We were slowly approaching the city. It is located in a wind still area surrounded by high mountains. Arriving from a snowy pass and after entering the main street we have directly been checked by the traffic police. The officers were very friendly and gave us some additional information. Konstantin already informed his contacts without giving me notice. As the success was not sure he did not tell anything and therefore he and we have all been very happy. Everything was perfectly organized.

We have been expected by friends of Konstantin and the mining company Kupogold. We were welcomed and accommodated in clean, perfectly equipped apartments with shower, toilette, washing machine, etc., which are normally used for company employees who make a stopover on their way to the goldmine which is about 200 km away. Moreover, we were integrated in the daily operation and got breakfast, lunch and dinner. They even did our laundry. It is really great. Many thanks to the management of Kupolgold at this point. Also the garage was organized by Konstantin's contacts. There was enough space for us to store the vehicles and trailers in the warmth - a seldom situation. The highlight was an arriving team of mechanics who worked with us.

Altogether we were eleven people starting with the next big modification mission of the Jeeps and trailers. As the trailers have carried important equipment over the rough track until Bilibino and we now only need less of it, the trailers have been rigorously alleviated and additionally protected against the cold. Additionally we removed the 1000 l tank, removed now unnecessary crates and panels. We already modified the Jeeps with adding the construction for the emergency swimming system (hydraulic adaptors at front and back) and pre-mounted the swimming tires on the trailer tires. That was hand work which means an immense issue of strength and that in total 8 times. Of course there was no balancing. Parallel Marco started to work on the next video clip at his especially equipped cutting place.

Originally planned was to leave for Pevek on Thursday. Unfortunately that was not possible. We received a warning from the Russian disaster control via the German Embassy not to start. They expect a hurricane/snow storm in that region which will be very intense with a speed of about 37 m/s. Accordingly the temperature will drop to -60?C. Luckily we received that message in Bilibino and not en-route. Therefore everything was fine again and our problems had a protection effect, as we would already have been on track and met the storm otherwise. The negative aspect it that all winter ways to Pevek will be gone after the hurricane.

New scheduled starting time will be Saturday.
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Old 02-25-2009, 12:51 PM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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February 22, 2009: 1st short message
Task force started from Bilibino towards Pevek.

February 22, 2009: 2nd short message
We have direct contact to the roadmaker - Due to heavy snowdrift at two passes, the track to Pevek is not usable - even not for the heavy 8x8 trucks. There are already trucks waiting on the side opposite to Bilibino. According to today's news, the roadmaker will start on Sunday to clean the passes. We try to manage to drive in convoy with the bulldozers. Therefore start is postponed to Sunday morning.

February 22, 2009: 3rd short message
We just reached the timber line. The last Asian trees on our way to America. There will be nothing but busches til Alaska.

February 22, 2009: 4th short message
We arrived at the bulldozer clearance team. Due to the fact that it has to clear the winter road for the trucks and often has to move a lot of snow, we passed it as agreed with the driver. There are two Kamaz trucks following the dozer. F1 reduced air pressure to 0.6 bar. Are driving on snow and with 6 mp/h. F2 follows in our tracks.
GPS-coordinates: N 68 17`03" / E 167 17`12"

February 22, 2009: 5th short message
Just arrived at first pass. Many snow drifts. Not too long before us a GAZ truck broke through, therefore deep tracks and stirred up snow. Reached the top after many attempts. Partially steap and inclined.
GPS-coordinates: N 68 15`34" / E 167 36`12"

February 22, 2009: 6th short message
We are between the first and second pass. Snowfall is getting heavier. Take a break for about 4 hours at GPS-coordinates: N 68 36`49" / E 168 26`16" Team and vehicles are doing well.

February 23, 2009: 7th short message (02:23 a.m. MEZ)
No horizon, no shrub, no more outlines visible, everything white, moderate snowfall, only a wooden bar or an old barrel every couple hundred meters to indicate the direction, always passing on the right side, that's what I expected from this area. We covered appr. 185 km in 20 hours since Bilibino.
GPS cords.: N 68 35`55" E 168 58`17"

February 23, 2009: 8th short message (03:10 a.m. MEZ)
Progress slowing down. Intense snowfall, moderate wind, visibility 0-15 m.
GPS-coordinates: N 68 37`24" E 169 14`09"

February 23, 2009: Lucky charms and the start towards Pevek (05:09 a.m. MEZ)

So many people wished us good luck. Either with words, in writing or presented us with lucky charms. Actually, up to now we have not suffered of anything crucial. Perhaps that is due to all the good blessings we received with all those talismans. We have them all on board: Two roses which we received in Berlin from our partner Pacwolf (meanwhile there are only the sticks left), amulets, horseshoes, icons, special bank notes, money coins, personal ball pens, lucky slogans written on the cars, pennants, buttons, badges, stickers and and and.

In Bilibino we received the biggest lucky charm so far: dear horns. With the horns in my hand I was searching for the best place on Jeep or trailer until it came to my mind that the best place for it to be is on top of the trailer. I held the horns in one hand and climbed on it. Laying it on the hydraulic extension in order to search for the best place to attach them, I realized that the main safety belts of the heavy iron parts are in correct position, but cut by a metal cant. We could possibly have lost those heavy parts in an inclined position. Unimaginable what amount of work that would have been to put them back on the trailer. So much for working lucky charms.

The hospitality in Bilibino was really immense. We were invited to food and beverage, we were introduced to people who have been important for us, and we received special equipment as well as many tips about the region and the streets. The day before our departure, we have been invited to a celebration of the military offspring by Major Garvasin. It was a special act of trustfulness from this man and we were happy to be his guest. We have been introduced as guests of honor and I was allowed to hold a short speech. Many thanks at this point for the trustfulness.

We left until the city border in a convoy after saying good-bye to our friendly mechanics Konstantin, Maxim, Alexey, Ingor, Ignat, Slava and his son as well as the major Garvasin and Vadim, the boss of the ministry of catastrophe protection (MCS). Many cars joined us for accompany, passing waving children and greeting grown-ups, all the time behind the bulldozers.
Bilibino and its people have been really friendly.

After even the last supporting car turned-over we were all alone again and optimally prepared for the most difficult winter track due to weather conditions so far: 380 km from Bilibino to Pevek.

February 23, 2009: 9th short message (06:04 a.m. MEZ)
We crossed the second pass and left the emergency accommodation behind us. After an eating break we are now on the "road" again with heavy storm and snow flurry. Speed appr. 5-10 km/h.
GPS cords: N 68 40`19" / E 169 22`37

February 23, 2009: 10th short message (07:15 a.m. MEZ)
Just now we reached the arctic ocean (outstanding!!) after struggling with the snow and heavy snow drifts with a visibility of 5-10 m.
GPS cords: N 68 45`32" / E 169 41`53"

February 23, 2009: 11th short message (10:55 a.m. MEZ)
We arrived at base camp kupol gold. This partner promised to rescue us in case of an emergency or breakdown on the last 160 km to Pevek. We just started for the last kilometers to Pevek.
GPS cords.: N 68 46`45" / E 170 07`33"

February 23, 2009: 12th short message (02:36 p.m. MEZ)
Difficult and extreme track. We have to bash into snow drifts in full speed from time to time in order to come through them. In between deep snow and old snow blurred tracks vom Urals or Kamaz trucks in which we suddenly broke into. All of that at night with snow flurries. Since leaving the base camp we approx. covered 95 km.
GPS cords: N 69 25`22" / E 170 47`03"

February 23, 2009: 13th short message (05:00 p.m. MEZ)
Team is in good health but tired approx. 50 km before Pevek. Time for rest.
GPS Cords: N 69 28`29" E 170 46`47"

February 24, 2009: 14th short message (05:26 a.m. MEZ)
We slept at the high plateau, and just started again. Behind us, two trucks got stuck at an inclination. In front us a convoy of 6 trucks got stuck in the deep snow of the high plateau. We reduced the air pressure of the tires once more. We reduced the air pressure several times. We crossed the truck onto the snow with 0.3 and 0.5 bar. Leaving the trucks behind we reached the road service at the GPS cords: N 69 30`32" / E 170 46`22". They are currently cleaning the track after the blizzard









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Old 02-28-2009, 01:41 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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February 25, 2009: 15th short message (10:13 p.m. MEZ)
Equipped with 850l fuel/bioethanol-mixture in each car and food for 10 days we just started towards Egvekinot. Appr. 900 km are ahead of us.















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Old 03-04-2009, 10:33 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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February 26, 2009: 16th short message (08:53 a.m. MEZ)
Fantastic weather due to ridge of high pressure. Amazingly beautiful landscape. An impressive arctic desert. 2 hours ago we arrived at the gold minig city Komsomolsk. About 200 very friendly people of a mining company are still living there. Anton Iwanowitsch Jukna, the manager, invited us for a meal, organized fuel 500 km away for us to produce the next fuel/bio-ethanol mixture and informed us about the road conditions on the upcoming 500 km. Thank you very much.
Due to corresponding reports and statements, we expect another low-pressure system with lots of snow during the next days, that we have to pass. We are curious to find out when we will be able to start.
GPS-cords: N 69 05?47? / E 172 49?18?

February 26, 2009: 17th short message (02:58 p.m. MEZ)
Had to stop. Extremely tough section, huge snowdrifts, snowfall and strong wind. We were able to get through some of them. Others were just too high. It took us 5 hours to manage 14 km. Within minutes our own traces disappeared. It?s crazy to see that sometimes within 5 minutes, 30-40 cm high drifts are back again. For safety reasons we returned to a nearby mine and will try to get through again tomorrow. Team alright but tired.
GPS-cords: N 68 58?25? / E 173 41?47?


February 27, 2009: 18th short message (02:14 a.m. MEZ)
Even more snow and strong wind. In more detail: I drive in the lead with F1, Kaspar is appr. 15m behind me (the length of one of our jeeps with trailer). He can hardly see my tracks which I left in the snow 30s before. We move forward with 0-5 km/h and air pressure of 0.4 bar. Even now we met three water trucks of the mine. They got stuck and were not able to reach the standpipe of the mine at that day - probably the very place where we have been yesterday.
GPS cords: N 68 51?56" / E 173 43?40"

February 27, 2009: 19th short message (11:19 a.m. MEZ)
A really hard fight. We started today at 10 a.m. after a coordination about the way together with the mining company. Afterwards it took us 9 hours, whereas 7 hours at one point (uphill, inclination to the right and gradient to the right for a rollover). We pulled out all the stops at this inclination where we additionally faced 3 huge snowdrifts (2-3m high and 40 to 100m long). We dismounted the trailers, put on fourfold tires and everyone helped to get rid of the snow, but then we decided for a 1-2 day long break and to wait for the road service in order to safe our equipment for parts where nobody will help us. As the snow drifts are built within shortest time periods, there was also the danger that a vehicle and trailer could get stuck in between two of them. There would be no more chance. We just set up an emergency camp on a little ledge above an flank of the hill (trailer as wind protection, cloth on top of the cars as tent) when the road service arrived, accompanied by the three water trucks. As the mine necessarily needs water, they had to drive once more. In lightning speed we cancelled everything and followed them. They are appr. 15 min in front of us.
GPS cords: N 68 44`13" / E 173 50`17"


February 27, 2009: 20th short message (01:16 p.m. MEZ)
Difficult hill incident with continuous winching action directly followed after the formerly mentioned circumstances at the inclination. From time to time we have to pull the trailers, the cars, or even both out of deep snow. If we would not be so well equipped (Warn winches at front and rear), the expedition would have to be cancelled at several points so far. After great efforts we reached a small weather station. We are safe, team is well and happy to manage the way so far. We are currently 250km behind Pevek. Vehicles suffered, Several fenders ragged or damaged, safety belts cracked.
GPS Cords: N 68 31`27" / E 174 08`38"


February 27, 2009: 21st short message (03:35 p.m MEZ)
We just saw the aurora borealis for the first time on the expedition. It looks like god made the sky burn in green flames. Amazing to see.


February 28, 2009: 22nd short message (03:16 a.m. MEZ)
We are already driving since 700 km with 0.4 - 0.6 bar with the Wrangler MT/R. Average speed 5-25 km/h. Vehicle weight appr. 3.5 t plus trailer. No damage or weakening at all. Current position in a narrow valley after the weather station. Advancement is good.


February 28, 2009: 23rd short message (08:00 a.m. MEZ)
I lost my chassis snow protection while breaking through a big snow drift. We just finished a 5 hour repairing period. Naff. We continue at starting snowfall. Team strained. Vehicles ready for use.
GPS cords: N 68 22?51" / E 174 58`12"


February 28, 2009: 24th short message (04:01 p.m. MEZ)
We struggeld through most dense snow flurry, kilometer after kilometer. So far, we were not able to stop, otherwise we would be totally covered in snow by tomorrow morning. We tried to reach the emergency shelter appr. 200km away from the weather station, without success. The snow drifts are too intense. We just shoveled ourselves through an inclination which took us two hours. Now the team is sleeping and I try to break through snow flurries with F1 without trailer in order not get totally covered in snow. Air pressure 0.2 bar. fuel reserve ok, food ok, team/vehicles ok.
GPS cords: N 67 52?45" / E 176 05?46"


March 01, 2009: 25th short message (02:19 a.m. MEZ)
After four hours of sleep, we had a lot of drudgery at the next difficult inclinations. We are currently appr. 500m away from the pass summit, shoveling and winching for hours. The only possible way: trying to bring F1 backwards on top, if successful trace breaking, then T1 upwards, then F1 back to protext F2 + trailer or upward winching...
News obsolete before sending: together with both cars and trailers we just reached the first pass summit! The Pacific Ocean watershed!
GPS cords: N 67 52?23" / E 176 05?51"


March 01, 2009: 26th short message (06:08 a.m. MEZ)
We crossed the second mountain pass. We are currently in front of the third pass. Weather cleared off and exactly as predicted by the German Weather Service, we had a short influence of a high pressure area on our driving route today. More precisely, that means sunshine again after a long time. We still have not reached the emergency shelter.
GPS cords: N 67 40?11" / E 176 39?53"


March 01, 2009: 27th short message (10:18 a.m. MEZ)
We reached the emergency shelter 30 km before the third mountain pass, where a bulldozer is positioned. We had to debate how to go on. The pass is totally covered in snow. "No chance to come through" said the dozer driver. He cleaned the pass this morning with a snow height of more than 5m, but directly after him, due to a strong wind, everything was covered in snow again. The remaining fuel is just enough to keep the dozer running, but no chance to clean the pass again. Next fuel delivery is arriving in appr. 5 days time. Shi***.
The two men living here in loneliness were really friendly. We received warm food and exchanged information. Two trucks, who left some days before us, containing 20 people in total, have still not reached Valonisti (mine appr. 170km in direction of Egvekinot from this emergency shelter). They try to find out where they are. A commision who started from Egvekinot in direction of Pevek also got stuck appr. 250km away from here with no possibility to move on. We will stay the night here and try to reach the mountain pass tomorrow. Then we will see what is possible or not. Worst case would be, that we have to wait here due to the storms.
This area is really amazing. Gigantic widths, partially snow drifts in a height of houses.
Otherwise: Team exhausted but in good health, fuel reserve 500 liters plus two half-full main tanks, food reserve ok, vehicles also ok although I had a hard impact on F1 today when I slipped into a rift in a snow drift.
GPS cords: N 67 29?57" / E 176 41?49"


March 02, 2009: 28th short message (00:09 a.m. MEZ)
The team of the emergency shelter had radio contact to Valonisti this morning. Yesterday evening the contact permanently broke off. We heard that a rescue team is on the way to the two trucks which got stuck in the snow ahead of us. The rescue team left at 4 a.m. this morning and managed 30 km in 5 hours.
We leave now to take the chance. There is a rescue team nearby if we do not succeed. There are 170km ahead of us until we reach Valonisti. During the radio contact we were requested to contact the rescue team via satellite phone when we reach the people in the snow earlier in order to get an impression of their condition.


March 02, 2009: 29th short message (06:37 a.m. MEZ)
After 6.5 hours of shoveling and winching, we just reached the pass summit (19km away from the emergency shelter) of the so-called third pass to Pevek. Awesome!
An unbelievable beautiful panorama up here! The tracks of the dozer were covered in snow. Only the deep tunnels (app. 3-4m meters) that it dug were visible. Air pressure F1 rear and front was 0.2 bar. Temperature appr. -35?C. We still have a fuel reserve of 500l plus half a tank left due to our last decanting action. With an inclined F1 we got nearly everything out of both roof tanks and my rear tank.
GPS Cords: N 67 21?07'' / E 176 49?0''


March 02, 2009: 30th short message (03:57 p.m. MEZ)
We just passed the thousandth kilometer of most difficult offrad track, snow, and ice with temperatures never above -20? and minimum -56?C with 0.5 bar air pressure or less with 8 MT/R tires on each vehicle - without any damage!!!! Thanks Goodyear!
We made it to the point, where the trucks must have been covered in snow. The tracks indicate that a Russian chain-driven transportation vehicle reached them first. Appr. 10km further we met the biggest CAT chain-driven vehicle of the world, a D10. Unimaginable dimensions. Even the driver cabin is located 4m above the ground. Pragmatically it pulled a sledge behind, which is a house, a big tank farm, and a snow plow at the same time.
As the D10 has already driven on that track we decided to overtake him like the rescued trucks. We now got stuck in an extremely strong snow storm appr. 25km in front of Valonisti. Not single 1-2m visibility. We just struggled in the "Whiteout" up a last inclination in order to reach a safe position and not to get totally covered in snow masses. There is no way to go further, as the Ural trucks got stuck in front of us, blocking the track. We have to wait for the dozers, which will free the trucks. We have a safe position on the ridge, fuel reserve 320l and 2 half-full tanks, food reserve ok, the storm is blowing that one can hardly stand. One is blown down or tumbling immediately. Unbelievable. Team is exhausted and stiff but we considerably increased our safety. The decision to decamp today turned out to be absolutely correct. In my opinion we took the only chance to reach Valonisti. No chance before and after it.
The storm is raging in such a strong way, that snow is coming through closed doors. We have -24?C, but together with a wind speed of appr. 35-38 km/h it feels like -60?C. Gloves, jackets, caps frozen to stiff in minutes and covered in a thick ice crust. We are standing at that location for about 15 minutes. On my left there is already a snow drift of 50cm height and 3m length.
GPS Cords: N 66 30?33" / E 177 16?45"
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Old 03-07-2009, 03:53 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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March 03, 2009: 31st short message (00:49 a.m. MEZ)

The expedition got stuck in an intense snow flurry together with other people. The driver of the D10 tried the whole night to break through the snow masses and gave up at 7 a.m. Even these experienced drivers have seen such a storm only once in their lives. It was and still is unbelievable strong. Now it seems that the wind is only blowing fallen snow around rather than new snow. They came from a mine which is located 20km away and informed us that they cannot tell us how long we have to wait until they try to continue. There is no visibility at all. Everything really everything is white. "White out" is the name of this frightening situation.
There were some unbelievable situations yesterday night. One of them was that the truck bus, in which we assumed 20 people, was left behind. We do not know if there were people in it. It was not able to rescue it out of the snow masses. Another 8x8 truck was pushed out of the snow. In order to cross the huge snow crater which it left with this action, the D10 drove a loop through the deep snow. There, he also towed his sledge and behind of it a Ural truck 6x6, which fell onto its left side. I was running, falling, and crawling forward through the channel in order to literally feel by touching if we could manage to come through. Luckily the broad sledge of the snow clean dozer made so much space on the right side, that our vehicles were falling in the channel, which was the fatality for the Ural truck. As we totally strained tried to follow the cat - which was only possible in gear reduction and in first or second gear, our engines suddenly became hot. During the storm we opened the bonnet and realized that the engine compartment - although especially isolated from all sides - was totally covered in ice. As through our doors, the storm pushed into the engine compartment. The accumulated ice was responsible for our frozen electronic fans. We continued in order not to lose contact to the Cat, always on the edge to the red area. Currently my fan is working again, in contrast to the one from F2. That's just about the limit.
Current position: estimated 4-6 km behind the last position in direction towards Valonisti. Total amount of people locked in at this point: 10 in 5 vehicles, no injured ones or similar, fuel reserve of the Jeeps in total 320 l, food reserve of Extrem Events team for 7-8 days, existing communication with the mine which is 20km away through the Cat driver, existing satellite communication to head office through own system.

GPS Cords: N 66 29?20" / E 177 23?13"


March 03, 2009: 32nd short message (08:23 a.m. MEZ)

Still no progess. No movement for the last 12 hours. Force of storm has increased once more. We needed to refuel. Therefore we have 2 full main tanks appr. 200 l reserve at the moment, which means one additional refueling of the main tanks + rest for driving. Enough fuel for 96 hours, food reserve ok, beverage is getting scarce. We are melting snow. We just built an emergency tent out of Russian canvas, which we brought with us for worst cases. We mounted it over the vehicle bonnets as there is more and more snow getting into the engine compartment and passenger cabin.


March 03, 2009: 33rd short message (12:01 p.m. MEZ)

The fuel reserve of the bulldozer is getting scarce. The dozer team decided to decamp. After 20 hours of stagnation we started again. F2 is permanently getting hot due to the damaged fan. We removed the isolation at the radiator grill, but it will be difficult to manage the pass like that.


March 03, 2009: 34th short message (05:45 p.m. MEZ)

We made it. We reached the mine of Valonisti. The small community, built due to the situation of being stuck in the snow just started to prepare for difficult days (food was gathered und divided, we provided the pot/the men of the other team melted snow, we cooked together, and so on) as it was already disbanded again. We respectfully bid farewell keeping in mind that everyone managed this situation very good. We covered the last 18 km which separated us from civilization in 9 hours. Meter after meter. 2m forwards = clearing of 1-2m snow height... sometimes the CAT crawls that deep into the snow that his roof was totally covered. I pulled Kaspars Jeep and trailer with F1 and trailer over appr. Half the distance. The rest of the track he tried to manage it on his own somehow, every time marginal below the red area. He is a really good and reasonable driver. Luckily, the weather has meanwhile also improved a little bit. It is still windy, but comparably weak with moderate snowfall. We are looking forward to a shower now after 6 exhausting days and nights in the car.

GPS cords: N 66 24?55" / E 177 34?59"


March 05, 2009: 35th short message (00:54 a.m. MEZ)

We are currently trying to fix Kaspar's fan. No continuation without fan. I am not able to tow F2 and trailer for hundreds of kms. We fixed everything on the vehicles so far. Due to the damages of the storm (removed all the ice out of the engine compartments, fans, induction pipes and so on) we hope to start over again today.


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Old 03-14-2009, 04:15 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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March 05, 2009: 36th short message (11:57 a.m. MEZ)

Trapped between mountains

It is really stressful. On the one hand we are trying hard to find and modify a 12v fan engine, one the other hand the weather conditions appr. 30km outside of the mine are such extreme, that we are not able to continue. A convoy consisting out of 2 D10 bulldozer, one chain-driven vehicle in front and 7 trucks, which is on its way to the mine of Ewekinot, is trapped in snow masses since several days. Nobody knows where they are. They assume them to be appr. 32km away from Valonisti in valley in front of the dreaded pass. There is no radio contact with the trapped people and no dozers are starting due to safety reasons. It is simply not possible. Even a scout car which intented to start today came back. Sh**.



March 06, 2009: 37th short message (05:05 a.m. MEZ)

Engine fan is working. We built one by our own out of several Jeep and non-Jeep parts as well as Russian wrapping technique. It is spinning in the wrong direction but that doesn't matter. Main point is a non overheating vehicle and that we can continue our journey with F2. We will see if it provides the same performance with full load and trailer.

Furthermore, more or less catastrophic circumstances. Snowfall and winds are hardly weakening. We are not able to leave. Got stuck. A second convoy from the direction of Pevek also got stuck somewhere between 50 to 150km away from here. That means there are 12 trucks, 3 crawlers and 1 chain-driven scout vehicle with 30 people in total have to wait for improvement in the weather somewhere in the wilderness.

In terms of the situation, we currently have double risk. Insufficient fuel and too extreme track. We currently have 600l prepared fuel mixture. Normally that would perfectly be enough for the 300km to Egvekinot. But as we assume to be trapped in snow again, that could become scarce. Therefore we decided to wait for one of the convoys. If the one from Pevek is arriving first, we will refuel another 400l and start on our way. Then there would still be the risk of being trapped in the snow, but we are able to wait in warmth. If the convoy from Egvekinot is arriving first, we will start with the fuel reserve we have right now. As crossing of the pass must be possible, that reserve should be sufficient. Either way, we have to leave here. It is really blatant. The men told us, that last year was hardly any snow in whole Tschukotka. This year there are really huge amounts of snow masses - even for experienced ones.



March 07, 2009: 38th short message (10:32 a.m. MEZ)

We started and try to reach Egvekinot.

We already wanted to decamp yesterday, but after a scouting at the first mountain with a chain-driven vehicle we realized that there was no chance. Today morning at 10 a.m., we noticed the first D10 bulldozer arriving at the mine. We were told, that 2 out of 3 bulldozer left the convoy appr. 35km away in front of Valonisti, due to insufficient fuel for another night. We started immediately in order to use the brand-new cleaned track. Now after 10 hours of driving we are appr. 45km away from the mine. The snow masses are unbelievable stirred. The trucks broke more than 1.5m deep into the snow surface. Extraordinary hard work for us to come through.

Team in good health, vehicles ok, fuel reserve low - only 350l left. We turn down the engines at every stop, heating with the Webasto Air-Tops as they only need a maximum of 0.5l per hour. Outside temperature appr. -30?. Food reserve for appr. 6 days. We have to escape here. It is really a fight against time and a decreasing fuel reserve.

GPS Cords: N 66 39`22" / E 178 19`16"


March 08, 2009: 39th short message (07:14 a.m. MEZ)


We thank all Russian friends who we were able to meet in the mine and who helped us wherever possible. Starting with the possibility to sleep in the rooms of the workers, further the donation of the last available 300l fuel in the mine (it was from the vehicle of the director!), further the ladies who stitched our tattered clothes and so on and so on...
Nevertheless it was time to continue. We had to leave this white mountain area as fast as possible, which kept us in a gilded cage in this gorgeous region in the snow.

It was a struggle against time and decreasing fuel reserve until we reached the roadcamp 20 hours after our start from Valonisti. Due to the fact that we received the warning from the German Weather Service, that a strong-wind-area (hurricane) will hit us (Sunday 12 p.m.), we had a time frame of 24 hours to escape there. That means continuous winching, driving, and shoveling from yesterday 12 p.m. until today morning at 8 a.m. Fast driving in order to reach the destination before the storm meant a higher fuel consumption, slower driving meant led to a decreasing time limit. Basically we had the rule: We have to escape, the show must go on.
And we succeeded. We reached the camp (app. 100km in front of Egvekinot) with the beginning of the increasing wind intensity. We should not have arrived any 2-3 hours later as there is such a storm right now again, that you cannot see your hand in front of your face. If we would not have managed it, all tracks of the convoy would have been gone and we would have been trapped to wait another week in the mountains.

We decided to wait here until the storm is over and to prepare the vehicles and trailers for the upcoming last 1000km on Russian ground. We were kindly offered two small rooms with bed in the camp and given the possibility to use the big garage of the cleaning dozers.

On our way towards Egvekinot, we also crossed the 180th degree of longitude! Now we are in the West and GPW-wise everything is the other way round.

GPS cords: N 67 01`21" / W 178 56`00"



March 11, 2009: 40th short message (09:25 p.m. MEZ)

After an unsuccessful try to reach Egvekinot starting from the roadcamp yesterday (we had to cancel due to the heavy snow storm), we managed it tonight. We just arrived.

GPS cords: N 66 21`10" / W 179 07`00"











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  #58  
Old 03-22-2009, 02:43 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Germany
Posts: 89
March 13, 2009: 41st short message (03:48 a.m. MEZ)

After some administrative tasks and the last refueling in Russia (enough for 2700l of bioethanol mixture) we returned to the road department yesterday. Just now we left this camp near Amguema and try to reach the village of Vacarem at the Arctic Ocean which is appr. 200km away


March 13, 2009: 42nd short message (10:06 a.m. MEZ)

Big setback / again heavy damage. Again a broken accessory differential. The manufacturer says they seem to be too weak for the expedition vehicles. Stronger ones should have been used. We were standing for hours somewhere in the deep snow and tried to get F2 ready. F2, the vehicle which was already modified with a totally new accessory differential out of F3. Currently we try to reach the road camp again with a rough-and-ready fixed vehicle. F1 is towing both trailers. That's really a damn bad situation. I am totally upset. The third rear-axle differential within 5000km. We will try to repair it as I brought spare differentials for a huge amount of money with me on my return flight to Russia - in wise foresight and with support of the differential manufacturer.
The worst thing is that we lost minimum two days of optimal weather conditions again. What a crap.


March 13, 2009: 43rd short message (01:14 p.m. MEZ)

Just now we drove the 1600th km with the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R on both vehicles with an air pressure not above 0.5 bar without any damage. Additionally there was no tire damage at any vehicle or trailer since Paris. That means 26123 harmless kilometers under toughest expedition conditions.


March 13, 2009: 44th short message (01:48 p.m. MEZ)

We reached the roadcamp after 6.5 hours of driving. The situation with the differential is really such annoying that the nerves of team were all on edge. To make matters worse, all drivers are on the winter ways and the house was locked. We are standing in front of the door, but ok. Outside temperature: -32?C. We are only running the good Webastos to save fuel which is already reduced due to the damage. We hope that there is anyone coming back tomorrow, that we can enter the garage. Otherwise we will change the differential in front of the door.


March 14, 2009: 45th short message (11:40 p.m. MEZ)

We changed the differential under most difficult conditions and just started over again - 42 hours after the breakdown. We kept on repairing and hardly slept. We hope to reach Vacarem at the Artic Ocean. Weather conditions perfect. Appr. -30?C and sunshine.

GPS cords: N 67 16`57" / W 178 39`22"


March 15, 2009: 46th short message (09:54 a.m. MEZ)

We are struggling for every further kilometer in direction of Vancarem. Currently we are appr. 55km in front of the village. So far, we needed 13 hours for 130km. Since the last mine, which was located appr. 90 km behind the roadcamp, there is nothing but a small slope, made by a chain-driven vehicle. The vehicles manage the situation very good, although we have to shovel and break the track over and over again. Weather is excellent. Nearly no wind and starlit. We are only running on air pressure of 0.1 (front) and 0.2 (rear) any more.

GPS cords: N 67 40`00" / W 176 50`59"


March 15, 2009: 47th short message (03:04 p.m. MEZ)


We did it. We reached Vacarem at the Arctic Ocean, which is inhabited by Chukchi people, after shoveling, track scouting, deflating, winching and so on. Temperature appr. -30?C, storm force 4, light snow fall. Team in good health, fuel reserve ok. Now we are resting. Together with local people we will tomorrow discuss the opportunity to reach Nuteplement from here. The countdown to the Bering Strait started: Appr. 400km left.

GPS cords: N 67 50`22" / W 175 52`15"





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  #59  
Old 03-28-2009, 01:55 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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Posts: 89
March 21, 2009: 48th short message (11:18 p.m. MEZ)

The plan was to decamp at 5 a.m., but due to a delay with the welding repair at F1, it is now 10.30 a.m. Wind is starting to blow. The predicted next storm arriving. Visibility appr. 300m, we eventually have to stay here until the storm is over. The DWD forecasted bad weather until the end of the week.

March 22, 2009: 49th short message (01:59 a.m. MEZ)

Perhaps it is the right time for news I normally do not write, but it reflects our feelings.

Certainly the expedition is currently in a difficult situation. Due to the global economic crisis we have to bare big losses. Exhausted of many technical backlashes and the fight against snow masses (more intense than for a long time), we are mobilizing every possible motivation to stand up against the difficulties. We try to fight with all power and emotion for continuation and hope that history is on our side.

Thanks to all who currently work for us, believe in us and keep their fingers crossed. Thanks to my team in Limburg, explicitly to you, J?rgen for you tremendous amount of good work and invested time.

The upcoming storm is taking our breath. If we do not manage to escape before it arrives, we have to stay here in Vacarem for another week. We try it and decamp. We informed nuteplement, we have left a note to a driver who is on his way to Vacarem. If necessary both can come for help.


March 22, 2009: 50th short message (04:49 a.m. MEZ)

We got stuck in the ice and have to shovel a lot. Currently overheated engine. Fan out of order. Emergency reparation done. After 1 hour warmth again in the vehicle.

THREE kilometers in THREE hours.


March 22, 2009: 51st short message (12:57 p.m. MEZ)

How much effort did we invest and with us so many others, but ...

The "Paris / New York - Transcontinental 2009" - expedition currently came to a stop. Yesterday evening the journey was ended by a heavy hit at F1. We do not know the reason by now, but currently a continuation is impossible with that noise emission.

We are currently located at GPS cords N 67 48`03" / W 175 46`47" onto the Artic Ocean directly at the shore line.

Team is in good health, food reserve for 10 days, fuel reserve 1300l.


March 22, 2009: 52nd short message (09:00 p.m. MEZ)

Salvage operation finished. Team, vehicle and trailer safely reached Vakarem after 26 hours of driving, supported by a chain driven vehicle. Further progress currently in planning.



March 24, 2009: 53rd short message (01:30 a.m. MEZ)

We try to leave Vacarem as soon as possible before the storm starts over again. We fixed F1 rough-and-ready in 12 hours outside night work. Now it is at least movable. We literally try to punch through to Egvekinot by front drive only. Cross fingers for us. 300km of snow drifts without any other vehicle. The last trucks left Vacarem yesterday before the storm, but did not have F1 movable at that time. Food reserve for 10 days, fuel reserve appr. 530l. Team in good health but partly very tired.


March 24, 2009: 54th short message (05:30 a.m. MEZ)


With the storm behind us, we are shoveling towards Egvekinot. 60km in 12 hours with 2/1 rate. 2 meter forward, 1 meter backward in order to take a run-up... and so on...


March 25, 2009: 55th short message (02:07 a.m. MEZ)


What a drudgery. Team to some extent 46 hours awake - reaching personal limits. 24 hours and 100km with "two-step". 2m forward, 1m backward in order to take a run-up. Continuous shoveling due to snow drifts. We just slept some few hours because we necessarily had to leave the deep snow. We did not catch up with the trucks, so we have to struggle on our own. Food reserve 8 days. Fuel reserve 240l plus full main tank. Visibility worsens. Only minutes between sunhine and maximum 10 meters.


March 25, 2009: 56th short message (04:17 a.m. MEZ)


First one-third with front-drive done. We reached a mine after appr. 61 hours and 108 km behind Vacarem. Since hours we are waiting for a truck which tries to reach the mine of Egvekinot. We will decamp when it arrives in order to use the track. Probably today evening.


March 25, 2009: 57th short message (12:55 p.m. MEZ)

The storm is blowing like everything should be destroyed what has been built by humans here around. No chance of decamping. We will wait until the truck leaves the mine. This will probably happen tomorrow at midday.


March 26, 2009: 58th short message (06:39 a.m. MEZ)


Marco and Konstantin on their way to Egvekinot in the truck. Ulli and Matthias try to break through with the Jeep. Meanwhile lost tire and linchpin rear-left. We provisionally blocked and mounted the tire with belts. I am curious how a Wrangler MT/R manages to be pulled over snow, ice and stones in blocked mode. Will it manage 150km?

GPS cords.: N 67 24`47" / W 177 24`01"


March 26, 2009: 59th short message (06:39 a.m. MEZ)


The tire made it, but after 60km the whole thing broke apart again. We used a wooden piece as runner - 90km left.







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  #60  
Old 04-05-2009, 04:01 AM
BlueGerbil BlueGerbil is offline
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Posts: 89
March 26, 2009: 60th short message (11:50 p.m. MEZ)

In the last night, we reached Egvekinot with front drive and a missing back wheel. It was an amazing "strange handicap run".

We met two Ural truck drivers on the way, who stayed and helped us. One of them let me cut of his dirt trap of one the wheels in order to build a sledge surface under the wheel, the other gave me his fender and some wood to attach it. At another spot one organized a damaged wheel out of thin air in order to bond it below the axis. Many thanks to you two super truckers.

Now there is the task to quickly organize spare parts for both vehicles. Juergen Graf and his team is busy working on it and they try to make everything possible. I hope we will manage it in short time. Together with the team I am currently working on further solutions. We have still a maximum of 8 weeks left to reach Uelen. After that, snow and ice will melt and it would be impossible.




April 02, 2009: New video clip

Quote:

Dear partners, friends, and fans,

The expedition is currently still in Egvekinot, and the expedition team as well as the employees from Limburg/Germany and all involved helpers are working with full pressure on necessary reparations and the development of strategies for the further progress of the expedition according to the current challenges.

In order to let you participate in the life of the team, we finalized and provide you a new video clip of the part from Jaktusk to Bilibino via the following link:

http://www.pny2009.com/cms/front_con...cat=659&lang=4

Best regards,

your Extrem Events team
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