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Exploring the Putorana Plateau
Step into the world of writers and photographers as they tell you about the best, worst, and quirkiest places and adventures they encountered in the field.

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By Fen Montaigne Photographs by Randy Olson

An expedition seeks Siberia’s wild heart.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

The view was magnificent—mile after mile of flat-topped mountains receding to the Arctic horizon—though it was difficult to appreciate if you were on your hands and knees on the side of one of those plateaus, clinging to shards of scree. Vasily Sarana, chief of the Russian Geographic Society’s Putorana expedition and a mountaineer who seemed capable of bounding up vertical walls, was not in such an undignified position, however. Standing tall, he turned around on the vertiginous slope and scanned the horizon of his favorite corner of Russia.

* * * * *

As an angler, I was astonished at the abundance of arctic grayling in the Yagtali. These exquisite fish, with their sail-like dorsal fins, milled around by the score in deep pools below the waterfalls. I caught my share on a fly rod, and Gennady Shklyarik, who has spent a dozen years on geologic expeditions in the Russian Arctic, turned them into a delicious dish of raw fish marinated in vinegar, salt, and pepper.

“Grayling,” he said, “have fed the whole Russian north.”

* * * * *

On our next-to-last night in Putorana, the Arctic displayed its wonders. But first, as we sat outside at a makeshift wooden table eating Kolya Anisimov‘s signature dish of rice pilaf and downing vodka (bottles stashed for weeks kept appearing on the table), Sarana screamed and dashed up a slope behind me. Turning, I saw flames leaping out of his tent. A stove had set the fabric on fire. Sarana managed to rescue his beloved Siberian husky, Lama, from inside the tent, and we stomped out the flames. “It’s only a tent,” someone said, and the toasts continued.

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic Magazine.

Devastating pollution on the Central Siberian Plateau? Learn more and share your opinion.

In More to Explore the National Geographic Magazine team shares some of their best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did you know that caribou and reindeer are the same animal? Rangifer tarandus is known as caribou in the New World and reindeer in the Old World. However, two different animals are called elk. The American elk is Cervus elaphus, whereas the European elk is Alces alces, more commonly known as a moose in North America.

Welcome to Wild Russia
Sponsored by the Center for Russian Nature Conservation (CRNC). The site features profiles of flora, fauna, and conservation status of several Russian zapovedniks (nature reserves). CRNC publishes Russian Conservation News (next entry).

Russian Conservation News
www.russianconservation.org or www.igc.org/bcc-west
Russian Conservation News is an online newsletter covering endangered species and ecosystems, protected areas, and conservation initiatives in northern Eurasia. The site is a good source for links to other pages on Russian wilderness.

Norilsk Nickel
Norilsk Nickel is the largest metal company in Russia, which conducts all mining and metal processing in Norilsk. The site offers information on the production of nickel, copper, cobalt, and platinum in Russia.

The Ultimate Ungulate
Here you will find everything you want to know about several species of these hoofed mammals. You will also find snow sheep features at www.ultimateungulate.com/snowsheep.html.

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)
AMAP reports on Arctic polar ecology, ozone depletion, climate change, radioactivity, heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, peoples of the north, pollution, and human health.

Journey to Other Worlds
Check out this online exhibition, “Journey to Other Worlds: Siberian Collections from the Russian Museum of Ethnography” featuring native peoples of Siberia.

The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire
The Red Book profiles 85 endangered peoples.

Centre for Russian Studies
The Centre for Russian Studies Database profiles ethnic groups in Russia.


Bobrick, Benson. East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia. Poseidon Press, 1992.

Erwin, Douglas. “The Mother of Mass Extinctions,” Scientific American, Jul. 1996, 72-8.

Erwin, Douglas. The Great Paleozoic Crisis: Life and Death in the Permian. Columbia University Press, 1993.

Renne, Paul and Asish Basu. “Rapid Eruption of the Siberian Traps Flood Basalts at the Permo-Triassic Boundary,” Science, Vol. 253 (Jul. 12, 1991), 176-9.

Shackleton, David, ed. Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives. IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group, 1997.

Sigurdsson, Haraldur, ed. Encyclopedia of Volcanoes. Academic Press, 2000.

Stewart, John Massey. The Nature of Russia. Boxtree Limited, 1992.


Montaigne, Fen and Gerd Ludwig. “Russia’s Iron Road.” National Geographic, June. 1998, 2-33.

National Geographic’s Last Wild Places. National Geographic Books, 1996.

Archibald, George. “The Fading Call of the Siberian Crane.” National Geographic, May 1994, 124-136.

Polosmak, Natalya and Charles O’Rear. “A Mummy Unearthed From the Pastures of Heaven.” National Geographic, Oct. 1994, 80-103.

Ice Tombs of Siberia. National Geographic Videos, 1994.

Hodgson, Bryan. “Hard Harvest on the Bering Sea.” National Geographic, Oct. 1992, 72-109.


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