I had never been to Siberia before this assignment, so spending three weeks traveling there was extraordinary. Siberia is a beautifully raw and remote place that makes you feel like you're on the moon. I could look around forever and hardly ever see another person on the horizon.
While in Siberia I traveled for about five days on a boat with a fossil dealer named Fyodor Shidlovskiy. He'd heard there was a woolly mammoth skeleton farther up the river. Fyodor arranged for an industrial workboat to transport us without telling the crew there would be ten people in our group. There weren't enough beds for everyone, so the crew kindly gave up their bunks and slept in the corridors. Later on in the trip we got ahold of some bad fish, and people started getting sick. So if we felt like we were going to lose our lunch, we had to start down the corridors early because one never knew how many bodies we'd have to step over. At one point I even thought one man from Texas wasn't going to survive. We had some really dicey moments. By the time we finally got to the mammoth site, we found only two bones. It was just unbelievable. We'd traveled all this way to see virtually nothing.
After an 18-hour bus ride, I caught an "informal" flight to Siberia on a Russian cargo plane. At one point we were running so low on fuel that the pilots had to start making some critical decisions. Should they land at an airbase, refuel, and risk getting caught, or keep flying? They decided it was safer to keep flying.