Photographer Finds Pack of Polar Bears Huddling in Old Soviet Dwellings on Lost Arctic Island in Russia

BY Michael Wing March 2, 2022

Like pale ghosts, a pack of white polar bears haunt a dilapidated, abandoned Soviet weather station on a small island in Russia’s Arctic far east.

This sleuth of spooky bears might have gone unnoticed on Kolyuchin Island had David Kokh, a 41-year-old Moscow-based photographer, not set sail on his long-awaited voyage to Wrangel Island last September. He shared how the remarkable encounter, and subsequent photoshoot of a lifetime, transpired.

“We sailed along the coast and covered more than 1,200 miles of untouched landscapes, villages lost in time, spots with various fauna, and seas full of life,” Kokh told The Epoch Times. “One day, bad weather was expected, so our captain approached a small island, Kolyuchin, to take shelter from the storm.”

That Arctic island, located off Russia’s northeastern coast, northwest of the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia, is known for its polar weather station that operated during Soviet times, the photographer said. It was finally closed in 1992, but an abandoned village still stands on the island today.

Kokh described feeling a “childlike sense of excitement” upon discovering the family of polar bears huddled amidst the dismal, depressing dwellings. “The stormy wind, rain, and neglected buildings on the rocky shores all made everything appear super surreal,” he said. “Suddenly, we noticed movement in the windows of the houses. Someone took out some binoculars and we saw the heads of polar bears!”

The bears appeared like wraiths amidst eerie fog on the long-deserted island. “It was the perfect setting,” he added.

Kokh was able to capture the wildlife on camera without disturbing them or exposing himself to danger by using his Mavic 2 Pro drone camera. The drone was equipped with low-noise propellers so as to not startle the enormous bears. He employed clever tricks and maneuvers with his drone to minimize the disturbance. “I was nowhere near them so was not in any danger,” he said.

There were polar bears standing guard like sentinels; peering through windows, alone or in pairs; loitering on porches; and lounging on the lawns outside—making for a wildlife shoot of a lifetime. “The bears walked around the houses, there was about twenty animals in sight at the same time, mostly males,” Kokh said. “The females kept to the side with their cubs, closer to the shores of the island.”

Besides the thrill of the encounter and satisfaction of capturing a rare and unique moment, Kokh was able to share the polar bear photoshoot with the world on his Instagram, where it went viral. “The moment when I encountered the polar bears at the abandoned meteorological station in the Northern Chukotka was very special for me, pretty sure I will never forget it,” he said. “I’m incredibly grateful I can share this moment with people from all around the world.”

Kokh believes that a photographer’s job is to “tell a story”—His story, he adds, is one of the relationship between ourselves, wildlife, and nature.

Courtesy of David Kokh

This week in history …

217 years ago Aaron Burr was on St. Simons and rode out a hurricane while on the north end. The ruins of John Couper’s house can still be seen on Cannons Point!

After Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel he came to St. Simons to avoid prosecution as dueling had been made illegal. While here he visited John Couper on Cannon’s Point and survived a hurricane. This is his letter to his daughter, it includes fascinating tidbits about life back then.

all that remains of John Couper’s house


St. Simon’s, September 3, 1804.

You see me returned from Gaston’s Bluff, now called ‘Hamilton’s Bluff’, a London merchant, partner of Mr. Couper. We were four in the carriage; the three ladies and myself.

Mr. Morse informs you that this island is forty-five miles long, and that it lies north of the mouth Altamaha, commonly spelled Alatamaha. It is, in fact, twelve and a half miles in length, and lies southeast of that river. Its width is about two and a half miles. There are now residing on the island about twenty-five white families. Frederica, now known only by the name of ‘Old Town’, is on the west side of the island, and about midway between its northern and southern extremities. It was first settled by Governor Oglethorpe, and was, about fifty years ago, a very gay place, consisting of perhaps twenty-five or thirty houses. The walls of several of them still remain. Three or four families only now reside here. In the vicinity of the town several ruins were pointed out to me, as having been, formerly, country seats of the governor, and officers of the garrison, and gentlemen of the town. At present, nothing can be more gloomy than what was once called Frederica. The few families now remaining, or rather residing there, for they are all new-comers, have a sickly, melancholy appearance, well assorted with the ruins which surround them. The southern part of this island abounds with fetid swamps, which must render it very unhealthy. On the northern half I have seen no stagnant water.

Mr. Couper, with his escort of ladies, was to have met us this afternoon, but he has sent us word that he is taken ill on the way; that, owing to illness in the family of the ladies who were to have accompanied him, they have been obliged to renounce the visit. We therefore returned as we went. At Frederica and Gaston’s Bluff we were convinced that insects can subsist on this island. Moschetoes, flies, and cockroaches abounded.

Thursday, September 6, 1804

Just returned from Darien. And what took you to Darien? To see the plantation of Mr. Butler on an island opposite that town, and to meet a day sooner the letters which I expected from you. In the last object I have been again disappointed, which I ascribe wholly to the irregularity of the mails. It is most mortifying and vexatious to be seven weeks without hearing of you or from you, and now a whole week must elapse before I can expect it.

You are probably ignorant that Darien is a settlement (called a town) on the north bank of the Alatamaha, about eight miles from its mouth. Major Butler’s Island in this river is one mile below the town. It must become a fine rice country, for the water is fresh four miles below Major Butler’s, and the tide rises from four to five feet, and the flats or swamps are from five to seven miles in width for a considerable distance up the river. The country, of course, presents no scenes for a painter. I visited Little St. Simon’s and several other islands; frightened the crocodiles, shot some rice-birds, and caught some trout. Honey of fine flavour is found in great abundance in the woods about the mouth of the river, and, for aught I know, in every part of the country. You perceive that I am constantly discovering new luxuries for my table. Not having been able to kill a crocodile (alligator), I have offered a reward for one, which I mean to eat, dressed in soup, fricassees, and steaks. Oh! how you long to partake of this repast.

Wednesday, September 12, 1804.

On Friday last, hearing that Mr. Couper had returned and was very seriously ill, I took a small canoe with two boys, and went to see him. He lay in a high fever. When about to return in the evening, the wind had risen so that, after an ineffectual attempt, I was obliged to give it up, and remain at Mr. C.’s. In the morning the wind was still higher. It continued to rise, and by noon blew a gale from the north, which, together with the swelling of the water, became alarming. From twelve to three, several of the out-houses had been destroyed; most of the trees about the house were blown down. The house in which we were shook and rocked so much that Mr. C. began to express his apprehensions for our safety. Before three, part of the piazza was carried away; two or three of the windows bursted in. The house was inundated with water, and presently one of the chimneys fell. Mr. C. then commanded a retreat to a storehouse about fifty yards off, and we decamped, men, women, and children. You may imagine, in this scene of confusion and dismay, a good many incidents to amuse one if one had dared to be amused in a moment of much anxiety. The house, however, did not blow down. The storm continued till four, and then very suddenly abated, and in ten minutes it was almost a calm. I seized the moment to return home. Before I had got quite over, the gale rose from the southeast and threatened new destruction. It lasted great part of the night, but did not attain the violence of that from the north; yet it contributed to raise still higher the water, which was the principal instrument of devastation. The flood was about seven feet above the height of an ordinary high tide. This has been sufficient to inundate great part of the coast; to destroy all the rice; to carry off most of the buildings which were on low lands, and to destroy the lives of many blacks. The roads are rendered impassable, and scarcely a boat has been preserved. Thus all intercourse is suspended. The mail-boat, which ought to have passed northward last Saturday, and by which it was intended to forward this letter, has not been heard of. This will go by a man who will attempt to get from Darien to Savannah on foot, being sent express by the manager of Major Butler; but how, or whether it will go on from Savannah, is not imagined.

Major Butler has lost nineteen negroes (drowned), and I fear his whole crop of rice, being about two hundred and sixty acres. Mr. Brailsford, of Charleston, who cultivates in rice an island at the mouth of the Alatamaha, has lost, reports say, seventy-four blacks. The banks and the buildings on the low lands are greatly injured. We have heard nothing from the southward, nor farther than from Darien northward. I greatly fear that this hurricane, so it is here called, has extended to the Waccama.

The illness of Mr. C., which still continues, and the effects of the storm, have defeated all my plans. To get to Florida seems now impracticable; nor do any present means occur of getting from this island in any direction. Young Swartwout, who went ten days ago to Savannah, has not returned, nor is it possible that he should very speedily return. I have not received a letter since my arrival from any person north of Savannah (yes, one from C. Biddle, of 19th August), nor do I expect one for many days to come.

I had taken up another sheet to say something more, I know not what; but the appearance of a fine sheep’s-head smoking on the table has attractions not to be resisted. ‘Laissez moi diner’, “and then,” &c.

Madame j’ais bien diner’, and ‘j’ai fait mettre mon’ writing-desk _sur le table a diner’. What a scandalous thing to sit here all alone drinking Champagne–and yet–(_madame je bois a votre santé et a celle de monsieur’ votre fils)–and yet, I say, if Champagne be that exhilarating cordial which (_je bois a la santé de Madame Sumtare) songs and rumour ascribe to it (a la santé de Mademoiselle Sumtare), can there be ever an occasion in which its application could be more appropriate, or its virtues more (_mais buvons a la santé de mon hôte et bon ami’, Major Butler). By-the-by, you have no idea–how should you have, seeing that you never heard a word about it?–you have no idea, I was going to say, of the zeal and animation, of the intrepidity and frankness with which he avowed and maintained–but I forget that this letter goes to Savannah by a negro, who has to swim half a dozen creeks, in one of which, ‘at least’, it is probable he may drown, and that, if he escape drowning, various other accidents may bring it to you through the newspapers, and then how many enemies might my indiscretion create for a man who had the sensibility and the honour to feel and to judge, and the firmness to avow (_a la santé de Celeste un’ bumper toast). ‘La pauvre Celeste’. Adieu.


𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐬 | 𝐆𝐑𝟖 𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐬 😎| 𝐒𝐨𝐮𝐭𝐡 𝐃𝐚𝐤𝐨𝐭𝐚

Marked one off the travel bucket list this week. Mount Rushmore is everything I heard it would be, and more. MUCH more.

I don’t know if it’s because what our country and countrymen are going through (and have BEEN through) but it was quite the emotional experience for me.

Mount Rushmore

Got some good close-ups too:

And some extreme closeups:

Me doing a live video in front of the monument 😎

The Meaning of Mount Rushmore

The four American Presidents carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore were chosen by the sculptor to commemorate the founding, growth, preservation, and development of the United States. They symbolize the principles of liberty and freedom on which the nation was founded. George Washington signifies the struggle for independence and the birth of the Republic; Thomas Jefferson the territorial expansion of the country; Abraham Lincoln the permanent union of the States, and equality for all citizens, and Theodore Roosevelt, the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs and the rights of common man.

You’ll find the details of how the monument came to be in the gallery/museum/theatre across from Mount Rushmore
What’s used to protect and maintain
Gutzon Borglum the artist, at work
Part 1
Part 2
Your first look will most likely be from the Highway leading up to the monument … it’s positively THRILLING
There’s currently construction 🚧
but the construction won’t affect your enjoyment

Well, I did my best to bring the Mount Rushmore experience TO you. Have you been? Are you planning to go? My family and I cannot wait to go back. There is SO much to see & do in South Dakota!

the obligatory selfie 😎
our happy girl 😍
that’s our Airstream being photobombed by George 😎

Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

So, the tallest tree in Wales was hit by lightning, but instead of tearing it down, the artist Simon O’Rourke transformed it into a magnificent sculpture.


Artist Simon O’Rourke used a chainsaw to carve a giant hand emerging from a tree stump.
Creating the piece was an intense process. O’Rourke worked in a scaffold and formed the hand over the course of six days.

The sculpture is now near Lake Vyrnwy, a reservoir in Powys, Wales where everyone can enjoy it.

Fall is in the air …🍁

I’m always sad to see summer go, but Fall is truly a beautiful season. Here’s a link to an interactive map, for all the leaf peepers out there.

Fall Foliage Map


The 2020 Fall Foliage Map is the ultimate visual planning guide to the annual progressive changing of the leaves. While not perfect, it’s meant to help travelers better time their trips, to have the best opportunity to view peak colors each year.

“A Penny Saved…”

She’s an amazingly life-sized sculpture carved entirely out of wood. A two hundred and ten pound butternut log, to be exact.

Sculptor Fred Cogelow, of Willmar, Minnesota, took six months to create her. Completed, she weighs in at 62.5 pounds after being hollowed out to prevent cracking.

She currently stands in the subway beneath the Marriott at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, in a gallery with equally impressive works of art.

She can be yours for a sum of $157,000 (dollars), but I have a selfish request.

PLEASE don’t buy her! It would break my heart 💔, and the hearts of those that welcome the pause, she gives us from our worries.

If she has to be bought, let Mayo Clinic be the one 🙏🏻🙏🏻