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Page history last edited by Teresa Almeida d'Eca 13 years, 4 months ago



(Construction World)






A German title in our Yakutsk workshop wiki??!! There's a very good explanation. You'll certainly be as amazed as I was when on 15 November 2010 I read a message from a total stranger, Brigitte Schultz, Editor of Stadtbauwelt. I didn't consider it spam, because the subject line caught my attention: "Picture of Jakutsk for publication in German Magazine".


To cut a long story short, "Bauwelt", "a Berlin based non-commercial architectural weekly magazine" (paper edition only), publishes "Stadtbauwelt" four times a year. It's a special issue on urban culture. In December they were going to publish an issue about "Modern Ghost Towns", "focussing on the different reasons – manmade and else – why towns are abandoned now or might be abandoned in the future".


A photo I had taken of Yakutsk from the air as we were approaching landing on 20 March 2010 (published in my Flickr page) caught their attention, so they were asking my permission "to publish it with an article on possible abandoned towns in 2100, as Jakutsk is said to be treatened by climate change, being built on permafrost soil which might melt".


Here's part of my reply that same day. It explains that I didn't give immediate permission, much less lightheartedly.

"... I must also admit that it feels very strange to maybe have it included in an issue about “Modern Ghost Towns”. Let me explain why. It was my first trip to Russia. I travelled 9000 kms on my own to give a 5-day workshop on Web 2.0 tools to English teachers from the Republic of Sahka/Yakutia. For that I'm considered "a very brave Portuguese lady".  :-)


I started falling in love with Yakutsk from the air, as the plane approached the airport. I was very warmly received by everyone from the very first moment. Everybody wanted to meet me and be my guides and hosts/hostesses. I fell in love with the people and the city, including its suburbs. Everything and everybody truly captivated me and hold a very special place in my heart. And I feel a very true sense of allegiance to all those who hosted me and made me feel truly at home.


Though I understand your reasons for wishing to include my photo in the "Modern Ghost Towns" issue of your magazine, I would like to first make sure that nothing negative or pejorative is said about Yakutsk and its people. For me, that would be a betrayal on my part to all those who exceeded my wildest expectations.


I know that this sounds very sentimental, but that's how I am. What I said above makes me think twice about giving my permission, though the idea honors me.


All in all, I would appreciate it if you could let me know that nothing "negative or pejorative" is included in the article, that only natural and man-made reasons will be focused, before I give you my permission.


One last detail that may be very relevant to you. The photo was taken with my iPhone - kind of surreptitiously -, so the resolution isn't as you'd like. It's 1600 x 1200. I have another one that I can also send..."


Later that day Brigitte gave me the guarantees I needed.

"I can absolutely assure you that we will not write anything negative about Yakutsk! We have a series of pictures that deal with cities that are threatened, for different reasons. Some are threatened by desertification, some because of the rising sea levels, some because of a lack of population. Yakutsk is supposed to be our example of how the climate change threatens a city, because it is built on permafrost soil and will have a very serious problem when it gets warmer and the soil melts more than it does at the moment in the summer, as the Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar- and Sea-Science has prognosticated. Therefore, what we intend with the article is the opposite of „negative press“, as we want to call peoples attention to the fact that if global warming goes on like at the moment, we might lose towns or even big cities that are very dear to us."


After this introduction, which I consider relevant to put things into context for all my dear friends in Yakutsk, here's an image of the article in German with my photo and name. (I received a copy of the magazine by snail mail on 24 January 2011.)





And here's the English translation of the article. I did it online with Yahoo Babel Fish. Then I improved it using my somewhat rusty knowledge of German from my college days and a German-English dictionary in my hand (3 Feb 2011).



Yakutsk, Russia: Global warming 

In Russia the possible defrosting/thawing/melting of the permafrost, which covers 65 per cent of the country, places one of the largest dangers due to global warming. The largest and moderately flat republic of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Sahka (also Yakutia) in the northeast of Russia, which lies 98 percent on permafrost, is particularly concerned. Its capital Yakutsk, with approximately 270,000 inhabitants, is the largest city, completely based on permafrost. Located only 450 kilometers below the northern polar circle, the temperatures here vary between +30°C in the summer and under -50°C in the winter, so that the 300 meters deep frost layer thaws out in the summer around up to two meters.


These extreme conditions are always a constructional problem for the building of houses in Yakutsk. Thus the traditional wooden houses in their center, where the waste heat of the house additionally melts the ground, sag/sink/drop more deeply into the ground. Because concrete foundations in the thawed out summer ground begin to swim and gradually tip, the Permafrost Institut of the Siberian Academy of Sciences developed a special building method, with which the houses were put on concrete pillars in Yakutsk in the 1940s, so that the waste heat under the house can be ventilated. The load-carrying capacity of the columns depends on the condition of the ground, its temperature and the length of the embedding of the column in the permafrost layer.


The unexpectedly rapid rise of the annual average temperature in East Siberia of -10 to -8 degrees in the last 25 years, and the associated rising ground temperature in Sahka, continuously increases the depth in the summer of the thawed layer and thereby endangers the load-carrying capacity of the columns, which are dimensioned according to the ground condition of the 40s. Between 1990 and 1999 the number of the building damage due to unequal dropping/sinking of the foundation increased the costs over 60 percent, so the preservation of the buildings becomes in the meantime partly intolerable for the owners. Already over 300 buildings were heavily damaged by the dropping/sinking of the thawing ground, among them also larger complexes, including a power station. Scientists of the UN world climatic IPCC warn that the further heating up which can be expected could damage not only many houses, but also the infrastructure of the city and its environment, like roads, lines and pipelines, which were not all designed on the basis of the present climate substantial change.



A final note: Brigitte was "very amazed that one can do pictures like that with an i-phone" (I'd add, especially one of the first-generation i-Phones). And I was very honored to have one of my photos of Yakutsk, a city I hold very dearly in my heart, published in a German magazine. That's the power of the Internet and global communication!  :-)


6 Feb. 2011



Comments (1)

Elena said

at 12:19 am on Apr 13, 2011

Wow, that's true - the Internet is the greatest thing!
Very nice picture!
I hope these pessimistic predictions won't happen to our motherland.

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