For Fans of the Home Team

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Discussing “Across the Ussuri Kray” in Vladimir Arsenyev’s dining room.

I was in Vladivostok, Primorye earlier this week where I had the pleasure to conduct a pair of interviews with local television stations about Vladimir Arsenyev and my translation of his 1921 classic “Across the Ussuri Kray.”

The first interview took place at Arsenyev’s home in Vladivostok–now a museum–and was conducted at his dining room table. It was a humbling experience to be talking about this influential figure, among his belongings, in the house where he died in 1930.

The second interview was a few blocks away, at the natural history museum where Arsenyev worked, a place that has been called the Arsenyev Museum since 1945.

People in Vladivostok (and across all of Primorye) are fiercely proud of Arsenyev and his contributions to understanding the cultural and natural histories of the region. He is a hometown hero, someone whose name is synonymous with Primorye’s wilderness and identity.

My translation is not for sale in Russia, so my purpose with these interviews was not to sell books. Rather, I sought to show Primorye residents that Arsenyev’s influence reaches beyond the Russian Far East. That the hometown hero has fans abroad.

Full video is here, both in Russian: (1) Interview 1: OTV; (2) Interview 2: VestiPrimorye 

 

 

 

Fish Owls on the BBC

 

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Pretending to be speaking live on the radio. 

Earlier this month I spoke about fish owls on a BBC World Service program called Outlook, which reaches approximately 52 million listeners across the globe. I think it turned out well.

If interested, follow the link to hear this seven-minute piece. They added music and sound effects to make it moody!

Where There Is No Tractor

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No matter how prepared I think I am, nature will find a way to knock me down a peg. Photograph © J. Slaght

This post first appeared on 16 March, 2016 on Scientific American.

One of my favorite Russian sayings, roughly translated, is that the better your off-road vehicle, the further you’ll have to walk to find a tractor to pull you free when you get stuck.

I consider this phrase regularly during each Blakiston’s fish owl winter field season. We purposefully seek out the hard-to-reach places; the quiet corners of Primorye these secretive owls might be found. We cross narrow mountain passes, struggle through gauntlets of willow along overgrown forest roads, and gun it across rivers of uncertain ice integrity. The waters are not usually very deep, but it’s never pleasant to break through.

Inevitably though, we do find ourselves stuck, or come across others in need of tractors. I spent much of February 2016 looking for fish owls with a team of three Russians led by Sergei, a fish owl veteran and an extremely resourceful fellow in the field. Three instances the past few weeks reminded me of this.

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