In Dikson, Russia's Northernmost Town
73° 30,346' N, 80° 30,212' E
After a pleasant two day sailing from Novaya Zemlya, we anchored for lunch on the western side of the Arkticheskogo Island on the Kara Sea at 75° 08,347' N, 81° 53,482' E. On the way there, we had to zigzag through floe and drift ice that eventually blocked our way to the eastern side of the island where we had originally planned to anchor. In the afternoon, when the wind started picking up, we decided to continue to Dikson where we arrived the day after.
In Port Dikson, we were given a warm welcome by the Harbour Master, and to our great surprise in fluent English! He came to greet us and handed us a book on Dikson and a penant depicting the emblems of the town, a polar bear and the Big Dipper. The following morning, a car arrived to the wharf to take us on a sightseeing tour during which we went to the bank to exchange euros for rubles, to the grocery store to buy fresh produce, and to the Town Hall where Pekka and Pavel were interviewed by the local newspaper, after which we had tea with the Mayor.
After the tea, we went to see the school, the school museum, the brand new orthodox church built in 2012, the town art gallery, the library, several war monuments etc. It was a whole day excursion and a very interesting one at that!
During the Soviet Era, there had been more than 6,000 people living in Dikson, working both for the military/government and at a fish processing factory, a dairy farm, a trade and service centre etc. Today, the town has less than 650 inhabitants, almost all employed by the government.
The name Dikson (or Dixon or Dickson) was given to the town in 1894 after Oscar Dickson, a Swedish merchant who financed the Arctic expeditions of the Finnish explorer Baron Adolf Erik Nordenskjöld, the first to traverse the Northern Sea Route in 1878-9.
We have now been five days in Dikson and, officially, we are still not allowed to go ashore unattended. We also have to have our passport with us at all times. We asked the Mayor about this but all she could say was that this had nothing to do with the civil government. So it is the military that have the final say in restricting our movement. But why this is so, we do not understand.
In practice, we have interpreted this rule so that we can go to town to attend to any business that we deem necessary, for example, to use the library's computer to access the internet or to go to the grocery store to buy more ice cream. So far, this has worked fine!