Zhupanova River - Monday 13 Aug, 2007
On a beautiful sunny morning we disembarked on five zodiacs to explore Zhupanova River which flows from the Kamchatka Eastern Range to the Pacific. The first challenge was to find the way into the mouth of Zhupanova River. The river watershed includes slopes of at least the three nearest volcanoes which are covered with thick layers of volcanic ash. Thus water washes these ash deposits into the stream, building islands and submerged sand bars. The first two zodiacs navigated by Wayne and our purser Andy found out how shallow was the water at the mouth of the river by hitting sand bars. On our way upstream we enjoyed the four magnificent volcanoes in our view, Karyakskiy with its snow covered slopes; the three-coned structure of Zhupanova volcano; the old, mostly eroded Zhupanovskie Vostryaki volcano; and Karymskiy volcano to the north. Karymskiy volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Kamchatka, starting to erupt in 2002 and never stopping since. From the river we saw several steam and ash clouds being released from its crater. During our cruise we peered at several immature Stella's sea eagles resting on drift wood in the middle of the stream and on a tree in their big nests. We also saw a number of curious harbor seals. Our planned stop to tour and have lunch at the Russian fish processing plant at the mouth of Zhupanova River was canceled because of an electrical outage at the plant. Instead we returned to the ship just in time, as we finished our lunch, to see Karymskiy volcano have a major eruption, releasing a column of ash up to 4,000 meters high in the air. It was a most spectacular sight! Wind blew the cloud of ash in the north-eastern direction as more ash belched out of the crater.
While we could have enjoyed watching the ongoing eruption from the deck for all of the afternoon, we embarked on zodiacs again and went on shore for a long hike up to a cliff and for a short hike along the beach. While walking on the beach we saw bear foot prints on the wet sand. We were wandering towards where a bear was heading. It turned out that the bear went up to the top of the ridge, just as our fittest hikers did. Luckily they returned back without any interaction with the bear. Around 5 o'clock zodiacs began to take people back to the ship. From the second zodiac we noticed a moving spot on the top of the ridge and realized that it was bear's head. Cruising towards the coast we witnessed the brown bear running down the crumbling steep slope towards the shore, going into the water for a short swim, and then returning back to shore to run around the peninsula through a number of sea arches. After a short chase of the bear we returned back to the ship to yet have another delicious dinner.