National Geographic : 2017 Oct
124 national geographic • october 2017 more eruptions were reported on the peninsula. One occurred near the camp of a herder. brigade 4 haS a deadline: a day and an hour when, by appointment with Gazprom, it is to cross the busiest road through Bovanenkovo. After two days of picking our way through an industrial maze, we finally reach the crossing place. On the concrete road, large trucks roll by every minute. Crossing is treacherous for both reindeer and herders. “ This is why we coordinate the road crossings with Gazprom,” says Galina Mataras, director of a nongovernmental organization that represents the Nenets herders. “It’s taken a lot of time and effort to make sure that the crossing is expedient and safe.” At the appointed hour, traffic is stopped and a large swath of white geotextile fabric is unrolled across the road. The fabric eases the movement of sleighs across the concrete slabs. For Gazprom the “white carpet” affair is an an- nual photo opportunity. A helicopter has flown in from Salekhard to deliver representatives of the company, the herders’ own business enterprise, a couple of NGOs, the regional government, and the local press. As the reindeer caravan begins the crossing, Gazprom and the press document the event. Workers in crisp blue coveralls, with a silver Gazprom logo branded on their backs, line up on both sides of the white carpet to take pic- tures and get selfies with the herd. “That’s it!” announces Nyadma, after we’ve crossed the road at last. “No more roads or pipe- lines. We don’t have to rush and break camp every night now. We can take our time fishing. “It wasn’t easy, when Gazprom arrived,” he goes on. In the early years at Bovanenkovo, af- ter construction began in the 1980s, rail lines, pipelines, roads, sandpits, and buildings were popping up everywhere. “We felt trapped, like there was no place for us on our ancestral land,” Nyadma says. “ We understand that the country needs natural gas, and once the main construc- tion stopped, we figured a way around this mess. We can cope with it.” He pauses. “As long as they don’t build any more roads or pipelines.” An hour later we stop on a high knoll, and Nyadma peers through his field glasses, scouting the pass ahead. His sons Gosha and Ilya pull up in their sleighs. Now everybody is looking in the same direction through their binoculars, talking agitatedly in Nenets. In the distance a new dirt road scars the tundra. Later we discover a new feeder line parallel to the road; connecting a gas well to a compressor, it cut across our next campsite. Neither the road nor the pipe were here three summers ago, when the brigade last passed through. The Nenets hadn’t been alerted to their construction. They shouldn’t be there, Nyadma says. at the caMpSite, between the road and the pipeline, I discover the source of the distant hum I heard a few days ago. Just a few hundred yards away now, it’s a crimson ball of fire belching out of a sooty pipe—a gas flare that serves to release excess pressure from the pipeline. In the swirling As Brigade 4 prepares to break camp and move to a new pasture, Natalia Puiko, 18, holds a rope with other women to corral the reindeer. The men will pick out bulls from the herd to pull the sleighs.