National Geographic : 1967 Mar
told us, stood at 58° below zero Fahrenheit. And yet, amaz ingly, this breath-catching, face-burning, subarctic atmos phere was thick with fog. Nowhere in nature does fog exist at temperatures far below freezing. Cold air is dry and clear, and this is as true in supercooled Siberia as in my native Wyoming-except where men and their works are gathered. For the frozen fog of Yakutsk, I discovered, is "human-habitation fog," caused by the exhalations of people, their homes and buildings, their animals, and their machines. It is the fate of Siberian townsmen to live out each bitter, windless winter in a dense mist of their own making. Romance Hampered by Winter's Grip A hundred passengers, overcoated, booted, fur-hatted, scurried across squeaking snow toward the indistinct mass of the terminal. Here, a waiting room like others of its kind everywhere in the world contained a welcome warmth and a sizable number of cheerful, baggageless young men and women who were obviously not passengers. Through my guide and interpreter, Yevgeniy Ruzhnikov (left), I asked the airport receptionist about them. "There is no love on the streets of Yakutsk when the winter cold is upon us. Romantic midnight strolls must wait for warm weather. These young folk are on their way home from their club. Their route brings them past the airport, Warm hospitality in a frigid land: The family of sculptor Semen Pesterov, second from right, feasts the author's party. Mrs. Peste rov offers chokhon, a frozen cheeselike delicacy, to Soviet journalist Yevgeniy Ruzhnikov, right, Mr. Conger's guide and interpreter. Working exclusively in ivory of the long-extinct mammoth, pre served in Siberia's permafrost, Mr. Pesterov shapes figures like the dashing horse-drawn sleigh below. His carving talent perpetuates an art of Yakut ancestors. KODACHROME (BELOW,LEFT)AND EKTACHROMES ( N.G.S. Probing secrets of permafrost, a scientist drills samples from a research cave that requires no shoring. Yakutsk's Permafrost Institute tackles the problem of unlocking natural treasures from perpetually frozen earth that underlies Siberia in places to depths of nearly a mile. The institute hopes to distribute natural gas with out pipes-sending it through tunnels in the rock-hard ground.