National Geographic : 1992 Jun
The fifth member of the crew, Galya, watched this nonsense with a shy smile. At 25 she was the youngest person on board, but with a six-year-old son (who stays at home with grandma) and her calm, matronly ways, she seemed somehow the most mature. She was also recently divorced. "Now I have one child to care for instead of two," she offhandedly told Barbara, with whom she shared the galley as a sleeping cabin. As we ate our usual breakfast of black bread, our lunch of black bread and potato soup, or our supper of black bread, potato soup, and fish, Galya watched us with a Mona Lisa smile. "OK?" she'd ask as we slurped down yet another bowl of potato soup. "Dva raza OK," I'd say-two times OK-lacking the heart to kid Galya about a meal she'd worked so hard on. There's only so much one can do, after all, with potatoes on a Russian ship. Also present at our table, in a sense, was the bearded, hawk-eyed man this ship was named for-Vladimir Obruchev, the father of Siberian geology, who observed us from a framed photograph on the bulkhead. Obruchev first came to Baikal in 1888 to do fieldwork for his definitive geology of the Russian Empire. His conclusion-that Local citizens raised a national outcry three decades ago over construction of the Baikalsk Cellulose-PaperPlant(right) on the lakeshore. The plantpol lutes only a tiny portion of the lake, but that does not mollify many Russians. "Baikalsk has become a national symbol," explains one official, "of the dangersfacing our environ ment." Less publicized but just as threatening are coal-fired power plants in towns like Slyudyanka (below), which may do as much harm by caus ing acid rain.