Zodiac man gets his day
Rodney Russ lives for the times he is at the rudder of a Zodiac.
For the owner of Heritage Expeditions, the New Zealand-based company that is operating the Russian research ship Professor Khromov in the Bering Sea, the more challenging the conditions the better.
So it was with disappointment that Russ was forced to put the inflatable boat with the outboard motor away, after he had donned his wet-weather gear and readied the craft for a spin off the Siberian coast in late August.
The plan was nixed by the Russian navy representative on board.
It took months for the joint U.S.-Russian RUSALCA oceanographic expedition to get the necessary clearances to travel through Russian waters in the Khromov, deploying data-gathering moorings, and using a high-tech instrument to take water samples.
There was nothing in the permits about zipping around the ship in a Zodiac. Doing it could jeopardize the RUSALCA mission, which is geared to gauging the impact of global warming on the region over several years.
The next day, the ship’s research path took it slowly back toward the Russian-United States border, which lies between two tiny inhabited islands – Big Diomede and Little Diomede (Little’s on the U.S. side).
The moment the Khromov crossed the border, Russ lowered his Zodiac into the Bering Strait, and invited some passengers to take some pictures of the ship and its cold-water surroundings as it sat just on the U.S. side of the boundary between the two onetime Cold War foes.
The sea was glasslike, so it wasn’t the high-seas adventure it could have been for Russ, who began his career as a wildlife biologist. No matter.
“I was keen for the program to get some photographs,” he said. “I’m always raring to go. If there’s a chance to drive a Zodiac, I’ll go in.”
(Photo – Rodney Russ powers his Zodiac away from the Russian research ship Professor Khromov in U.S. waters of the Bering Strait on August 28, 2009. REUTERS/Jeffrey Jones)