Famous in the scientific world, polar explorer Anatoly Kochnev has lived for over three decades in the Far North near the Chukchi Sea on uninhabited islands, exploring the life of walruses, seals and polar bears. How did he do it?
He was born in Irkutsk in 1963. He graduated from the biology department of the local university, and as a student practiced in Chukotka, where he observed walruses. And since then, his whole life has been connected with remote areas of the Chukchi Sea and its inhabitants.

Photo by Anatoly Kochnev. We missed you …

For ten years Kochnev lived and worked on Wrangel Island. With Japanese colleagues, he made a film about the nature of the island, published the book “The Kingdom of the Polar Bear”, prepared a PhD thesis, published a monograph, and published over 40 scientific and popular articles. He is also a member of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia, his works are presented at exhibitions in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Anadyr. Married, a schoolgirl daughter is growing up. My favorite writer is Jules Verne. Remotely works as a senior researcher at the Institute of Biological Problems of the North.

Photo by Anatoly Kochnev. I’m fooling around

And then he will tell you everything himself.

— I am a rare guest in my father’s house. Of course, I long for my small homeland, where mom, dad, sister, relatives and friends live, — Anatoly Anatolyevich shares. — When I come, I try to make time for a trip to Lake Baikal. I was 13 years old when my father, a famous field geologist, took me on an expedition to the north of the Irkutsk region in the Vitim taiga. That adventure left an indelible mark on the soul, which determined the further path.

Then there were expeditions to northern Mongolia and Turkmenistan. And as a 3rd year student, I lived alone for over two months in Chukotka on the island of Aramkachen in the Bering Strait. In the past, deer were regularly driven here in early spring, but otherwise the island is uninhabited. In one direction — the sea to the horizon, fountains of whales, walruses, in the other — the endless tundra with the mating dances of arctic foxes and foxes. It’s beautiful! I fell in love with these places. By the end of the practice, a helicopter with an inspector came for me. At parting, he waved his cap at me and shouted: “Come, Robinson, next summer. I’ll be waiting.” I promised, and I came back.

Photo by Anatoly Kochnev. Will you be the third?

Then, I remember, my student friends asked me: “Honestly, wasn’t it scary to be alone among wild animals? Did you even have a gun?” And they were surprised, because my only weapon was an axe.

Dad, of course, saw me as his continuation of the geologist, but I was more attracted to wildlife. In 1985, I finally moved to Chukotka, where I studied marine mammals. He worked in the marine St. John’s wort inspection at Cape Schmidt, in the reserve on Wrangel Island. While researching walruses, I studied their habits and relationships with the surrounding animals. The knowledge gained became small personal discoveries, which then formed the basis of major scientific papers.

Photo by Anatoly Kochnev. On a steep slope …

— Have you found a common language with bears?

— A special behavior strategy allowed us to survive. Bears lived without regard for humans. They quickly got used to my unobtrusive observation and allowed me to get very close. I did not part with the camera.
Day after day, hour after hour, I saw only icy hills and extensive congestion for thousands of kilometers. It is in such a harsh country that the largest four—legged predator of the planet, the polar bear, lives and thrives.

Photo by Anatoly Kochnev. The hard work of being a mom

I had to give up the illusion that a wild animal could be tamed. Flirting with him is dangerous, first of all, for himself. He can enter the village of the Chukchi without malice, where he will easily be shot. I do not climb with a lens to every bear, I manage to capture only old acquaintances. I have a dozen and a half of them. And I just drive away strangers. Otherwise, you risk being eaten at any moment.

I have a summer cottage on a small island where bears and walruses live. I would like to settle there in my old age, but this is an impossible dream…

By Pavel Kushkin

We suggest you look at Anatoly Kochnev’s page “Arctic photo comics” in LiveJournal. Here we publish only a few photos from this magazine.