March 01, 2020

Winter Ferry Tale

If a vessel is unlucky enough to be berthed as a river ferry in Yakutsk, it will spend most of its life frozen into the surface of the Lena River. For in this northern Siberian river city, the navigational period lasts just 4.5 months.

Yet, as a ferry, it will be valued as a vital link in this metropolis of 300,000, which, as it happens, lies on the opposite side of the Lena River from both the main railroad line connecting Yakutia to Neryungri and the rest of the country’s rail network, and the Lena Highway, which connects to the Transsiberian road network.

This winter, authorities finally agreed to build a bridge between Yakutsk and Nizhny Bestyakh, the town on the river’s east bank. It will be the first bridge across the Lena River, and could usher in a new era for all of Yakutia, which has long been cut off from the rest of Russia for much of the year, when the river is impassable, either because the ice is too thin for cars, or because floating ice endangers boats. But of course locals have employed ingenious methods to cross the river over the years, such as Russian-made aeroboats that can zip across the top of icy slush, aided by giant propellers.

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