Living alone in the wild Siberian forest for 20 years

As a complete and utter juxtaposition to the usual tech stuff we quibble about here on OSNews, I stumbled upon this interesting video about Samuil, a man who, for the past 20 years, has been living in the middle of the Yakutia wilderness, the coldest place on earth with temperatures that go down to -71°.

This is a story of Samuil. For the past 20 years, Samuil has chosen to live far away from civilization, together with bears and wolves, in one of the harshest environments on Earth.

I’m not going to make some sort of philosophical statement about how this guy’s got it all figured out, and how we, with all our tech, are truly the ones living in the wilderness, because not only would that be incredibly pretentious, it would also be deeply untrue. I’m also not going to make some sort of smug remark about how the guy’s an idiot for living this way, because not only would that be an incredibly douchy thing to say, it would also also be deeply untrue.

A few years ago I moved from the stable, predictable, mild, and gentle climate of the Dutch coast to the harsh, unpredictable, cold, and frozen climate of the north of Sweden, a short distance below the arctic circle. Summers here are short, Spring and Autumn last a few weeks, at best, and for the rest of the year, it’s Winter. Every Winter, temperatures drop to -30°, and most days it’ll hover between -5° and -25°. Adapting to this climate wasn’t easy, and the amount of planning even something as simple as walking to the grocery store can take when it’s -27° can be tiring and frustrating. That one time I brought my kid to preschool when it was -28° wasn’t exactly easy-going either.

At those temperatures, breathing will slowly start to hurt, your nostrils take a massive beating, your eyes are painful, and your facial hair will freeze. Putting on the countless layers of clothing takes forever, and the temperature difference between outside and inside can feel like walking into a wall of ice or fire, respectively. Taking the car requires planning, as you need to plug it in the external heating system for at least two hours before you can use it, and of course, removing the ice and snow off a car in this kind of climate is basically hard labour.

And yet, I love it here. Living in this kind of cold is exhilarating, and it makes you appreciate the comforts of a warm home and modern life much more than I did back in The Netherlands. The transformation from the lush green forests and scattered fields to white, frozen wonderland – and back again – never fails to give me that feeling that somehow we won, again. We survived another Winter. In the comforts of modern civilisation and really not all that dramatic, but still.

I’m definitely not going to say that because of this, I understand Samuil at some deeper level, because I really don’t. The difference between my life and his is a million times bigger than the difference between my life in The Netherlands and my life in Sweden, and I wouldn’t survive more than one or two days in his Winter, and probably end up frozen in a ditch somewhere because I got lost, or mauled by a bear because I’m an idiot and didn’t see it. For people used to mild climates, it may seem like the difference between -30° or -35° is academic, but it really isn’t – once you hit temperatures like these, every single degree starts to matter, and one degree can mean the difference between “extremely cold, but manageable” and “good thing we only wanted two kids”. The temperatures Samuil experiences blow my mind.

In the microcosm that is a site like OSNews, it’s easy to forget just how varied our world really is, but thanks to the same technology we report on, we can experience a slice of life of someone living on his own in the coldest wilderness on earth, and learn that he is not that different from us.


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