Vyacheslav Korotki is a man of extreme solitude. He is a trained polyarnik, a specialist in the polar north, a meteorologist. In the past thirty years, he has lived on Russian ships and, more recently, in Khodovarikha, an Arctic outpost, where he was sent by the state to measure the temperatures, the snowfall, the winds. The outpost lies on a fingernail of a peninsula that juts into the Barents Sea. The closest town, by any definition, is an hour away by helicopter. He has a wife, but she lives far away, in Arkhangelsk. They have no children. On his rare visits to Arkhangelsk, he has trouble negotiating the traffic and the noise. Arkhangelsk is not Hong Kong. Korotki is sixty-three, and when he began his career he was an enthusiast, a romantic about the open spaces and the conditions of the Arctic. He watches the news on TV but doesn’t fully believe it. Polyarniki were like cosmonauts, explorers for the Soviet state. There are fewer now. Who wants to live like this anymore? Evgenia Arbugaeva, a photographer who grew up in the Arctic town of Tiksi, spent two extended stays with Korotki. “The world of cities is foreign to him—he doesn’t accept it,” she says. “I came with the idea of a lonely hermit who ran away from the world because of some heavy drama, but it wasn’t true. He doesn’t get lonely at all. He kind of disappears into tundra, into the snowstorms. He doesn’t have a sense of self the way most people do. It’s as if he were the wind, or the weather itself.”
Photographs by Evgenia Arbugaeva
Thanks to the New Yorker for permission to run this article.