JBS has just returned from Mongolia.
THE MONGOLIAN ALTAI EXPEDITION 2016
A SUMMARY – 1ST AUGUST 2016
An international team has just completed a challenging expedition in the remote wilderness of Western Mongolia. They endured extreme weather conditions and made a number of important scientific discoveries, whilst giving aid to the local people.
Using sturdy, powerful ponies, camels and supported by 4 wheel drive vehicles the 49 strong expedition operated for three weeks in the snow capped Altai highlands. At lower altitudes the temperatures reached 30⁰C and mosquitoes were a real plague, but as the team ascended the heights bitter winds from Siberia came in with night time frosts.
Working with the Mongolian health authority the expedition’s medical team, consisting of two lady surgeons, a British Army dentist, a German doctor and an Australian nurse provided advice and treatment for the nomadic people. Many have rotten teeth so there were long queues at the dentist’s clinic. Children who had teeth extracted were given teddy bear puppets and encouraged to protect the wildlife of this vast land of desert and mountains. Reading glasses collected in Britain were especially welcomed and over a hundred pairs were given out. Much needed books were also provided for the schools.
Working with Mongolian scientists, an archaeological team including two Royal Engineer lady officers found previously unknown petroglyphs and ancient tombs dating back 3,500 years to the bronze age. Using dowsing techniques the outlines of the burial chambers could be traced.
Botanists catalogued over 200 rare specimens and were delighted to discover a greatly endangered Saussera Involvetra, known as the Cabbage plant, growing near the snow line at 11,000 feet.
The zoologists had a real field day, sighting seven Ibex at 13,000 feet and found evidence of the legendary snow leopard. In the Hustain area the team counted 30 Przewelski wild horse and saw Argali wild sheep, red deer, white tailed gazelle, badger, boar, fox, a large male wolf and numerous small mammals including marmots and ground squirrels. In the Altai Mountains they were also able to capture (and release) some Mongolian silver voles.
On a rocky outcrop the bird team found a Golden Eagle’s nest and whilst the mother was away, photographed the baby birds. They were also especially pleased to see Sakar falcons. Meeting Kazakh people, they were privileged to handle a massive tame Golden Eagle used for hunting.
Lizards proved fairly common but the reptile group was impressed by the discovery of the rare and extremely venomous Haly’s Viper, one of the few dangerous snakes in Mongolia.
Without doubt this project was no picnic and the team will not easily forget being caught on their horses in a severe thunderstorm, with lightening forking into the ground around them as they forced their way through driving rain and a bombardment of marble sized hail stones. However, whenever the expedition was near to the nomads’ camp, there was always a wonderful welcome at which tea, fermented mare’s milk and solid local cheese were served.
The end of this highly successful venture was celebrated with a splendid Burn’s Supper at which Stahlys Haggis, brought in from Scotland, was enjoyed with a dram or two, some wild reeling and singing by the Mongolians and the rest of the team.
“This expedition has achieved a great deal and is a fine example of our cooperation with the Mongolians, often under adverse conditions” said leader, Colonel John Blashford-Snell, President of the Scientific Exploration Society.
“It was an incredible journey into another world” stated Janet Wood, a fish farmer from Mere in Wiltshire.
Footnote:- A video film of the expedition was shot and will be used in lectures by team members. Information on lectures are available from Anne Gilby via our contact page.