More on Vladimir Chernikov and the Kropotkin Volcano

More on our incredible meeting with Vladimir Chernikov in a bog in Buryatia – see my posting of 19 July. As we were leaving, Vladimir was on his was on his way to the Jombolok Volcano Field to leave a plaque at the base of the Kropotkin Volcano. He has now returned home safely to Krasnoyarsk, having successfully installed the double plaque in front of the Volcano. You can read more about his amazing journey (in Russian) here on his blog and also here.

Vladimir had an extraordinary journey, particularly as he and his companion, Sergei Izoupov, were travelling by bicycle. Here is a picture of their memorial cairn to Kropotkin.


Vladimir was also able to travel down the Jombolok River Valley, which flows from Lake Kara Noor. For the first 20kms it flows underground, before surfacing for the next 50kms. We were unable to make this journey due to shortage of time. So I am very grateful to Vladimir, who was able to photograph the site of the Jombolok waterfall, that was the subject of a painting by Thomas Atkinson.

Here is Vladimir’s photo of the waterfall:
Jombolok waterfall

And here is a lithograph of Thomas’s painting of the same place:

Jombolok Waterfall
Atkinson’s painting of the waterfall on the Jombolok River

Vladimir also had some other news. We talked during our meeting in Buryatia about the fact that some of the peaks surrounding the Jombolok Volcano Field are still unnamed. When he said he was going to approach the Russian Geographical Society about naming one of the peaks after Kropotkin, I asked him if it might be possible to do the same for Atkinson. Vladimir has now agreed to do this and has also marked out the particular peak he has in mind. Here is the map he sent, with Peak Atkinson clearly marked.

Peak Atkinson

I will keep you updated on this exciting development.

Vladimir Chernikov


Remarkable coincidences on the road to Jombolok Volcano Field

Just getting to the starting point for a journey to the Jombolok Volcano Field in The Eastern Sayan Mountains of Buryatia is an ordeal, particularly the last 60 or so kilometres, where the road turns into a rough track that snakes its way through forests, rivers and serious bogs. On the way out, our six-wheel Zil former military truck – built in 1975) got stuck twice in deep bogs and had to be winched out.

Stuck in a bog in Buryatia

On our return, we were luckier, although the driver of the open-top truck (no seats!) had to stop and assess his chances at one particularly notorious place. It was here, as we were waiting for the truck to make its way through the boggy ground, that I spotted the unusual sight of two cyclists! As they drew nearer, we could see that they had heavy panniers and were equipped for travelling.

Soon we were in full discussion and realised that we had a great deal in common. Vladimir Chernikov and his colleague Sergei Izoupov had cycled from Krasnoyarsk in Siberia and both men were making their way to the Jombolok Volcano Field. Their reason? To put up plaques to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the famous Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s visit to the volcanoes. He made the trip 16 years after Thomas Atkinson, after reading an article in an Irkutsk newspaper about his journey. At the time he was working for the governor-general of Eastern Siberia, and had already completed a number of other important geological expeditions in the region. One of the main volcanic cones in the Jombolok Field is named after him.

Vladimir Chernikov of the Russian Geographical Society, in the middle of a bog in Buryatia
The plaques dedicated to Peter Kropotkin they were intending to leave on Kropotkin Volcano in the Jombolok Volcano Field

For us, having just come from placing a plaque next to the Atkinson Volcano in Jombolok, this was quite an incredible coincidence. We wish Vladimir well and look forward to hearing more about his remarkable bike ride.

A visit to the Decembrist Museum in Irkutsk

During our trip to Eastern Siberia we took the opportunity to visit the Decembrist Museum in Irkutsk, not least because Thomas Atkinson had planned to write a final book on the Decembrists, but died before it could be published. (For more background, see my blog post on the Atkinsons and the Decembrists of 2 March 2017). Located in the former home of Prince Sergei Volkonsky and his wife Maria, the museum has a wonderful collection of memorabilia associated with the Decembrists, many of whom were exiled to this region.

We were received with great hospitality by staff at the museum, including Anna Turevich, who has already published a short article on Thomas and Lucy Atkinson’s connections with the Decembrists. More work is planned and it is hoped at some point that research into the private correspondence of some of the Decembrists may reveal more about their meetings with the English travellers.

Nick Fielding with Anna Turevich (c) and a colleague in the gardens of the Decembrist Museum
Tea and cakes with the staff from the museum

The Atkinsons return to Jombolok 1851-2017

Just back from a quite extraordinary trip to the Jombolok Volcano Field in the Eastern Sayan mountains in the far West of Buryatia in Eastern Siberia to celebrate the visit there by Thomas Atkinson in 1851. The map below – in Russian – will give you some idea of the remoteness of this beautiful place.


Our journey started in Irkutsk, close to Lake Baikal in the east of Siberia, and was followed by a 550-km road journey south and then north-west to the small village of Orlik in the Republic of Buryatia. This was followed by a 63-km journey through forests and bogs along the Oka River, before we arrived at the thermal springs at Hoi To Gol, at the foot of the Eastern Sayan Mountains, close to the border with Tuva. From here we crossed a pass at 2,400m, before descending on horses into the Valley, where one of the volcanoes is named after Thomas Atkinson. It was here that we fixed a plaque to commemorate the visit by the four descendants of Thomas Atkinson who came along on the trip – Steve and Gill Brown, their son David and daughter Catherine.

You can get an idea of our journey from this wonderful short film, shot by Anatoly Melnikov:

This is the plaque (in Russian and English) that we fixed at the foot of the Atkinson Volcano:


And here’s a picture of it fixed to a rock at the foot of the Atkinson Volcano. It’s fixing point has been turned into a cairn and we hope that people who visit will continue to add stones to it over the years.


This was a truly spectacular trip to an incredible place. Jombolok, which last erupted around 1200 years ago, is a giant volcanic crater, with a large number of volcanic cones strewn throughout the massive lava field. A huge lava trail extends down the Jombolok Valley and it was this that first caught Thomas Atkinson’s attention and convinced him to follow it to find its source.

As well as the volcano field, myself, photographer David O’Neill and Maddy Brown (no rel.) also travelled for 11 hours on horseback to visit the very remote and beautiful Kara Noor lake, which was painted by Thomas Atkinson. We found his old camp and our Buryat guide Rinchin told us we were certainly the first English people to visit this spot since Atkinson was there in 1851! A really incredible place which we will never forget.

Arriving at Thomas Atkinson’s camp on Kara Noor lake

Here’s his painting of the lake. You can see smoke rising from the campsite on the left side of the lake in the distance.

Kara Noor, formed by lava of the Djem-a-louk, Saian Mountains, Mongolia
Atkinson’s painting of Kara Noor lake