С возвращением, Слава

 

So … welcome back, Slava.

slava pic

This so-called ‘most cut off man on earth’ lives on Khodovarikha – in Russian: Ходовариха – a weather station located on the freezing Barents Sea.

map

Khodovarikha, together with its only resident – whose full name is Vyacheslav Korotki – were the subjects of a Second Life sim in 2017. You can read the full story here.

Back then the sim was set in winter: it was often dark … and appropriately gloomy. I came across the place by reading various articles and blogs that were inspired by the series of twelve photographs taken of Khodovarikha by Evgenia Arbugaeva. These stunning images made this remote spot in northern Russia famous, at least for a while.

slava boat

For those who read about Slava and his remote location, it was fascinating to imagine how life must be for a man living in such isolation, with just one yearly visit by a supply ship and a shortwave radio to rely on for direct human contact.

radio

Besides Aebugaeva’s pictures, more could be learned about Slava by watching the documentary – “Arctic Limbo” – that was made about life in Khodovarikha …

The film portrays Slava as an enigmatic figure. He is very self-contained, finds plenty to do in Khodovarikha (he says he never gets bored), and we get hints of a personal history that includes serious illness, a failed marriage and an estranged son.

slava gaze

Arctic Limbo also features Ustin, a young conscript who (together with his wife) spends a year with Slava at Khodovarikha. Ustin seems to dislike the place, longing for the ship to arrive while desperately hoping that his posting will end. He also appears somewhat ambivalent towards Slava, laughingly describing him as a ‘troll’ and a ‘lunatic’.

slava and ustin

Unlike Aebugaeva’s pictures, the video is set in summer, when Khodovarikha thaws out and is transformed into a chaotic maze of sand dunes and grass. The place is a real mess: the windswept sand is littered with barrels and crates, as well as miscellaneous bits of rusty salvage. I have often wondered about those barrels – why are there so many of them, and why are they left lying around, quite literally, everywhere …

garage

koko dunes

I have wanted to design a summer version of Khodovarikha ever since closing the sim in December 2017. The seasonal change has given me more freedom to bring life to the place – a variety of birds, grasses, and so on. While I have taken one or two liberties – in SL we can only work with what is at hand, or what we (or others) can make – I hope that all of the birds you will encounter at the sim are related in some way to the birds of northern Russia, and particularly the Arctic Circle in summer. What I wanted to show is a place that comes to life each summer. Slava might be cut off, but he is not alone during these months.

The ‘signature’ feature of Khodovarikha is the massive wooden lighthouse, built in 1933, with its distinctive octagonal structure.

lighthouse

normal_khodovarikha3

The version of this building I have installed at the sim was custom-made by KT Syakumi, who is also responsible for several of the Furillen buildings. In the first iteration of the sim, the lighthouse was still working. But in fact, it has not been operational since 1996; indeed in the Arctic Limbo movie we see Slava cannibalising the structure for firewood.

koko wood

This is how you will find the lighthouse this time around – no longer working, and being slowly gutted to keep Slava warm during those endless winter nights …

slava office

While researching this summer iteration of the sim, I found a fascinating description of life at Khodovarikha twenty-five years ago, submitted to a Russian forum by Ekaterina Fateeva. Ekaterina lived at Khodovarikha during the early 1990s when it was still a functioning village and the lighthouse was operational. She writes almost wistfully of launching ‘airplanes and improvised parachutes’ from the top of the building, and of a ‘sports hall’ beneath the lighthouse at ground level …

[I] lived on Khodovarikha for two years as a child. 1994 and 1995. My grandmother was the director of the lighthouse, my grandfather was the chief mechanic, and my mother was just an employee. I remember this time with great warmth and dream of going there again. On the ground floor of the lighthouse, we had a sports hall with rings, ropes and other things. From the top, we launched airplanes and improvised parachutes) swam in the Solzhatsky lake, in the sea and on the bay. Caught fish, gathered mushrooms, berries, set traps for arctic foxes in winter, hunted geese. Now it’s all forbidden, I guess. With me, one winter, a polar bear came right to us by the window, ate dog food and left).

It is partly in this spirit that I added the rope slide extending from the top of the lighthouse down to the ground – offering visitors some reward for climbing all those ladders. Of course, it’s hard to picture Slava using such a slide, at least not without a few extra shots of home-made vodka. But I think I can imagine him building it …

bird

As the passage from Ekaterina Fateeva suggests, Khodovarikha was once a small village, whose scattered buildings – situated close to Slava’s house – have largely fallen into disrepair and ruin, although some do remain. I have reproduced these on the new sim.

Besides Slava’s scruffy red house and dilapidated storage garage, several other buildings on the sim have been designed as replicas of what I believe would be found at the real Khodovarikha. The first, which I also used for the first iteration of the sim, consists of the doppler radar building, with its distinctive red and white dome. This slightly weird structure features in the video as well as the Aebugaeva photographs …

kolteniy

A second replica building is new to this sim, and was generously meshed by Harry Cover (whose SL name is Impossibleisnotfrench, you can visit his inworld store here). Harry recently built the small bothy for Lairig Leacach, which I opened for two weeks in December. For Khodovarikha, he has made the wrecked and rusty abandoned house that sits near to the lighthouse, as can be seen in these pictures …

In the movie, we see the house full of sand and rubble: completely uninhabitable, and well-nigh unusable. This is how it is in the Second Life version. As you’ll see when you visit the sim, Harry has done a great job on this, and I am very grateful to him for his time and generosity.

Harry is also responsible for the distinctive ‘A frame’ structure that sits next to the green wooden house that Ustin and his wife were living in. It can be seen on the far right in this screenshot …

a frame

This odd structure seems to house something like a well – or maybe it’s just a water trough. Either way, Ustin’s wife is filmed drawing water from inside it with a rusty old bucket. By the way, I have also introduced a replica of Ustin’s green house, which can also be seen in the picture above, next to the A frame.  It’s more or less as I imagine he would have left it – it seems rather unlikely that Slava would have cleared the place up. Also, note the small wooden house on the left of the picture above, just in front of the weather station: in my version of this place, this is where Slava distils (and drinks) his own vodka … Khodovarikha special brew.

Finally, there is an odd structure next to the shore. I have no idea what it could be, so I have turned it into some kind of lookout …

koko lookout

In addition to these buildings and hundreds of barrels, I have populated the sim with various other bits of rusty salvage, some of which can be spied in the documentary film. These include parts of an old boat, and the fuselage of a crashed plane – ostensibly ‘reclaimed’ by Slava … who it seems is nothing if not a bricoleur. I have also included some structures that reflect Khodovarikha’s main function: a weather station, communication masts, and an old Soviet radar.

As with Lairig Leacach, I have put this sim together mainly for my own amusement, and as a sort of gift to the travelling photographers of Second Life, without whom sim design would be much less rewarding than it is. For bloggers and photographers alike, you have rez rights with a sixty minute auto return. For all visitors, please think about leaving a message in the guestbook. And of course, any donation would be hugely appreciated.

As ever, this won’t be open for long – so do enjoy it while it lasts. 🙏

 

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