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Frozen Treasures at the Permafrost Museum

As the name suggests, the Permafrost Museum just outside Yakutsk is permanently frozen, and so are many of its fascinating exhibits, some of which date back centuries. The museum, which was opened in 1995, is affiliated with the Permafrost Institute which carries out research relating to the challenges of constructing buildings on permafrost, as well as issues related to climate change and other climate related concerns. Interestingly, Yakutsk is the biggest city in the world to have been built on continuous permafrost, and the city continues to grow.

In order to keep the museum at a constant temperature of between minus 5 and 10 degrees centigrade, tour groups are limited to 15 visitors at a time. The tour includes a short film about the museum and displays include 10,000 year-old frozen vegetation, along with ice sculptures and a pair of "sunglasses" made from intricately decorated silver, with small slits allowing the wearer to see. While they may not look very practical, they did the job of protecting the wearer's eyes from the sun's glare and from cold.

There is also an array of platinum and gold nuggets on display in their unprocessed form, and a 13 Kg bar of gold. Visitors will also see diamond studded jewelry and superbly carved rhinestone, one of which depicts the image of a baby inside a bubble. Larger-than-life ice sculptures are found all along the way and the walls of the underground vault are either covered in ice, or have shafts of ice piercing the rock. A life-sized model of a young wooly mammoth is among the exhibits, the original (which was found in 1977 on the Kolyma River) having been sent to the Museum of Zoology in St Petersburg.

Certainly, the Permafrost Museum is a must-see attraction when visiting the Russian city of Yakutsk.


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