Story 18 - Reindeer Research.
Breakfast was served at the cafeteria. It was never necessary to prepare breakfast for ourselves,
nor was it possible. Anton was already there when we arrived. "Did you know that the permafrost north of Yakutia goes down to five-hundred-seventy meters?" asked Anton when we joined her at her table.
"That's thirteen-hundred feet!" I translated. "No, I didn't know that," I added.
"I found that out last night," she told us. She told us that in the early days a merchant had started digging a well for water. He had worked on this well for over ten years. At this point the well was a hundred-twenty meters deep and there was still no water. That's when he gave up. Little did he know that this was merely a quarter of the depth of the permafrost cover.
"It's probably all the same to the reindeer that inhabit the land," I said, "who have been here long before we came onto the scene. Those are beautiful animals, Anton. We flew out to a lake, yesterday, and landed right in front of their path. We were right in the middle of them as they came by."
"I thought something like this would happen," Anton grinned. "I was told last night that many of the herds would not exist, if it weren't for the people of the station, here." Anton was looking at Nina, smiling. "I was told that it was really the people's compassion for the wild herds that gave this station the official cover-up designation as a reindeer research outpost."
"Actually, it had been a research station earlier on," said Nina. "Eventually, it became a sort of research station once again. The scientists here believe that the original reindeer population was less than a fifth of what the wild population is today. I think we had something to do with that."
"The reindeer have a lot of good people looking after them," I replied.
"And some bad ones too," Anton added quietly, looking at Nina. "You have a mole in your organization."
Nina just smiled and nodded. Anton told her his name, but Nina just laughed. "The boy is too obvious to be mole. He is too naive to be a serious threat," she said. "Still, though he may only be one of Koldunov's men, we have to be careful."