Dr. Evgeny Pakhomov aboard Russian research ship navigated uncertainty amid Ukraine invasion

April 20, 2022
Chief Scientist Dr. Evgeny Pakhomov boards 2019 IYS research ship (photo: IOF)

The day after Russia invaded Ukraine, UBC Professor Evgeny Pakhomov (Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, IOF and the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, EOAS), chief scientist for the Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas Expedition, set sail on a Russian research vessel to study salmon in the North Pacific. 

As a native Russian speaker with family in Ukraine, Dr. Pakhomov was onboard to take zooplankton, fish, and oceanographic samples and to train young Russian scientists. On day two, a message arrived that the ship was to return to Russia – the expedition was cancelled. Now, the question became just how to get Dr. Pakhomov and scientific samples home safely. Over the next three weeks, expedition organizers worked through multiple time zones and levels of bureaucracy to find a solution: Russian authorities were nervous about the ship entering American waters to drop him off, no ships would come to pick him up, and returning to Vladivostok would likely mean losing the majority of the collected samples – and Dr. Pakhomov entering a country at war. The only thing he could do was concentrate on getting the science done. Of the approximately 90 stations due to be sampled, the researchers managed to sample about 32, gathering valuable data for the more than a dozen projects involved.

Almost a week after he was due back, and just a few days before the ship would have to head back to Russia due to low fuel, a private company agreed to sail out of American waters to rendezvous with the Russian vessel, to the tune of about $16,000. In about 20 minutes, Dr. Pakhomov was onboard, with samples in tow, and soon back in Dutch Harbor, “I’ve never been so happy to step onto American soil.”

Listen to the CBC Radio Quirks and Quarks where Dr. Pakhomov shared his experience on board a Russian research ship amidst the Russo-Ukrainian War. 

To learn more about how Dr. Pakhomov navigated uncertainty amid Ukraine invasion on board of the Russian research ship, read the article by The Globe and Mail.

Check out the IOF news article to learn more about the 2022 Salmon Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas Expedition.