The life and self-reflections of a professional mathematician

Month: August, 2012

Fort Ross

“What a magic  place California is!…
The best years of my life were spent there;
I reverently carry the memory of them in my soul.”
A. Rotchev, the last manager at Fort Ross.

In Spring 1812, about one hundred Russians and native Alaskans arrived in northern California and established a colony called Fort Ross. The main goal of the settlement was to supply the Alaskan colonies with food and hunt fur-bearing sea otters. In 1820s, however, it was recognized that the otter population was going down, and the Russian-American Company established hunting moratoriums on sea otters in the North Pacific. This was the earliest known effort at marine conservation. Among other innovations,  four ships – three brigs and a schooner – were the first ships built on the California coast. Also, the Fort Ross settlers built the California’s earliest windmills. In 1841, Alexander Rotchev, the last manager of Fort Ross, was ordered to sell the settlement. The fortress was sold to John Sutter, a Swiss pioneer of California, famous for his association with the Gold Rush

This summer, we have visited Fort Ross. I left overwhelmed with two feelings:
1) a strong respect for inventive Russian colonists, true patriots, who established the settlement and lived in peace with the  native Kashaya Pomo people and Mexicans.
2) a deep gratitude to American people for preserving Fort Ross, a unique piece of our common history.

01. The chapel, originally built in the mid-1820s,
was the first Russian Orthodox church in North America outside of Alaska.

02. The Kuskov House is the reconstructed residence of Ivan Kuskov, founder and first manager of Ross. Kuskov named settlement Ross and managed it from 1812 to 1821.

03. The arsenal located at the ground floor of the Kuskov House.

04. Inside the Kuskov House.

05. Among the later visitors to Ross was naturalist and artist Ilya Voznesenskii. He was sent by the Imperial Academy of Sciences to explore and investigate Russian America.

06. Russian icon.

07. Two-story Russian-American Company warehouse.

08. Tools room

09. A collection of jack planes

10. The Northwest and Southeast blockhouses were watchtowers for guards with cannons, who protected all sides of the fort from potential threats. Fortunately, the protective value of the fort never needed testing.
A view from the Southeast blockhouse.

11. A view on the Fort.

12. A view from the Northwest blockhouse.

13. Kitchen garden outside of Fort Ross.


Homo Applicatus

Redwood Forest

Perhaps Northern Californians (and Oregonians!) would not agree, but for me personally, everything to the north of San Francisco is, in fact, already Oregon :) For “southerners”, California and fog are two mutually exclusive notions. Heat, drought, and earthquakes are ok, but not the fog.

On the very north of California, in the fog, there is a national park, Redwood. As it does not follow from the name, above all, the park is known for its very tall and very old sequoias. That the trees are red is a secondary thing. A few sequoias are more than 2,000 years old. This makes them the oldest living organisms on Earth. Some of the trees are more than 100 m tall. To make a long story short, if you want to know how it feels to be a hobbit, Redwood forest is waiting for you.

01. The “beginning of Oregon”

02. Hobbit in Redwoods

03. Initially I wanted to make it to the top,
but then wisely decided to stop halfway through.

04. Sunny Redwood

05. Thin and thick

06. Fern

07. I like bridges. There is something in them…

08. Another bridge

09. Liza and I

10. Hobbit’s parking

11. Redwood is a home for about 40 species of mammals and other animals. We were particularly interested in black bears and mountain lions. Unfortunately we did not see any (interesting, how many mountain saw us?). We saw only two different types of animals: the first one is elk (many elks actually), and the second one is…

12. Banana slug!

13. Interestingly, although I truly enjoyed visiting Redwoods, I have realized that I like deserts most of all. This conclusion has nothing to do with the fact that, as we have learned later, redwood sequoia dust is toxic. The toxins were strong enough to cause headaches after a few hours of easy hiking. Be careful, little hobbits!