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For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact (smithsonianmag.com)
842 points by Anon84 1812 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 244 comments

Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion.

It's interesting that they stumbled on the persistence hunting technique so naturally. Indirect evidence to support the Endurance running hypothesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endurance_running_hypothesis).

The other main predator that also hunts in this fashion? Wolves/dogs. There's a theory that it was this overlap in hunting styles that made us natural "partners" and led to the close relationship we have today.

Wolves and dogs can't do this over nearly the same distance humans can — they shed body heat through panting and can only keep up a run for 3-6 miles[0]. Humans can run marathons.

[0]: I don't remember my source for this, sorry. But this is interesting for similar reasons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_versus_Horse_Marathon

Edit: I should say, wolves/dogs can run for long distances too, at a slower gait. But they can only out-pace human marathon-distance runners for a few miles before overheating.

Edit 2: Found a source[1]: "Dogs can gallop for only about 10 to 15 minutes before reverting to a trot, and so their distance-running speed tops out at about 3.8 meters per second." As commenters below have pointed out, yes, if it's cold enough, this doesn't matter ;-).

[1]: http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2012/06/long...

It is temperature dependent. Try keeping up with the dogs running the Iditarod in Alaska :)

Good point! Also, humans do not run very well in snow (bipeds, too much weight per surface area, too high center of gravity and stride length...).

+1 great point !

Well, I don't know much about wolves, but I know dogs sometimes naturally track interesting prey over long distances by scent. They don't have to travel fast, they just have to travel on average faster than their pursued prey.

I don't know. In Herzog's "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga," you see a dog keeping up with a snowmobile at a constant pace for several hours. (Edit: the dog ran 150 kilometers nonstop at a snowmobile's pace)

Sounds consistent with Walking with Cavemen in which they related the hypothesis that the human nose is so protruding so that it can be breathed through for temperature control, rather than by panting which loses water.

Whoever is interested, here are two very good academic articles about persistent hunting (subscription required):



Also, here is a video of a modern persistent hunter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=826HMLoiE_o

It also reminded me of this, an old episode of This American Life: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/80/ru...

I also recommend the book he wrote by the same title, featuring some of the same essays/articles featured in the broadcast and a good deal more. If you're in the US it should be no bother to find, but if you're abroad it'll take a bit of searching (or ordering from the US)

Nice. I remember that myself.

How do they bring the prey home after hunting it 30km?

Endurance hunting is rarely a straight line race. Here is an example of a route for one of those hunts (it's from my first link): http://www.jstor.org/literatum/publisher/jstor/journals/cont...

As you can see, even though the overall distance is 25.1 km, the straight line distance between the start and finish is less than a mile.

Well.. from the article : "across his shoulders". I can't even imagine.

I watched the YouTube "Lost in Taiga" videos in Russian and they mention that the whole family traveled for two days (with overnight camping) over to eat the killed animal. Whether it was this 30km one or a different one is unclear.

On your back, in pieces.

I thought the same thing and was especially shocked that the technique could ever be used in the Siberian taiga (both because of the cold and the dense vegetation). Compare this to a quote from the above wikipedia article "Scientists, posit that early tracking methods were developed in open, sparsely vegetated terrain such as the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa."

Between the barefoot hunting and the persistence hunting, this story seems like it's tailor made for Born to Run.

Well it's an endurance method vs a distance method. "Run your prey ragged" I guess. You could do that on steep mountainsides just as quickly (perhaps even more quickly) than open plains. You'd just need to not lose site/sound of them in the dense forest which should be doable.

On the other hand, I guess they did not know/had not rediscovered tanning, because

> A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook.

they did not replace their kettles by a leather cauldron.

Would they have had tannin available?

They're readily available in bark and some leaves, though you'd need to know how to extract it.

A simpler alternative is "brain tanning", there's an old saying that each animal has enough brain to tan its hide which is probably true enough for basic purposes. Brain tanning is still the way native americans do their tanning (colonists brought vegetable tanning to the americas, and modern mineral and chemical tannings arose during the 19th century)

Recent Kevin McCloud series showed brain tanning in case anyone is interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_McClouds_Man_Made_Home

If they didn't have tannin from tree barks, they could have used brain tanning (from the brains of the animal they killed) or made rawhide (which doesn't require tannins).

Come to think of it, our legs (including associate muscles like the gluteus) are indeed disproportionately large for our overall body size.

It would be interesting to know how do we measure up against other mammals in terms of... uh... I forgot the technical name, it's the ability to absorb and metabolize oxygen. It's determined by lung size among other things, and it's a strong predictor of endurance.

Add to that a large brain, capable of planning, and driven by purpose and by an understanding of the concept of time in general and future in particular.

Large legs, oxygen metabolism, brain capable of long-term planning - well, that's the perfect trifecta that could produce an excellent endurance runner.

I believe the concept/term you're looking for is VO2 max:


Exactly. Thanks.

I'm shocked that this could work on the Tundra. It was always my understanding that endurance running required a hot climate so that humans' superior cooling system could win out.

Animals on the tundra would probably have thick coats or other insulation and might be able to overheat themselves in the right conditions. A human could shed its clothing to cool down.

It's also possible that potential prey in this area is not well adapted for outrunning endurance hunters, which might make them easier to run down than animals that have been hunted by runners for thousands of years.

Very interesting hypothesis.

As a boy there was a common game that friends would play, which was -- if Newton were to come back today, what technology would he be most shocked about.

I found this quote interesting, and I think shows how hard it may be to predict such things:

"What amazed him most of all," Peskov recorded, "was a transparent cellophane package. 'Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!'"

My grandfather was born in Abakan, and published several books on the history of the region. He visited Agafia several times by helicopter with my uncle, after the other members of her family had passed.

When I was around 15, he showed me a video of their first encounter with her, and to this day I cannot get the image of the pure terror on her face out of my mind. She had multiple visitors before, but something about this visit scared her so much that she hid inside for hours.

It turned out that this was the first visit where someone in the crew had brought video equipment (one of those big shoulder-mounted VHS cameras), and Agafia would later tell my grandfather that she thought this thing would 'steal her soul.' She wasn't shocked in amazement at the new technology, this was pure fear.

Reminds me of one of the early silent film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station [1], which allegedly was so realistic that people ran out of the movie theater screaming.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LArriv%C3%A9e_dun_train_en_gare...

That's supposedly an urban legend (re: the Train). But you can see the film for yourself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6i3uccnZhQ

Thanks for the correction. It looks like I can no longer edit my comment to update it.

It turned out that this was the first visit where someone in the crew had brought video equipment, and Agafia would later tell my grandfather that she thought this thing would 'steal her soul.'

Sorry? It might as well have been a log on his shoulder.

Now, if it was viewing video of herself on this camera that brought a look of "pure terror" to her face (that you can't get out of your mind to this day, no less) I could begin to understand, but if she was watching a video replay on the camera, then how was it being recorded?

With no prior knowledge of video or photography what basis would she have for belief that the random equipment on a videographers shoulder would "steal her soul"?

The video was shot on approach to her home/shack from the helicopter (which was a ways off). I called my dad to see if he can locate the video somehow (my grandfather passed away several months ago), and I'm trying to find the book he wrote which touches on this experience.

This is vague recollection at this point, but I do believe that the family did have knowledge of photography (my grandfather visited her 10+ years after this family became 'famous' through Russian press) and the father did not approve of their pictures being taken at first. I can see how that, combined with their deeply religious and isolated world view, could have been a cause for her superstition.

The concept of photography stealing your soul is not unique to this instance. Many cultures felt this way about photography.


>"With no prior knowledge of video" Not so fast, if you read the article:

"...the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists' camp, proved irresistible for them..."

I agree that the account in the comments here did not give sufficient detail to determine if she had reason to connect something on a man's shoulder with the images she had seen in the television earlier, but she had some sort of prior exposure to video.

> 'steal her soul.'

That's a bit Crocodile Dundee isn't it?

It isn't just "a bit Crocodile Dundee" - it is a genuine and persisting phenomenon (which happened to be mentioned in Crocodile Dundee).

Indigenous Australians to this day have very different beliefs about photography and filmography than most hn users would. Even though many of them live fairly modern lifestyles, it is considered fairly offensive in their culture to show images of people who have since passed away. Television broadcasts which include film of aboriginal people who have passed away are usually accompanied by a disclaimer that viewers may not want to watch.

It's not about images in Indigenous Australians.

Many Australian tribes don't name the dead by first name [1, 2], as a sign of respect and because it's too painful for the family. The no-images-rule has just very recently been derived from that practice. It isn't about photography or filmography, it's about names only.

1: http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/mou... 2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Aboriginal_avoidanc...

This is actually common in many cultures. In South-East Asia I have heard this many times, that people have/had this belief that taking pictures of them "steal their souls". You can see it mentioned in a movie from Wong Kar Wai, Chungking Express, if I remember correctly, when the protagonist talks about his father.

I've always been fascinated by what people could mean when they say this. I believe many people mean 'the part of me that thinks' or 'the part of me that makes decisions' when they say souls... but what could it mean for that part of you to be stolen? An inability to think or make decisions? Or something about vanity and getting wrapped up in images of yourself? Or fascination with a device that looks like a big eyeball?

It'd really be great to know what people mean when they say that.

Nope, I think it stems from the idea that a representation of someone=someone.

I remember reading a book from an american guy who recalled what happened to him when he was travelling in another country. He suddenly realized that he had lost his wallet (it was stolen) and it contained pictures of his children inside. Those were just simple pictures and he could have made copies once coming back home, but instead he wandered in the dangerous quarters of the city to try to find back the pictures from his wallet. He could have been robbed or worse, but he explained he was not aware of those risks at that time because the only thing he was thinking about was that "I have to find my kids back". He made a clear association between the pictures and the persons.

He then said he could understand the saying regarding pictures and souls, since he went through this experience.

Yes. And my wife and I have found that a large number of people don't like being photographed. We always ask, we buy something from the person if we can, and many shake their heads or otherwise communicate no to us when we indicate we would like to take a photograph. I have had other tourists photographing past us while we ask. We respect what people ask - I'd be pretty unhappy having someone come up to me at home or work and try to take my photograph.

I was in Laos and Cambodia around 2001/2 and was advised when talking to hill tribes to always ask before taking pictures, the kids loved it, especially seeing themselves on a digital camera, however the older generations usually didnt want to be photgraphed (we were advised that it was usually for this reason but I never pushed it).


In an NPR interview someone mentioned that right after the words 'mother' and 'memory', in 1940 "the American public voted 'cellophane' as the third most beautiful word in the English language". Cellophane revolutionized food storage, and the gentleman in the OP recognized its usefulness.

Dick Proenneke (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Proenneke) did something similar in Alaska. He lived alone, but brought supplies in, had a wood stove, a rifle, and even spent the occasional winter in civilization. He wrote a book about his first couple years:


It suffers a little from some heavy editing, but is very interesting. There's also a video that airs on PBS every so often, which is worth watching. He died in 2003, but left his cabin to the National Park Service.

I've been to his cabin, and it's been preserved as he left it. It's amazing what he was able to make with simple tools. The door is particularly neat - the hinges and bear-proof lock are made entirely of wood.

Sometimes it makes me want to move to Alaska and build a cabin. Internet connectivity is a bit of a problem, but I suppose that's the point.

As did a man named Sylvan Hart. In the 1930s escaped the Great Depression by settling in north-central Idaho and lived out his days there alone until his death in 1980. He put his engineering education to good use, mining ore and smelting it to make tools, as well as hunting and farming to sustain himself.


Thanks for linking to that, great story!

The documentary is called "Alone in the Wilderness" - I highly, highly recommend it. His woodworking skills are hard to imagine.

Part 2 was just released in 2012, and PBS have said they will release Part 3 this year or next.

Outwardly it sounds like he lived a lonely existence, though in part 2 we learn his brother was a bush pilot in Alaska, and they would spend summers together flying around, camping and hiking.

Dick also received many visitors at his cabin.

YouTube has at least a portion of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYJKd0rkKss http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3NRdZ8J24Q

Dick's capabilities (he had been a carpenter when living in civilization) were amazing, though he remained in periodic contact with the rest of civilization, including receiving regular supplies.

It's also interesting to note his reliance on steel tools that he wasn't capable of replacing: saws, adzes, planes, axes, stove, pots and pans. He did pack in many of these, most without handles (he fashioned those from wood on site). While creative and highly independent, Proenneke was by no means self-sufficient.

> While creative and highly independent, Proenneke was by no means self-sufficient.

I agree 100%. He also had a rifle, canoe, hiking boots etc that all would have been replaced from the outside world over the years.

I loved his comment about solo canoeing in his lake:

"I always knew that to swim was to die, but I never had a problem".

The water is so cold up here, you'll be dead in less than a minute if you swim in the middle of any lake - about 5 people die up here every year like that.

It's actually possible to swim in very cold water -- "polar bear" swimmers do this regularly, and Lynne Cox notably has swum for extended times in 40F and 25 minutes in 32F water during her Antarctic swim. She seems to have a unique ability to maintain core temperatures despite a very cold environment.


The two biggest dangers are panic and shock when you first enter the water, hypothermia after leaving the water, and even sudden death as the body re-warms after leaving it. For that last, I read (but can't find) a story of several survivors of a shipwreck who died after drinking a hot beverage which warmed their bodies too quickly -- all the survivors died, one after the other, on the rescue ship.

Have you ever experienced it yourself?

My first summer up here it was a beautiful sunny day and my friends were telling me about how people die in the lake every year. Being a very strong swimmer and from Australia, I didn't believe them.

They bet me $1000 I couldn't stay in the water 5 minutes, which I thought I would have a good go at. I've swum in water below 40F before. I honestly didn't last 30 seconds before I was scared I would not be able to get out again, because I could not feel my extremities at all. It was surreal.

I know it sounds crazy, though it's worth noting more than one professional canoer / kayaker has died in the Yukon from capsizing their craft only a few hundred meters from shore.

We had a guy die not 5 minutes from town last summer, and some local Alaskans did the same thing just over the border.

Oh no kidding, water that cold is just something you have to experience.

I was trying to ford a river once, to retrieve a canoe I'd put into a logjam. Had two friends with me, holding one end of a long rope from shore while I had the other end looped under my shoulders.

Got maybe halfway across before the current was just to strong (and I was too exhausted) to keep my footing anymore - it's just unbelievable how quickly being submerged in cold water and fighting against the current like that sucks the energy out of you.

It was all I could do to keep my head above water and kick myself back to shore, I doubt I'd have been able to drag myself out of the river if I'd been by myself.

And that river (north fork of the Chena) wasn't even glacier fed, like a lot of rivers in Alaska are...

I didn't say people don't die. They most definitely do, and I gave several pathways.

That said: if you are acclimated to the shock (and possibly have a genetic propensity to survive colder water), it's definitely survivable.

Capsizing a kayak is something you need to know how to deal with to execute properly anyhow, and yes, cold water makes appropriate response and motor control much more challenging.

I've done extended swims (30+ minutes) in ~54F water, and shorter dips in colder (40s, high 30s). That last was more a dash, plunge, and run back to the hot tub, truth be told. Even in the 50s, the cold shock and numbing are quite noticeable, though once you get your head in the right space, it's very tolerable.

There is one very shallow lake here in town that touches 50F on the hottest days. We swim in it for hours, happily.

The SS Empire Howard, though it was after they fell asleep. See http://books.google.se/books?id=2Zc9AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA73&... .

The story you read was likely from Bill Bryson's book "A Walk in the Woods", which talks about 12 Danish fishermen, but that story doesn't seem to be correct in its details.

Looks to be a different case. The mention was in the following article "The Cold, Hard Facts of Freezing to Death" which was posted to HN recently. I cannot find a more detailed source:


In fact, many hypothermia victims die each year in the process of being rescued. In "rewarming shock," the constricted capillaries reopen almost all at once, causing a sudden drop in blood pressure. The slightest movement can send a victim's heart muscle into wild spasms of ventricular fibrillation. In 1980, 16 shipwrecked Danish fishermen were hauled to safety after an hour and a half in the frigid North Sea. They then walked across the deck of the rescue ship, stepped below for a hot drink, and dropped dead, all 16 of them.

Reddit has some discussion of this, largely dismisses the 16 Danish fishermen story as a myth (though points to a couple of published sources as well).


http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/othpdf/500-599/oth519.pdf (UK compendium of sea immersion rescue issues, no mention of Danish sailors).

Basic Essentials: Hypothermia, by William W. Forgey, 1999. Does include a mention, but includes no citations, references, footnotes, or endnotes.


I mentioned two reports, related by the Captain of the SS Empire Howard and the other the Danish fishermen story related by Bill Bryson. I personally believe, like the author of the reddit link you gave, that Bryson's tale is a corruption of the former. That is, there is only one report here.

Having read several of Bryson's entertaining works, I know that he is not a rigorous researcher of the details.

The link I gave was to "Hypothermia and Cold Stress" by Evan L. Lloyd, 1986. It shows a citation to Lee and Lee 1971. I am unable to track down that reference based just on free internet searches. According to Lloyd's recounting, the rescuees did drink some alcohol. I can see how upon retelling that might be turned into a "hot drink."

I am quite willing to say that the previous poster heard about the Bryson story and the false details from that. However, I would rather state that the details of the story - that being of Danish fishermen - were wrong rather than the point of the story, which is the death of people after they have been rescued. In any case, the parent poster said nothing about Danish fishermen.

Even if "Lee and Lee 1971" citation I pointed to is too vague of a confirmation for you, the HSE report gives many examples of "post-rescue collapse and death" from both Allied and Axis sources, including from ship-wreck survivors (Critchley 1943).

I think it's unsafe describe the situation in a way that could be described as implying an urban legend, which is why I've specifically said that the details are wrong, and pointed to places where the details are correct. (To be sure, you are not doing that. I write this to explain why I wrote it as I did.)

There are exceptions to this rule, like the free diving world champion, Natalia Avseenko. Check out this short video, warning, NSFW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxjdnkD1gBA

There was a longer documentary, called Ceiling, online, but it was removed unfortunately.

Wilderness hacking at its finest. This guy is a total boss. Incredible wood working skills, and a passion for living in the beautiful wilds of Alaska. The Canadian side - the Yukon and BC are equally as beautiful. Go up north sometime - the beauty will blow you away.

"When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming."

Hahaha. This guy has no idea what he's talking about. As someone who has been in the taiga in the summer, it's absolutely horrible. The air is alive with mosquitoes. There are clouds of them around you 24/7. The place is just permafrost and swamps. It's really pretty, but a miserable place to live. That's why there is no on there.

Which is welcoming compared to winter. Trust me, when summer finally comes and there are actual green things an animals and berries around, mosquitoes can be tolerated

(I live above 60 degrees north - it's well past -40 here today)

Note: -40C == -40F, so grecy doesn't need to specify the units[1]!

[1] Unless he's using Kelvins.

With a reading of -40, I'm fairly certain* he's not using Kelvins.

[*] Sometimes negative temperatures are used to represent temperatures ABOVE infinity. That's when high-energy quantum states are MORE populated than low-energy quantum states... it's useful for things like making a laser. But I still think it's unreasonable to believe that the temperature outside is -40 kelvin.

What do you mean by 'above infinity'?

In a nutshell, if you put a negative temperature object A in contact with any object B with a positive temperature, energy will flow from A -> B, regardless of how high B's temperature is. This is the opposite of everyday positive temperatures, where energy will flow from the high-temperature object to the low-temperature one. So in a sense you could say that the temperature of A is "above infinity".

Negative temperatures are effectively hotter than any positive temperature, as I understand it.

If he's using Kelvins, I sense a Nobel.

I sense a broken thermometer

Funny you should say that - the reason I said "way past -40" is because all the thermometers I can find don't go past -40.

Even the digital ones just say "-40.0C" at about 6pm, and won't show anything else until 17 hours later when the sun comes back, and they creep up a few degrees.

Someone else just mentioned it, but I used to live in northern BC and our "red liquid" thermometers recorded temps down to about -60C or so. Coldest I can recall as a kid was -54C. We still walked to school.

Awesome, I'll have to keep a lookout for one.

I rode my bike in yesterday at around -45C. The snow drifts were too big today, so I walked for 35 minutes instead.

I'm curious, do you use mountain bike tires to get more traction in the snow, or are you able to use the small, thin street tires so long as the snow is sufficiently slushy/salted/shovelled?

I ride a mountain bike, though my tires are only normal width. I did put studs in my tires to help with icy conditions.[1] So far I've had a good winter of riding.

I don't think anyone would ever ride a road bike in the winter, it would not be possible with the snow the way it is (deep, often drifting, rarely cleared)

Tons of people up here ride "fat tire" winter bikes with up to 4.5 inch tires. They ride the downhill trails right through winter.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GI-fR2tXR_8 (I used a cordless drill and just drove them through - took 30 minutes all done)

For mercury thermometers, it's because mercury freezes at -38C (-37F). Alcohol (red liquid) thermometers should work to -70C (-94F).

It's not clear why your thermometers don't register below -40, unless it's a legacy of the mercury thermometer limitation baked into the product (or frozen in, so to speak).

That sounds quite extreme... What do you do for living?

I'm a Software Engineer, so I'm inside all day.

I also ride my bike to work every day, and I ski patrol at the local mountains on the weekend.

I went camping in -35C two weekends ago, it was great!

I think I'd rather camp at -35C than at 2C with driving rain and wind - which is far more likely here in Scotland! (-35C is about the coldest I've experienced at altitude in the Alps).

2C with driving wind and rain is fine once you get in your tent. -35C, not so much.

One of the hardest things to deal with is condensation and sweat - anything even remotely damp (socks, sleeping bag, boots, gloves) will be frozen rock solid in the morning.

I stand corrected!

I have no experience of camping in temperatures as low as -35C. However, I have found that camping in Scottish mountains it is much more pleasant when it is in the range 0 to -10C than just above freezing.

I'd quite like to live for a while in place like this, especially if there's a ski resort nearby (or the opposite – on a tropical island).

I lived in Sukhbaatar in Mongolia for a year and though the summers were great. Winter, on the other hand, freezes the condensation on your eye lashes so that when you blink you can't open your eyes without effort.

Depends where you go. Not all taiga is the way you describe (though there's certainly areas like that).

[source - lived in southern taiga for several years].

Despite having grown up and lived in Michigan my whole life I only just now realized that the more-northern parts of the state are considered taiga.

There were 4 children, and one died. I have often wondered why the world's homo sapien population did not grow faster during the period 200,000 BC to 10,000 BC. In his book Extinct Humans, Ian Tattersall has argued that fully modern homo sapiens took shape around 200,000 BC and left Africa around 150,000 BC. http://www.amazon.com/Extinct-Humans-Ian-Tattersall/dp/08133...

The growth of the population was very slow. Someone suggested that at their peak there were 100 million bison worldwide, but it seems to have taken most of human history to catch up with the bison -- we seem to have hit that number only when we began agriculture. As late as the year 1300, the historian Fernand Braudel estimates a world wide population of only 500 million people. We became one of the most successful species in the history of the planet, so why wasn't there faster growth, for such a long time?

That question interests me, so it also interests me that a family, living alone, with fanatic Christian fundamentalist beliefs and no access to contraceptives, still only ends up having 3 surviving children -- not a whole lot in excess of the replacement rate.

Something similar to this must have been going on for many thousands of years.

Long gestation, long time to sexual maturity, prevalence of single births (twins occur naturally in about 1 of 60 births, triplets 1:8100), very high infant mortality (up to 50% or more, much of the increase in human lifespan is actually a decrease in mortality from 0-10 years). Childbirth was highly risky, and many women had large numbers of pregnancies (10 or more weren't uncommon), with a high risk of death in any. Few women lived to old age (an inversion of today's lifespan trends).

Add in subsistence existence with poor food storage and little means to store surplus, and life was tenuous. Civilization and the formation of cities helped get around the food store problem, but introduced disease, particularly with poor management of human wastes and garbage.

Improving available food, energy, sanitation, acute medical care, obstetrics, decreased criminal and military violence, all contributed to an explosion of population beginning in the 19th century, and rapidly accelerating through the 20th.

They were also at times barely surviving. They might not have had much interest in sex. Even if they did, the mother's reproductive processes may have been reduced due to lack energy/nutrition. You also don't know how many stillbirths they had. It's probably not something they would readily talk about, (and not something that the geologists were eager to discuss).

The article doesn't mention the age of the mother when the family went into isolation in 1936, but judging from the age of the father and the age of the oldest child, she would have been somewhere between her mid/late 20s and late 30s. That could be one reason why she only had two kids in isolation. Also, the family experienced famine, which affects fertility negatively. And the family lived in one room. The lack of privacy may not have been conducive to reproduction.

Which may have also been true during the era 200,000 to 10,000 BC: famine, war, political disturbances, persecution, poor nutrition.

You posted this three times, so two of them were auto-killed.

It was not actually true historically, most of the time people did not have poor nutrition. Sure during "events" like war etc, things got bad.

But most of the time it was not so.

I assume by fanatic Christian fundamentalist you are thinking this family is similar to David Koresh or perhaps a celebrity TV family such as The Duggers. Her sect, first of all, is an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church, not American protestantism. Church-attending Orthodox (as opposed to casual members) would be more likely to have children than this sect. It has more in common with Tolstoyism and its nearest equivalent in the US would probably be Adventism or perhaps Unitarianism in the sense that its adherents are very serious, but they are theologically liberal and opposed to growing the church through baptism and assuming that baptized infants are Christians. So, they were not especially motivated to have children despite being very serious about their religion.

South American here: I have no idea of who David Koresh is or who the Duggers are.

Fanatic Christian fundamentalists are everywhere, and this family fits the stereotype we have perfectly.

I'm not sure what would be the South American equivalent. I'd look into mystic schismatics that pulled away from the Catholic Church in the 19th century to start. Unless you are using fundamentalist to mean the early 20th century movement specifically, it's misapplied here.

We have Jehovah witnesses, the foursquare gospel and about twenty other sects I don't care to remember or even know.

I probably misused the fundamentalist label. I'm sure there are differences between them, but they look all the same to me, and I try to avoid them all.

Poor nutrition reduces fertility.

They weren't having any wars or fighting each other either. And no populations to give them germs.

Also, don't forget that agriculture only arose recently, in the grand scale of things - somewhere around 20,000 years ago, and these folks had agriculture - in fact, their suffering is largely based around the fact that they're attempting agriculture in isolation, which doesn't really work with a "tribe" of their scale. You have to have trade, as, as we saw with them, if you lose your seed stock (carrots, almost rye), you're up the proverbial creek. It took second generation wilderness upbringing for what sounds like a instinctive hunting technique - i.e. chase the animal for days until it falls over exhausted, and kill it - this is how some Sub-Saharan cultures have hunted (and may in fact still) for millenia - Khoi, for instance, and is likely actually how humans have hunted since we descended onto the plains. We have no claws or fangs, just a physiology perfectly adapted for running long, long distances. I digress.

Another factor is that crops have changed vastly since the start of agriculture, which is also a major factor in the relative growth rate of human population (along with disease, which arose hand in hand with agriculture, of course) - see Teosinte vs. Corn, and Emmer Wheat vs. Durum. Same plants, shaped by man's hand since time immemorial by selective breeding.

So, yeah. These guys actually had it really well off compared to historic humans, as they had agriculture, but it doesn't function well in isolation, particularly in such a harsh environment as the taiga - don't forget the place used to be inundated with hunter-gatherers before everyone migrated for the cushy disease and war-ridden life agriculture offers.

Survival was a bitch until we figured out farming and trade - and it's improved over the last 150 years or so due to modern medicine (lower infant and adult mortality), improved crops (green revolution), improved productivity (industrial revolution), and all the rest.

>before everyone migrated for the cushy disease and war-ridden life agriculture offers

Cushy unless youre a peasant.

>Survival was a bitch until we figured out farming and trade

I think this is a misconception leftover from earlier eras. But I don't think it is the commonly accepted scientific viewpoint anymore. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society

> if you lose your seed stock (carrots, almost rye)

I think carrot seeds can survive more than a year if you don't plant them. Wiser methods of conservation might have prevented them from losing their carrots and almost rye.

The last ice age only ended ~10kya, no agriculture and possibly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe Where the entire human race may have been reduced to only a few thousand.

> Old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when "the stars began to go quickly across the sky," and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: "People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars."


It makes me a little jealous of the quality of sky they must have had.

It isn't that hard to see satellites in the sky. The ISS, in particular, can be very bright, to the point where you can see it in daylight (http://www.hobbyspace.com/SatWatching/, http://blogs.crikey.com.au/planetalking/2009/06/18/how-to-se...)

The 1950 ones would have been a lot harder to spot, of course, but might at times have reflected the light of the below-the-horizon sun.

In fact, aside from the Moon, the ISS is the brighest object in the night sky. Brighter than Sirius, and even brighter than any of the planets including Venus.

I have seen the ISS. In New York city! Flying past the tops of buildings. http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

Cool application !

And done with Bootstrap ;)

There weren't any man made satellites until 1957. And I don't think there were any that stayed up for very long until the mid to late 60s/70s, though I could be wrong on that.

The fourth artificial satellite, Vanguard 1, was launched on 17th March 1958 and is still in orbit.

The first and the last time I have observed satellites in the sky was about 20 years ago in Kirov Oblast (Russia). They were fainter than the brightest stars but still distinctly visible with a few crawling across the sky at a given time. The area was rural then but not completely desolate with several villages within 10k radius. There should be large areas of the US where there is comparable or lower level light pollution than in Kirov Oblast. Depending on where you live such an area might be only a few hours drive away.

I actually have a patch of black sky lined up already, just got to wait for the stars to align: weekend, no clouds, no moon, when I can afford to drive somewhere in the wee hours of the morning and back the next day.

But honestly, the tradeoffs I would have to make to move somewhere with even blue sky or green sky at this particular point in my life are large enough that they might as well be in Siberia. And I expect it to get worse as I age and entrench. Hence, a bit of jealousy.

I've been able to see the ISS from atop a building in downtown Philadelphia. If you know where/when to look, it is very easy to see even with very bad light pollution.

I'm surprised that apparently so few of you can see satellites going across the sky. I live in Amsterdam and can see a few bright satellites somewhat regularly with the naked eye.

What I'm surprised about is that they came up with the theory of "man-made fires" all by themselves.

Just to clarify:

Yes, you can see a number of satellites from even the densest urban areas. I could usually see three planets from Manhattan. But I never once had the desire to go lie in Central Park after dark and stare at the sky. Compared to that, even yellow sky is amazing. I frequently find myself stopping on the way from the car to the house at night to stare at the sky, and I think to myself: "And this sky isn't even that good."

So I hear about this family, isolated, zero light pollution, probably far enough north for good Northern lights, and it's no wonder to me that they would have noticed satellites. How could they not be staring at the night sky constantly? It must be heart-achingly beautiful there.

Keep in mind that the idea of man-made objects in the sky dates back thousands of years in myths and religious stories.

And he might very well have at least passing knowledge of the ideas from contemporary descriptions inspired by the writings of Tsiolkovsky on exploration of space starting from 1903 or so onwards, or any number of other sources.

wow, reading this and it's replies was somewhat surprising to me in the opposite way. I live in Utah, if I walked out to my back yard right now, given a little time, I could spot at least a couple satellites. I guess I just took it for granted that other places aren't like that. It makes sense now why all the rangers in the national parks here like to point out how dark our sky is.

They are pretty easy to spot. I point them out to my boyfriend all the time and he refuses to believe they are satellites, rather high altitude airplanes.

Yeah, I can only imagine.

Though, my own recently re-ignited interest in astronomy has taught me that you can actually see quite a bit, including satellites in even thoroughly light polluted areas as my back yard rates red on these charts [1].

1: http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/

We used to be able to see these from my backyard in Northern Minnesota too.

In 2010 Werner Herzog released a documentary about trappers and their families living in the Taiga. It's called "Happy People":


I really recommend it. The people survive their arduous living conditions by continually preparing for the next season. They've done the same things more or less for generations, always working, and pretty much cut off from modern civilization. Makes you realize how happiness is a fairly relative value. Their lives are completely defined by the need to survive, and as long as that's accomplished things are good.

FYI - for those trying to find this online: The full docu is about 130 minutes long and has professional English voice overs [1]. There are a few copies on youtube with subtitles, but they are missing about 30-40 minutes.

[1] http://thepiratebay.se/torrent/6866374/Happy_People_A_Year_I...

It sounds romantic but their existence seems to be miserable, especially the filth. I'd love to live off the grid for a while as long as there is basic hygiene.

I found this post which indicates that Agafia is still alive and now trying to recruit church followers to live in the mountains with her. http://www.byzcath.org/forums/ubbthreads.php/topics/363063/A...

Ouch. Trying to recruit church followers? A bit cavalier with that description I feel. "With a great big bow to request of all: I need a man as an assistant, one whom I will not survive, [who] lives so not good, with weeks of being alone. Do not leave me for Christ's sake. Have mercy upon a wretched orphan, who is in trouble [and] suffering."

Both you and greghinch seem to have a very negative association with that word. Maybe having grown up in the church, I don't see that word from the same angle as the two of you.

Well removing the emotion it's just a very inaccurate way to describe what appears to be happening.

I believe you misread- he's saying she's writing to the church to ask someone to join her. The audience is clear- the post is on the church website for church members to read. He's not trying to say that she's doing the much harder task of recruiting someone to the church and also to live with her.

> trying to recruit church followers to live in the mountains with her

'Recruit' implies asking people to adopt her religion, as opposed to asking existing believers for assistance.

Recruiting implies asking people to join an army. If we're talking about religion, "converting" is the more common verb.

She's recruiting (enlisting) a willing church member to a difficult task.

"recruit" is kind of a loaded word. sounds like she is asking for help with physical tasks she can't manage any more

That's a Google translation and one cannot extract any fine meaning from its results, this being a case in point.

I read the Russian original post and the following is my translation of the excerpt from her letter:

"... I bow to you down to the raw Earth and wish unto you from God good health, the most spiritual salvation and all sorts of good luck, and let God save the sacred [several kinds of] Church until the end of centuries from all division and heretics, [bearing evil thoughts]..."

"I plead to you with a great request: I need a helper, as I won't survive alone, and it is also not good to live so, weeklong remaining in loneliness. Do not leave me [...] the orphan [...]."

"... a sincere believer is needed here, an Old Believer, a person of male gender is needed to chop wood, cut hay. <...> I have weakened in health and in strength."

Bits marked as [...] I couldn't understand.

I have made an attempt at a more accurate translation:


I bow to the ground before you and wish you in the name of the Lord good health, above all salvation and well-being, and may God save the fatherly Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church till the end of time from discord and herecies, the devious webs of enemies...

I bow before all with a great big request: I need someone to be my helper, I cannot survive alone, and it's not proper to live this way, spending whole weeks alone. Do not leave me for Christ's sake, have mercy on this miserable orphan, suffering in hardship.

A true believer is needed here, believing in Christ as the Old Believers do, and a male is needed to chop wood, cut down hay ... My health and strength have deteriorated.


The interesting thing to note is the terminology she uses in her first sentence to specifically define the church she believes in using the Four Marks of the Church (though she leaves out one), thus proclaiming the orthodoxy of the Old Believers' beliefs (also note that the term "Catholic" here in no way means "Roman Catholic"). One may even infer that the "devious webs" are being cast by the reformed Russian Orthodox Church.

I would also note that the archaic nature of some the terms she uses ("наипаче", "многокозненных сетей вражиих", "не добре", "седмицу"), and the archaic sentence structure is more consistent with the language used in the Russian Bible, rather than with the conventions of the early 20th century. The English equivalent would be the language found in the King James Bible.

A note to astral303: I noticed that you translated "сырая земля" as "raw earth", which is interesting, because while "сырой" means both "raw" and "damp", it most certainly is meant as "damp" when describing the earth. I know "raw earth" sounds more natural in English, but I think simply saying "ground" is the best equivalent, since I can't think of an English turn of phrase that invokes the connotations of describing the ground as damp in the intended manner.

You're totally right on "сырая земля", that was a tougher one. Perhaps "bare earth"? Anyway, thanks for the alternate translation and the perspective!

The last 'first contact' with a group of Australian Aboriginals was made in 1984.


I had heard a version of that story where the brother who returned to the traditional life was believed to still be out roaming the desert, and if they saw smoke in the distance they knew it to be him but they'd stay away and leave him be.

That version of the story also had someone explained the terror of seeing a motor vehicle for the first time, followed by (relatively) fat people coming out - believed to be cannibals (how else could you get so fat?) - and their first sighting of a white man. That's quite a lot to take in over a few minutes.

I lived in the Philippines for two years and while it seems a good majority of the population are used to seeing white people I had a few instances where I was the first white person they had ever seen.

Some children were absolutely horrified and ran away screaming and crying! They have a very superstitious culture and have many different types of 'aswang' which translates roughly to 'monster'. We had learnt the local dialect(s) and that terrified them even more, oddly enough, at first. Most of them warmed up to us pretty quickly though not all.

Filipinos most likely to incorporate what they see as strange outside their norms to an Aswang, It so famous that it was used to tame a child if they misbehave, so as a child here you get 'programmed' for the fear of it...I started to create a blog about Aswang do check it out http://creaturesofmidnight.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-aswang.h...

To be fair, the plight of the Lisp developer has come a long way since those dark days.

Still no beard combs though.

The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. "When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing."

It's interesting how isolation does to a spoken language in only one generation. I'm guessing they had nobody but themselves to talk to, so any mispronunciation would be greatly exaggerated.

My husband & I lived in Vienna and we were the only people who spoke out loud to each other on a daily basis (especially in English), and we understand each other very very well in any case, and we got the point where we often didn't even speak in complete sentences over a mere matter of months. When we traveled abroad for a month in an English-speaking country, it took me several days to feel like I was making sense to strangers again! After that I made sure never to go so long without talking to other people out loud again.

I found that my own English changed after being in Sweden for a few months. I learned to pronounce 'r's and 't's and make a few other changes so that local people could understand my American accent better. Then upon returning to the US I had to unlearn those habits.

Me too. It's amazing what you do to get by. You probably simplified your vocabulary some too, I expect? I know I did. Living in Austria was hell on my previously prodigious vocab!

That is interesting - when I was working abroad and only spoke my second language, English, almost exclusively every day for a good three months... it did feel strange and unfamiliar to go back to my native tongue of German at first once I was back in Austria. I haven't forgotten anything, I just initially had to make a more conscious effort especially since some things are a lot easier and more "fluent" to say in English somehow.

Were you in a few monastery?

Haha, no. But the Viennese are not a very welcoming people and it was hard to make friends, and my husband and I ran a company together so it was very easy to be just by ourselves. Vienna is not a place where you can chitchat with your waiters or the people on the bus. It's considered rude.

Here's some fairly recent photos of Agafia and her companion Erofei.


I just glanced at this story. I'm actually familiar with this family and used to read a lot about them in early 90s. In fact, Peskov used to write pretty frequently about them in "Komsomolskaya Pravda," a very popular newspaper publication in Russia, ever since he located the family. He even found relatives of this family who invited Agafia to live with them, but she declined. Really interesting and kind of makes you think about the vastness of Siberian wilderness and that this kind of stuff is even possible in today's day and age.

It's absolutely astonishing to me that there could still be people out there, even in what's termed wilderness, who have never encountered the modernities of the society we inhabit - that for an all but unknown few the world is still just what lies outside their front door.

I feel true sadness for the Lykov's, being 'discovered', then somewhat forced by the intrusion of others to be aware of their greater surroundings and soon thereafter the father and sister seeing the rest of their family felled in quick succession.

Indeed. My grandfather used to tell me tales of his day in the Civilian Conservation Corps, building roads in the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains in the 1930s.

They'd be going along clearing out land for a road and they'd come across a hollow with residents who had been isolated for decades, if not a century or more. He said they knew nothing about the world at all, though they would have basic tools from way back. Of course, that was 80 years ago now.

Interesting little story. Did your grandfather say anything about how the people out in the wilderness reacted?

In general they were mistrustful of outsiders and didn't want anything to do with them. Most of them weren't happy about the new roads (these would have been very basic dirt forest-service style roads at the time). They lived in very simple shacks, and of course had no electricity or running water.

Only vaguely related, but after his time in the CCC, my grandfather became a pentacostal preacher, which he remained for the rest of his life. His first "church" was a brush arbor he built himself. Funny how different life was then.

Brush arbor information: http://brusharborquarterly.com/about.html

You might already know about this, but I feel like you might be interested in the people of the North Sentinel Island, some of the "last people to remain virtually untouched by modern civilization": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sentinel_Island

There is also at least one tribe in South America that has never been contacted by the outside world.


There are a number of tribes along the Amazon who have never been contacted by the outside World, for example Brazil actively tries to identify isolated Indian tribes by fly-over but a policy to not contact them. Here is a story about drug traffickers massacring one of the documented, but uncontacted tribes: http://www.ibtimes.com/uncontacted-amazon-tribe-massacred-pe...

Just to clarify: in Brazil, those "uncontacted" tribes include many (probably a majority) that have had contact with the outside world in the past. However, they currently have no ongoing contact, and the Brazilian authorities don't have enough data about them from the previous attempt at contact.

In some cases, they might have had a less than pleasant experience when they were first contacted by explorers or loggers. Nowadays, while they'd be in danger should they meet illegal loggers and the like, it shouldn't be dangerous for them to contact the authorities. However, their memory from the initial encounter might have been passed on for generations.

Also, as you say, the Brazilian agency in charge of documenting and protecting the Indians has a policy of not forcing contact. So those tribes can remain uncontacted indefinitely.

The page below has more info. Use your favorite translator.


Many of these Brazilian tribes have had some contact with loggers/miners/etc, just no formal government contact.

Perhaps more interesting is the case of the Sentinelese, who live on islands in the bay of bengal, and may have had literally no spoken contact with outsiders in hundreds of years:


There have been many visits on the shore of their island by Indian anthropologists.

There's a show in France called 'Rendez-vous en terres inconnues' where they get celebrities to "isolated" tribes/groups (polar ring, deep jungle, desert, etc). Paradoxically, often, their lifestyle is not grown out of ignorance or isolation, they chose it. They do interact with our societies, but don't merge. The funniest part to me was how easy it was for them to catch up with us, like using a cellphone quickly became a mundane practical thing for emergencies, nothing was really difficult as far as I could see in the videos. Their children are really drawn to the 'modern' world though. Very sad that they're blinded by shiny things and desensitized to their own treasures.

"Very sad that they're blinded by shiny things and desensitized to their own treasures."

Seems to me this applies for people living in civilization, as they again and again leave it to live as noble savages. Looks a lot like "grass will always be greener on the other side".

Here's a recent video of the last survivor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayWPnm0JWG0

It would be cool to isolate yourself just to return and be blown away by all the technological advancements made. Probably not worth it overall though.

I spent two years camping and hiking in remote parts of Central and South America, and on the plane on the way home I genuinely thought I was looking at the future when I saw my first iPad.

I thought (and think) that and I was around the whole time. Then I set a few up, and realised that until the password situation is resolved, we're stuck with the present.

I do this every night for a few hours. Always neat to catch up on humanity's progress/decline when I read the newspaper in the morning :)

Latest report in the Russian news. Non-speakers will have to use the crappy English cc. She's still out there and seems to be doing well. She now has a neighbor whom she visits once a week to listen to the radio.


Another reminder of the value of hemp.

If I knew that I was going to live off somewhere remote for the next 40 years, a handful of hemp seed and the knowledge to weave would be one of my essential requirements. Well that and Jessica Biel.

This is absolutely amazing. This woman is more of a man than any man I know, living in some desolate valley for all of those years now absolutely ALONE? One word: Wow.

Not to start drama, but that's a bit sexist, isn't it? Can't she just be 'stronger than any person you know'? There's nothing inherently 'manly' about being a strong independent person.

> Not to start drama, but that's a bit sexist, isn't it?

There's absolutely nothing sexist at all about the post. It was a compliment, geez.

> Can't she just be 'stronger than any person you know'?

No, men are generally stronger than women; it's why we have different classifications in sports. Would you rather we lumped them together?

Complimenting a woman by saying she's like a man is pretty much the definition of sexism.

Sheesh... Let me translate the post for you:

"This woman is so good that a certain physical difference between genders that has historically been regarded a prestigious male trait can be made even more of a compliment by giving it to a woman".

I don't understand the obsession I find online of people searching for insults and controversies that don't exist.

I know that's what you meant. Regarding male-only traits as prestigious implies that they are superior to female-only traits. That implication is sexism. Whether or not you think sexism is insulting -- and it appears you do not -- it was definitely sexism. And other people find sexism insulting.

> Regarding male-only traits as prestigious implies that they are superior to female-only traits

Nope. It in no way implies that. That was an assumption you made. Among male traits, strength has historically been prestigious. How on earth is that implying female-only traits are inferior? Give me a first-order logic chain or something here because I'm not seeing the inferences.

> Whether or not you think sexism is insulting

I do think sexism is insulting. His post was not sexism.

That's reality. There are traits that men are better at. And the same applies for women. If someone finds reality insulting, it could be their problem.

But what you've translated isn't what the post said. You are inferring that the OP was talking about the physical differences that favour a man in that situation. If that's what they meant, they should have said so.

What the post actually says is "being a man is a good thing, this woman is being manly as opposed to being womanly, and this is a great thing".

If I took an opinion poll (appropriately administered in, say, the US) on who has the more accurate translation of the original post, I would bet a large sum of money that the vast majority would say mine. Here is the juxtaposition of the original post and your inference by the way:

> This is absolutely amazing. This woman is more of a man than any man I know, living in some desolate valley for all of those years now absolutely ALONE? One word: Wow.

> Being a man is a good thing, this woman is being manly as opposed to being womanly, and this is a great thing.

If you took an opinion poll split by gender, I think you'd find some interesting results. You, as a man, see it as a simple equivalence to physical strength, but do women see it the same way? At best, we can say "I don't know". So why not just use 'strong' in the original post, rather than talk about being a man?

And I'm not sure what is wrong about my original inference. The story is of a woman being "more of a man". It is "amazing", "wow". It's not a huge leap to see that being more of a man is portrayed as a positive attribute.

Split it by age too - I think that would be a significant factor.

But you yourself have assumed that 'man' == 'strong'. The OP said nothing of the sort. That in itself is pretty sexist.

Taking attributes and ascribing them to gender is useless at best, and insulting at worst. I might just as easily say that a rapist was "more of a man than any man I know"- after all, men tend to commit acts of rape far more than women, so it's a manly attribute, right?

> Identifying strength as solely being a 'manly' attribute is pretty sexist.

No, you're missing this completely.

Let me try something different, but analogous. Back when I was in high school, I ran track. My sister (in 8th grade at the time) was fast enough to have been 4th on the men's varsity team. So people told her, wow, you're as good as a guy! Did we value speed as a "solely" male attribute? No, it was valued separately in its own classification (men and women race separately). However, the fact that my sister was good enough to actually compete with the men (who are overall much faster than women), came across as a compliment.

I would go so far as to invoke "isomorphic" as the most apt term in describing the type of compliment involved in mine and scrapcode's scenarios.

> Taking attributes and ascribing them to gender is useless at best.

Useless at best? I see this phrase a lot on the internet lately, and it must be a fad because it wasn't in popular usage a few years ago.

Men and women have different traits. It is a completely, scientifically, undeniable fact. Men will be better at certain skills, and women will be better at other skills. The latest social trend cannot change that.

If a woman is good enough to play in the NFL, great for her, we'd all be glad to see that! But that doesn't change the fact that the odds are ridiculously stacked against her being capable of doing such a thing. Maybe start a separate women's NFL? Alright, but since no one's done that, let's use common sense and say football is a man's sport. What is an activity that's typically only associated with females only: ballet dancers. Sure, there are male ballet dancers but until the ratio is close to 50/50, the term "ballet dancer" will continue to be associated with females, and for good reason.

(I had edited my comment so that your quote doesn't apply any more- apologies)

This is an apples and oranges comparison. In your example, people were saying quite specifically that "you can run as fast as a man, and men tend to be faster runners than women". The OPs post said nothing of the sort.

You are inferring that they were referring to strength, but there's nothing to indicate that. Living by yourself in the woods is apparently manly. Maybe it's physical strength. Maybe it's mental strength. Maybe it's tool making. Maybe it's hunting. But saying that she is "more of a man" basically puts any and all of these things under the bracket of "man's activities", which is indeed, sexist.

To use the inverse, would you have said that someone who tried to live in the wild and failed was "more of a woman than any woman I know"?

> Living by yourself in the woods is apparently manly.

Yes, men are more likely to live in the woods by themselves than females. I haven't looked up this fact anywhere, but I guarantee I can find you a reference if you want one.

> But saying that she is "more of a man"...

... means she is better than most men at something they typically perform "better" (in a quantitive sense, mind you) than females. Which is completely the same as the situation I provided above. Perhaps you are getting confused by common American phrases. I might guess that you are not a native (American English) speaker?

EDIT: Just checked out your Twitter from the link on your HN profile and confirmed what I thought with regards to American vernacular.

And "somebody dunk that nerd's head in a toilet. It'll put hair in his chest. Like a real man!" Wow, seriously? This kind of hypocrisy? May I ask why it's okay to discriminate/oppress only certain groups?

I am certain your (and your friend's) views are highly abnormal, OR you are both greatly misinterpreting what scrapcode said (hint: this is the more likely explanation).

Check out the definition of sexist:

"Discrimination on the basis of sex, esp the oppression of women by men"

I do not adhere to this definition one bit, and quite frankly, I'm upset that you are having fun at my expense (with something that is not true) on Twitter. Anonymous HN users on are people too.

It should be pretty self evident that that particular Twitter reply was sarcastic. And I would say that my view is highly normal, but I suspect that we will never agree with each other.

Attributing gender as a broad label is sexist because it creates a gender definition where there is not one. There are women stronger than the average man, it does not make them "more of a man", it makes them "stronger than the average man". There is an important distinction.

Again, nothing would have been lost if the original post described her as "strong" instead of "more of a man".

(And yes, I understand American English perfectly, thank you. It is not difficult.)

Thank you untog, that was exactly my issue with the original phrasing. It's not that she was praised for being stronger than all the men the OP knew, but that she was being praised for, essentially, being better at being a man than all the men the OP knew. A small distinction, that makes the original sentiment come off as very sexist.

I don't think the OP was being sexist on purpose, or maliciously, or even consciously. I just wanted to bring attention to it, because this is the sort of casual sexism that pervades a lot of people's thinking without them even realizing it.

Thanks, I thought I was going crazy for a second there. Agreed that no one is being intentionally sexist- I think it's just a side effect of phrases and colloquialisms that have been in our culture for a long time.

>There's nothing inherently 'manly' about being a strong independent person.

No, but being strong interdependent person in modern civilization is different than living alone in the wilderness.

It is inherently easier for a man to survive for years alone in the wilderness, without the aid of technology, than it is for a woman. The extra size, strength, and endurance is handy.

This woman is more of a man than any man I know

What do you mean?

They mean they have a very narrow definition of what makes a man a man.

For example - I can not do many repairs to my car and so I take it to a mechanic. To a great many people, this makes me less of a man.

Sounds to me more like they are making a comment about the dichotomy between masculinity and gender. Seems a reasonable observation to make.


Non-gendered singular pronoun.

It's not very hard to understand. Surviving in the wilderness is considered "manly" by most people. She's very good at this. So she's manly in a way.

It's all she knows, survival isn't optional.

Here's an update from March 2012: http://www.1tv.ru/news/sport/201780 You can hear her speak around 50 seconds in. She says she's very sick.

One thing I didn't realise until I talked to my grandma is how famous she is in Russia, but it makes sense.

May have been posted in another comment (couldn't see it) but apparently this is the location ( found on a reddit comment) on google maps https://maps.google.com/?ll=51.460852,88.427083&spn=0.00...

Minecraft LARP.

This book, mentioned in the Sources of the article, is (obviously) a book length account of the contacts between the Russian geologists and the Lykov family. Probably translated to several other languages as well.

Vasily Peskov. Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family's Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness. New York: Doubleday, 1992

This would have made for a great Lovecraft story.

One thing you learn from these people is that there certainly is another way besides the rat race... I mean, for 40 years they had zero income in conventional terms and survived, if not very comfortably.

ps. YMMV. You could call withdrawal from the rat race a comfort that makes the lack of physical comforts seem small in proportion.

How did they tell their kids about the birds and the bees? Must have been very awkward as a teenager.

How so? Humans survived for quite some time indeed without the concept of hiding sexuality from children. I would imagine in prehistory, the birds and the bees was explained through visual observation of your elders or just by figuring it out when the urge arose. Sex doesn't really need to be explained or defined unless you have a need to put it into context of cultural acceptance (which doesn't matter in this case).

In this case, with the people being heavily religious (and not knowing much about their religion), it may have been handled differently. It just didn't need to be.

> How so?

Because of the incest taboo.

Depending on how their created civilization viewed sexuality, there might not be this created taboo. There might be the natural aversion to incest, or there might not be. Since they were religious, there might be religious reasons to abstain. If the kids are that heavily religious that they are terrified of modern technology etc, it seems doubtful they would struggle too much with resisting temptation.

That's just my take on the matter.

They didn't create a new civilization. The couple was born and raised in Russia. Their religion was a sort of Russian Orthodoxy. Whatever quirks they had, it's pretty fair to assume that they had an incest taboo (as do practically all human societies).

On the other hand, it's not obvious at all that resisting breaking that taboo would be as easy as not using modern technology. This was hinted in one of the book's reviews on Amazon:

> A spectra haunted this group, as well as other remote old believers - incest! Peskov never can definitely state this is the reason why the two brothers established separate dwellings six kilometers from the main housing unit, but certainly it is high on the speculation list.


I'd say that the taboo is now stronger than it has been. I'm half way through the excellent Montefiore book Jeresulem, the biography, and royal families and leader mentioned in it definitely didn't have strong taboos here. This may just be a ruling class thing I suppose. Link to book review as the book is fascinating. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/16/jerusalem-biogra...

In a house that small they probably saw their parents.

Poor nutrition reduces the sex drive and delays maturation, so it probably wasn't as tough as you might think.

Jarawa tribe which lives in Andaman, face extinction after coming with contact with civilisation

Think about it as a transformation. Do not delve into death as some sort of full stop for entity.

Everyone will extinct at some point, to avoid it, stop fighting it.

Are there any Google maps urls?

The link seems to be non responsive. Does anyone know of a mirror?

Works fro me. But if it's not working for you, you could always try the Coral Cache link, by adding .nyud.net to the end of the domain:


Myself use Pocket for reading articles but was interested in the link you provided. However, doesn't seems as it's working. Can't even access the domain nyud.net.

> having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost

How can someone survive that?

And I thought Thanksgiving with my folks was bad...

Can anyone spot the site on HERE or Google maps?

> having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost

I'm no scientist, but I don't believe frost forms until 32 degrees. Maybe this was a mistranslation...?

You should read that as -40 degrees - likely Celcius and not Fahrenheit you refer to. Funny thing is, -40 C = -40 F.

I've been reading a book called "Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places " (http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Adventures-Worlds-Frozen-Places/d...):

"One degree of frost was one degree below freezing Fahrenheit. An explorer might write in his journal of fifty degrees of frost - negative eighteen degrees Fahrenheit"

Fahrenheit just gets more and more confusing

I've seen the phrase in a Jack London story. That would be 40 degrees below freezing. For Celsius that would be -40C since freezing is 0C. For Fahrenheit that would be -8F (32 - 40).

1 °C = 1.8 °F (Not really correct because this actually means a temperature difference of...)

Probably means minus 40 degrees. Which incidentally is the same in Celcius and Fahrenheit.

To me that reads as "-40 degrees Celsius" since in Celsius 0 degrees is exactly where water freezes.

Most likely -8F, per my comment upthread.

I guess they mean -40 °C (coincidently -40 °F) not +40 °F (4.4 °C).

I'm a native Russian speaker, this means -40 Celcius. In Russian, we say "X degrees of frost" (градусов мороза) to refer to temperatures below zero Celcius.

> I don't believe frost forms until 32 degrees.

Perhaps it was under 10 atmospheres of pressure? ;-)

I think they've meant -40 C.

I went to school with their relative in Russia.



Not really. I remember the story was a sensation when it was first covered by Peskov. Not so much these days, in Russia anyway.

I have totally never heard of it.

Did you mean "пиздец"? What you wrote would be be pronounced more like "peepets" or "pippets".

Yes he did. But it's not a typo. It's hard to explain - it's an intentional misspelling of a curse word that makes it somewhat more socially acceptable.


It is just baffling to me how they were able to pull that off for 40 years and raise infant kids as well with practically no experience or training and no way out, after they had to leave so suddenly - when in comparison, Christopher McCandless (alex supertramp) barely made it four months with arguably better equipment, shelter and under overall better weather conditions. And considerably VERY nearby ways out.

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