In Bykovsky, a village of 457 on Russia’s northeast coast, the shoreline is collapsing, creeping closer and closer to houses and tanks of heating oil, at a rate of 15 to 18 feet a year. Eventually, homes will be lost, and maybe all of Bykovsky, too, under ever-longer periods of assault by open water. “It is eating up the land,” said Innokenty Koryakin, a member of the Evenk tribe and the captain of a fishing boat. “You cannot do anything about it.”
To the east, Fyodor V. Sellyakhov scours a barren island with 16 hired men. Mammoths lived here tens of thousands of years ago, and their carcasses eventually sank deep into sediment that is now offering up a trove of tusks and bones nearly as valuable as elephant ivory.
Mr. Sellyakhov, a native Yakut, hauls the fossils to a warehouse here and sells them for $25 to $50 a pound. This summer he collected two tons, making him a wealthy man, for Tiksi. “The sea washes down the coast every year,” he said. “It is practically all ice – permafrost – and it is thawing.”
The thing is that we, like the woolly mammoths of old may not like the direction these changes are taking.