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'Siberia is so big, it’s almost more an idea than a place'
Ian Frazier

New signs of Siberia's Nessie? A dark creature in the lake and broken fishing nets

By Ann Liesowska
01 November 2016

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil in Yakutia in search of the legendary Labynkyr Devil.

Stay warm this winter! Andrey Solovyev will spend winter on shores of lake Labynkyr. Picture: Ykt.ru

Braving temperatures of below minus 50C, and with no other living soul in a radius of 150 kilometres, this 32 year old adventurer walked for ten days to reach one of Russia's most remote and mysterious lakes in a one-man search for the monster that is reputed to inhabit its deep waters. 

He has regularly met brown bears roaming these wild shores, although they are now ready for hibernation, and wolves are never far away.

But it is a different beast he is seeking to see and chronicle - Siberia's own Loch Ness monster.

Home for him through the winter is a simple wooden hut overlooking the ice-covered lake. Expeditions here are rare, but usually academics and others seeking to prove or disprove the Labynkyr Devil's existence come in summer, when the waters are unfrozen, and then stay a week or two.

Winter temperatures here in the coldest inhabited district in the world are likely to plummet well under 50C, although this week the nights are milder, only minus 32C or so. Yet Andrey, from Voronezh, is undaunted, having already spent 103 days in solitude on the lakeside, living on fish he catches, wild onion which he gathered and pickled earlier, as well as mushrooms and berries he collected before the big freeze.  

Does he believe in the Labynkyr Devil?

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr
Associate Professor of Biogeography, Dr Lyudmila Emeliyanova of Moscow State University during one of her expeditions to Lake Labynkyr in Yakutia. Pictures: The Siberian Times 


'I am not claiming anything, but I think that perhaps it does live here,' Andrey told representatives of the Oymyakon branch of Russian Geographical Society who ventured here recently to check on his progress. 'And I've got a chance to check it out. I didn't meet the devil yet.'

Yet then he qualifies his statement, feeling that he may have glimpsed it.  

'Two weeks ago when the ice was still not completely frozen some dark creature swam out of the lake - but I couldn't identify it,' he said.

Nor did he manage to capture it on camera, although he is ready to do so if he gets a definite sighting. 

Could it have been the Labynkyr Devil?

'It is quite possible, but I can't be certain,' Andrey said. 'Some strange things were happening here, like in September when I set very robust nets and they were torn to shreds, like I could never imagine.

'I saw huge - meters in diameter - holes on these nets.

'It definitely wasn't done by a fish, even a pike couldn't bite through this net.'

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr
Explorer Andrey Solovyev, 32. Picture: Ykt.ru


So Andrey has the impression - as many others have before - that something large loiters beneath the surface of lake Labynkyr.

'What would I do if I meet the devil? I'll be taking pictures,' he hopes.

Reports reached the outside world of a 'monster' in one of the most remote lakes in Yakutia in the 19th century, although possibly locals told such tales earlier than this. 

It was a Soviet scientist Viktor Tverdokhlebov, who popularised the notion of 'Labynkyrsky Chert' (Labynkyr Devil) here some 5,000 km east of Moscow. Lake Labynkyr is in the same district of Yakutia as Oymyakon, known as the Pole of Cold, the world's coldest permanent human settlement.

In the Stalin era, Tverdokhlebov wrote: 'There have been all sort of hypothesises about what kind of creature it could be: a giant pike, a relic reptile or an amphibia.

'We did not manage to prove or to disprove these versions, we managed to find remains of jaws and skeleton of some animal.'

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr
Soviet scientist Viktor Tverdokhlebov pictured during his trip to lake Labynkyr and years after; GVs of the lake. Pictures: The Siberian Times 


A number of modern-day scientists have examined the lake's depths. 

Associate Professor of Biogeography, Dr Lyudmila Emeliyanova of Moscow State University, recorded 'several seriously big underwater objects' with sonar readings on a trip to Labynkyr. She is not the only researcher to have done so.   

'It was our fourth or fifth day at the lake when our echo sounding device registered a huge object in the water under our boat,' she said. 'The object was very dense, of homogeneous structure, surely not a fish nor a shoal of fish, and it was above the bottom. 

'I was very surprised, but not scared and not shocked, after all we did not see this animal, we only registered a strange object in the water. But I can clearly say - at the moment, as a scientist, I cannot offer you any explanation of what this object might be.'

The readings were repeated and she became convinced there was more than one large living object in the pure waters.

'I can't say we literally found and touched something unusual there but we did register with our echo sounding device several seriously big underwater objects, bigger than a fish, bigger than even a group of fish.'

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr
Dr Lyudmila Emeliyanova pictured by her office at Moscow State University and during one of her expeditions to Lake Labynkyr in Yakutia. Pictures: The Siberian Times 


Dogfish and salmon trout are known in inhabit the lake. Two years ago divers reached 59.6 metres in the lake, in cold March, without meeting anything larger than a few dogfish. 

On the basis of 'sightings' there has been speculation that Labynkyr and its neighbour Vorota lake which has identical water level, suggesting an underground connection, and its own rumours of monsters -  might be inhabited by a school of ichthyosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles resembling dolphins or sharks, or  plesiosaurs. 

Another version has speculated that relic killer whales could have become marooned in Labynkyr. Some accounts even suggest the 'creature' makes a primeval cry as it attacks its prey. 

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr
Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil in Yakutia in search of the legendary Labynkyr Devil. Pictures: Ykt.ru


'Personally, I do believe that when the information about something strange circulates among local people for so many years, it just can't be groundless, it means something is there,' said Dr Emeliyanova. 'I know the local people very well - they are ingenuous but they do not lie.

'I have been on a dozen expeditions to this region and I can say I know the character of locals well. 

'They are emotional - but are not intended to show their emotions, and they are very true and honest by nature, often more honest than is necessary. This is why I am not ready to reject all these stories.'

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr
In 2014 two years ago divers reached 59.6 metres in the lake. Pictures: KAMAZ


There are more than 800,000 lakes in Yakutia, yet only two have rumours of monsters. 

An expedition in August 2006 used a Humminbird Piranha MAX 215 Portable fish-finder to examine Labynkyr.

'Often the device showed the long chain of big fish some 4 metres above the bottom of the lake, when the depth was about 30-45 meters,' said a participant.

Some 'object' was detected at a depth of 30 metres, appearing to be seven metres wide. 

'I switched off the 'Fish ID' and we watched just pure scanning. Soon we registered a 'shadow' some 15-17 metres under our boat, it was about 6.5 metres long.

'It was pretty clear, it was not a fish and not a tree. There cannot be fish that big, and a log would have been registered in a different way. How can it swim under the water?

'The most active 'shadows' or 'bodies' were registered in certain parts of the lake when the depth was 42 to 60 metres.'

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr


Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr
Andrey Solovyev and his house for this winter. Pictures: Ykt.ru


Meanwhile, Andrey is conducting his own lonely vigil which may or may not end in success. He arrived in summer on his ten day walk from Tomtor with no warm clothes, let alone a gun or satellite phone.

'Why did I decide to spend a winter at lake Labynkyr? First of all, because of the Labynkyr phenomenon, as this is a very unusual lake. 

'I got intrigued by the Labynkyr Devil's legend. Apparently many saw it. 

'Secondly I wanted to test my survival skills, as I am a tourism and a survival instructor. I wanted to get new experience in severe climate of Yakutia, test myself and learn new things.'

In the past he has visited all the great Russian mountain ranges, and claimed he is 'physically and morally' prepared for the deep winter. 

'My family is used to my lifestyle so they didn't panic about this idea to spend winter at Lake Labynkyr,' he said. 

Being here, the main threat is not the harsh climate but his own resilience, Andrey said. 

'Most difficult is the psychological part of it. It's not at all about physical tiredness, not the wood chopping, or fishing, not looking for food but the solitude.

'It's the sensor deprivation as there are a very limited number of emotions, every day is the same. 

'This is the most difficult in getting over yourself.

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr
Andrey pictured with a rare visitor. Picture: Ykt.ru


'Every day I wake up 6 am. Before the lake froze, I used to either swim or had a cold water bucket; now I rub myself with snow. 

'About 7am I have breakfast and go to chop wood.

'The sun rises about 8am and around lunch time I go and check fishing nets, then walk around the lake and try to climb mountains. 

'This is my way to bring some kind of diversity into the day. Every day I walk about five or seven kilometres, not far.

'Every day I write a bit to add to my book, and also keep a daily log of water level and air temperature.'

How does he keep warm? Andrey was gifted a kukhlyanka  - a coat typical for people in northeastern Siberia, made from two layers or either reindeer, or dog, or marine animal skin.

Andrey walked from Tomtor to lake Labynkyr; the journey took him 10 days. Picture: The Siberian Times

Andrey Solovyev keeps a lonely all-winter vigil at Lake Labynkyr in search of the legendary Labynkyr

Comments (5)

I Must STRONGLY AGREE with the previous poster who advised Andrey to AVOID swimming in the Lake at ANY time.

The animal which has fueled the speculation that a "monster" inhabits Lake Labynkyr is a carnivore of some size. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my best guess of what this is, is some kind of fish (ice over precludes an air breathing mammal or reptile). A Greenland or even better, a landlocked Pacific Sleeper Shark is the Best candidate.

BOTH these sharks are huge, reaching over 7 meters, prey on arctic mammals, with the Greenland even documented taking polar bears swimming in open water. The Pacific Sleeper is thought to prefer Stellar Sea lions, a very large animal as prey.
. A human would pose little problem for either of theses extreme cold water sharks.

MOREOVER, the Pacifiic Sleeper inhabits the sea of Okhotsk; of which Lake Labynkyr is apparently a remnant body of water. Bathing in ANY body of water containing these animals is foolhardy. Stay out, please!
Paul Kutscera, Bayside, New York USA
28/02/2017 04:03
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No one has mentioned the obvious choice... a landlocked Greenland Shark or a related form. These could certainly tolerate the cold of the Lake and the Ice-over which exists for 6 months.

Also, the ice-over precludes ANY air breathing mammal or reptile relict. The BEST guess is a fish and the carnivorous Greenland Shark, or a similar form, which grows over 7 meters in length is the best candidate amongst these.

Moreover, If Labynkyr is a remnant of a retreating Sea of Ohhotsk, the case becomes even stronger as GreenLand Sharks and similar forms like the Six Gill Shark live in habitats similar to the Sea of Okhotsk.

Paul Kutscera, USA
Paul Kutscera, Bayside NY USA
28/02/2017 03:32
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A fantastic example of fortitude and the power of love to enable SURVIVAL. GOD BLESS YOU both and the men including your brother Nicolai who found you. May God and our Savior Jesus Christ ALWAYS look after you and your family. All BEST WISHES and we pray for a speedy and complete recovery from the frostbite injuries.


A Fellow Orthodox Christian,

Paul Kutscera
Paul Kutscera, Bayside NY USA
28/02/2017 03:18
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,Not sure why you'd subject your horse to such harsh temperatures of this region. You could have used that new Russian arctic truck Dr. Dmitri Schiller uses every time he goes up here. I'm amazed you spent 5 weeks up here from New Zealand. You should also trek 30 miles south west to Lake Vorota.



I suggest Andrey stop bathing in the lake. The previous geographic expedition in 1950's discovered a number of disturbing scenarios here. On the southern coast line human remains were found. The cause of death was undetermined. It's assumed they were attacked by animals from the lake.



The team also eyewitnessed several of these creatures close up by boat and on the shoreline. They seem to be large carnivores that feed on the dogfish and other fish in the lake. They seem to have a bird-like beak like an Ichthyosaur. However, the animal remains Dr. Schiller found (a jaw bone) back in 2013, appears to be the remains of an extant family of pliosaurs (formerly Predator X). So I don't recommend Andrey bath in the water any more. One of the natives reported that his 5-year old son was attacked fatally at the lake. However, he retrieved the undigested body after capturing the creature and killing it. The natives say nothing of where the creatures remains are today. Maybe the jawbone was all that was left?



The theory goes something like this: some how some ancient pliosaurs got trapped in this area some 4,00 years ago when the ice age thaw caused a large deluge, especially over northeastern Siberia. Then something possible tectonic caused the waters to recede trapping this prehistoric relics (or living fossils) to be trapped in these two lakes.



Lake Vorota and Labynykr may be linked by an underground volcanic fissure cavern system 30 miles long. There may be other lakes in the region also connected. Since the waters are very warm, tkhese creatures could be chasing fish back and forth with very little or no light. The water levels of both lakes appear to be the same. There must be an opening to the caverns near the bottom of the southern shore.



If Andrey wants to see one all he needs to do is sit quietly on a small hill overlooking the lake. Don't do anything unusual. Just sit there with binoculars and eat your meal, have coffee, read a book etc. Soon he will see something big "spy hopping" like a whale looking at him on the shore. It may try to swim toward him as it did back in the 1950's. Just stay out of the water. Even in a boat!
Nunzio Byzness, Hartford/USA
06/01/2017 17:36
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I met Andrey a couple of months ago when I passed his cabin on my five week solo horse trek in the taiga, he's a great guy and I wish him the best of luck! I hope he can make it through the winter and find his monster!
Ian Robinson , New Zealand
06/11/2016 19:50
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