Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
After locating the mammoth cemetery, there was still excavation and trading work to be done.
The last two were simple. There were many independent hunters and tribal people on the Siberian plains. They were considered cheap labor and could be engaged to excavate the mammoth ivory.
As they needed channels to sell the ivory, Li Du got in touch with the owner of Golden Ivory bar to reach out to buyers. Li Du had bribed the owner long before, and the man had been the one to leak out the news of the nuclear magnetic penetration and feedback analysis machine.
That had been a great help to Li Du. If they had been the ones to talk about the machine themselves, the ivory hunters might not have believed them. However, it was different with the owner of Golden Ivory bar. He was a well-known figure in the ivory trade.
With the two mammoth cemetery sites discovered, a large number of mammoth tusks had been excavated. The next step, of entering the market and exchanging them for cash, promised to be easy
For that, Li Du had to thank Steve. He had been the one to look up the people in charge of the mammoth cemetery. After all, there were risks involved in going underground for the excavation. It was Steve who had managed to mobilize his connections to engage the professional men who looked after the safety at the excavation sites.
Looking at the map, Li Du found four more mammoth cemeteries. Altogether, he would be able to make at least twenty million US dollars on this trip to Siberia.
Based on his current situation, twenty million dollars was not too much. Every time he had to support Remonin, he would have to spend at least a million dollars. However, having some deposits in his account was still better than none at all.
As for Seagull Island, the development was on track and the purging of the snakes was almost complete. Li Du was preparing to build a small power generator on the island. For that, he would have to set aside another sum of money.
The diamond mine at Amengda brought good news. It was a rich mine, and some of the diamonds were being polished and prepared for export. However, the diamonds had to be verified and reviewed by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre before they could be sent into the market and sold for cash.
Li Du didn’t need to care too much about that. Carl was taking care of it all, since all the diamonds from Amengda were meant to be supplied to Harry Winston, Inc.
Steve suggested that Li Du should engage a professional team of accountants, poaching its members from the top talents of the Big Four accounting firms in the world. That was because Li Du’s finances were now extremely complex and it would be best for him to engage professionals to help to manage them.
Li Du accepted the suggestion and intended to resolve that after he returned from Siberia. By May, they were supposed to cross the Arctic Circle, or more exactly, to sail to the Northern Islands.
According to the map, the Islands were to the north of the Siberian Highlands. As they continued traveling north from the Midwest of Siberian Highlands, the road conditions and weather would deteriorate.
Hence, when Li Du’s work was done, they decided to change lanes and enter another city. After modifying their vehicles, they would continue to the Northern Islands via a waterway. Their SUVs would also be transported across the waterway.
When Li Du was searching for the last mammoth cemetery, Steve and some of his men started on their journey first. They were going to start the preparation for their expedition to the Arctic.
Early in May, Li Du made arrangements for the excavation work at one of the best spots of the mammoth cemetery. Then, he drove to a small town nearby, where there was an airport. They were going to take a plane to a transit city – The Arctic Black Pearl, Vorkuta.
Vorkuta was the administrative center of the Pechora mine in Russia as well as the main coal-mining center. The city was nicknamed ‘Arctic Black Pearl’ because of the resources it possessed.
In fact, before the discovery of the coal mine, the city had been a labor camp of the Soviet Union. Its specific location was in the northeast corner of the Autonomous Republic of Komi, Russia, 160 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. It had a population of 200,000 people.
Based on what Li Du knew, the city was a rather primitive one. It was built entirely on the foundation of a coal company, which was home to one of the world’s most famous energy companies, Vorkuta Coal Co., Ltd., and Northern Steel Group. Half of the population in the city was related to the two large corporations.
The plane they were traveling on was very rundown. Perhaps a more accurate description would be that it was fit for the recycling plant. The seats on the plane looked flattened from prolonged strain and it was uncomfortable sitting on them.
Li Du wanted to put on his safety belt when he realized, to his horror, that there was none.
He asked, startled, “Hey, are there no safety belts on this plane?”
Not only was there no safety belt, but there was =no stewardess either. The crew consisted of a big-sized pilot and another old man who appeared to be either the co-pilot or the technician.
The old man turned around and spoke in broken English, “What, you want a safety belt? What do you need that toy for? Sit tight, we are jetting off!”
“Into the sky, buddy!” The pilot laughed loudly. The engine whooshed and propelled the plane forward.
It might sound dramatic, but because the plane was to fly at a low altitude, it was not well sealed; in fact, the body of the aircraft had gaps. As the plane took off, cold wind seeped into the plane.
Not only that but for an unknown reason, there were some potatoes, apples and other similar cargo on the plane. When the plane took off, the fruits started to roll around the passenger cabin.
Li Du was stunned. He was worried that he would share the fate of those fruits and roll somewhere else too!
Fortunately, although the plane was in poor condition, it was still rather stable. After it rose to the sky and stabilized, it continued flying smoothly.
The old man wormed his way from the cockpit like a monkey and started to pick up the items that had rolled onto the floor.
Ah Bai was sharper and faster than him, however. He picked up two apples from the floor and stuffed one in Li Du’s hands while keeping the other.
The old man was chatty. He smiled and asked, “This is your monkey? It is very cute and it’s also very brave. Mister, you should learn from this monkey. There is no need to be afraid. Our planes are all very safe.”
He could tell that Li Du did not feel good.
Li Du forced a smile. “I have a phobia of heights; hence I cannot help but be afraid.”
The old man passed him an apple and said, “Then have some fruit. Good food can assuage the fear in the depths of your heart. In addition, if you have a fear of heights, traveling from Vorkuta will be convenient for you. There are many trains in the town.”
Vorkuta’s coal resources had to be transported by train. Hence, in terms of transportation, the city had the highest number of train routes in northern Russia.
There, trains were the key form of transportation. The airport did not operate in the winter season. As for the highways, Vorkuta’s roads were meant to be used as means of inner transportation, connecting various coal mines and gas fields. They were not connected to the outside world.
That meant to say, there was no highway for driving towards Vorkuta. They would have to cross the wilderness.
Low-lying flights were dangerous. First, they might knock into flocks of birds. Second, there was turbulence. After a risky journey, they finally managed to land successfully at the small airport of Vorkuta.
The old man and the plump pilot took a photograph with Li Du and his group. Li Du asked what the photograph was for and the plump pilot laughed heartily. “Some passengers do not have confidence in our plane. When that happens, I show them photos of our former passengers to reassure them.”
Li Du smiled helplessly. He felt that being able to arrive at the destination safely in this plane was an extraordinary stroke of luck.
In any case, they arrived at the city of Vorkuta and Steve had mentioned that there would be good food waiting for them. The locals produced some of the most delicious recipes in Russia.