Mosquitoes in Siberia

In two recent issues of the New Yorker, staff writer Ian Frazier describes a four-thousand mile trip across Siberia (Travels in Siberia I and Travels in Siberia II). So far, because of my haphazard system of New Yorker consumption (read “Talk of the Town” and an article or two, then add it to the pile), I have only read Part II and am not sure where Part I is.

Western Siberia is mosquito country. I grew up in a place with plenty of the buzzing pests, but nothing like what he experienced:

The country’s swampiness did not manifest itself in great expanses of water with reeds and trees in it, like the Florida Everglades. There were wide rivers and reedy places, but also birch groves and hills and yellow fields. The way you could tell you were in the swamp was, first, that the ground became impassably soggy if you walked at all far in any direction; and, second, by the mosquitoes.

I have been in mosquito swarms in beaver meadows in northern Michigan, in boreal wetlands in Canada, and near Alaska’s Yukon River. Western Siberia has more. On calm and sultry evenings as we busied ourselves around the camp, mosquitoes came at us as if shot from a fire hose. Usually mosquitoes cluster in a cloud around their targets, but as Volodya made dinner I observed a thick and proximate cloud surrounding him head to toe, and then a whole other sort of candidate swarm around that inner swarm, and then more in all directions, minutely enlivening the sky.



  1. I highly recommend part 1. There's a whole section where he just basically lists facts about Siberia that you would like (if you haven't already read it by now, of course). But I just wanted to comment because you reminded me of the mosquito-in-the-oatmeal sentence, which I'd say was one the most visceral I've ever read.

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