In the snow-covered shipyard of Yakutia, Russia’s Far East, workers brave subzero temperatures to perform the grueling task of ‘vymorozka,’ or ‘freezing out,’ on ships in need of repair. This demanding and tedious work can take weeks to complete, with temperatures plummeting as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius (-58 F). As workers chip away at the ice encasing the ships, they are docked in the harbor of Yakutsk on the banks of the Lena River, Siberia’s economic lifeblood during summer.
Despite locals naming ‘vymorozka’ one of the hardest jobs in the world, Mikhail Klus, a 48-year-old worker, has a different perspective. He believes that dressing appropriately and adjusting to extreme conditions make it bearable. He even compares it to being in a sauna after taking off his cold-weather gear and entering a heated building.
Performing ‘vymorozka’ requires precision and skill. The workers must be cautious not to cut through the ice too quickly and risk sinking into water below. While colder weather results in smoother ice and better working conditions for some workers like Artyom Kovalec, who admits that extreme cold can lead to negative emotions and a desire to go home eat and relax but he emphasizes pushing through and maintaining composure is crucial.