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The IFWP Kuusamo Congress and General Assembly 2001

Report

The 21st Congress took place from 12th to 16th of September in Kuusamo, 800 km north from Helsinki, the capital of Finland. The place of accommodation was the Oulanka Biological Station, 50 km north of the Kuusamo town. The station has all modern conveniences and best of all it is located in the middle of Oulanka National Park - we had almost untouched nature in the vicinity to reach by foot.Besides the official General Assembly, one of the main objectives of the IFWP-meetings is to make acquaintance with the nature of the hosting country and to exchange ideas with colleagues from various countries. The best way to do this is through the many daily excursions. In spite of the autumn the weather was very warm: both the coming winter and the northern geographical position seemed to have no effect yet - but ten days later the weather report forecasted wet snow to Kuusamo !

Nature

Oulanka National Park lies on the Kuusamo uplands, which are two billion year-old remnants of a once high mountain range - ancient bedrock that stretches from Lake Ladoga in Russia to Lapland. In the faults of this bedrock the River Oulankajoki and its tributaries meander their way to the White Sea. On its way the water speeds at many places to exciting rapids, the finest of them are to be found at Kiutaköngäs (at the vicinity of the B. Station) where the river bed descends 14 metres over a hundred-metre stretch. Altogether the water drops sixty metres inside the parks 270 km2 area.

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Oulanka has other things to offer besides its wonderful river complex with its mighty canyons. The forest, in some places untouched for a hundred years, represents the western reaches of the Siberian taiga with short-branched "candle-like" spruces on the slopes. Oulanka National Park is a place of contrasts where the barren, rugged North exists alongside a softer, more sensitive South. The macroclimate is affected by the White Sea; whereas the microclimate of the river valleys and the calciferous soils offer attractive conditions even to demanding species. Oulanka valley has also been the route westward for many eastern species.
(The description is a modified quotation from the book Finlands National Parks - Seas of Blue, Seas of Green, ISBN 952-446-266-4).

Participants

There were 31 participants from 8 different nationalities. In spite of the long distance the participation was one of the best ever - 25 of the participants were guests and 23 of them from Middle Europe.

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The Excursions

Tuesday 11th of September

At 01 a.m. I personally arrived to Oulanka as the first of the IFWP-group - after 900 kilometres and twelve hours drive from my home region near Helsinki. In the afternoon arrived the first group of ten people from Hungary and Beate Stipanits from Austria. The group had right from the beginning a cheerful mood as always. After the dinner we made a short walk to Oulanka river. The Ruska (vivid autumn colours) was almost at its best. Hazel hens where whistling and at least one Dipper with its white breast was curtseying on a bank stone. But, no one except me had a camera! Left at the station!?

Wednesday 12th of September

The pre-meeting group decided to start the day at 5.30 a.m. That's the right spirit! A three hour and two kilometres photo-excursion along the Oulanka river. The morning was wonderful - still and quiet. A bit of fog to make soft colours. Everybody had found at least one camera from their bags and they were in heavy use. After the breakfast the group went 15 kilometres down the road to Liikasenvaara, near the Russian border. The group divided in two: the one stayed for a couple of hours at the bird feeding place with wonderful sceneries and the others made acquaintance with an old forest. Back to the station by 2 p.m. to welcome all others arriving to the congress.

Official opening of the meeting at four o'clock at the station’s main entrance. The weather was very warm, 18 C, and sunny - almost like a summer day. The participants were marked with IFWP-caps (sponsored by the Finnish association) in order to find them from these vast and uninhabited forests - there are only 3.7 inhabitants/ sq km at the Kuusamo region! In the evening slide shows: the first evening mainly in a Hungarian style.

Thursday 13th of September

The whole day in Oulanka Canyon: a 50 kilometres drive to the north, 10 kilometres from the Arctic circle. A three kilometres walk along the river: quite strenuous rise to the rocks alongside the river. Dramatic views over the meandering river. Some of the group wanted more sunlight - and we got it for a while. Those Finns who had visited here during summertime showed the places where rare arctic plant species are to be found. Red lingonberries tempted to taste: a new berry for many guests - delicious. Visually delicious were also the droppings of a capercaillie - composition and form!

After the walk an outdoor lunch: salmon roasted at the open fire and as aperitif Cloudberry liqueur right from the river - Finnish hidden specialities! Siberian jays, Kuukkeli, were visiting our camp for the first time. Back to the station and in the evening General Assembly. At 21 o'clock slide shows and a video from the last meeting in Hungary: thanks for the Dutch filmers - well done! The results of the IFWP-annual competition were also announced, see the results under the heading IFWP-competition 2001.

Friday 14th September 

The only morning we had rain. It was the right time to continue the General Assembly. After that a short walk to the information centre of the National park where we watched slide shows presenting the Oulanka National Park. After the lunch the sky almost cleared and it was time for an excursion. This time we choose the bird feeding place, which some of the Hungarians had already visited. Therefore Reti Zoltan & co wanted to see elks. We left them for several hours in a forest, which seemed to be favoured by elks.
The bird feeding place is internationally famous: it's a place which is cared for by two famous nature photographers from Kuusamo: Hannu Hautala and Paavo Hamunen. Here Hannu has photographed e.g. in the BBC-competition honoured Goldeneye landing to its nest-hole...and in the early past also Golden Eagle has visited this place. I think it was very interesting for our guests to see this scenic place. Many thanks for Hannu and Paavo for offering us a possibility to visit their bird photographing hide! The landscape in itself was very photographic but also the tits were keenly photographed by the visitors: especially interesting was the brownish Siberian tit - a new species for many.In the evening the Finnish sauna with the possibility to swim in the Oulanka river. After that Finnish slide shows.

Saturday 15th of September

A 25 kilometres drive to Päähkänäkallio. A very famous place which the people living in Kuusamo call the most beautiful scenery in the whole Europe! Nice to hear that the people are proud of their environment ... and the place is indeed very beautiful and impressive. The steep rock is about 20-30 metres over the Kitka-river, which is one of the famous tributaries of the Oulanka river. From here you can see the river and the vast forests reaching over the eastern border - it's only seven kilometres to Russia. In a way the park is going over the border because even a much bigger Russian National Park, Paanajärvi, with its 1030 sq km area begins right from the border. Some of the group were interested in the many autumn coloured details of the nature. A pond nearby was circled by the Hungarian pond-specialists. On the way we did see some reindeer and also a flock of black-grouse.

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In the afternoon we took a trip to the Kuusamo town. The traditional Kuusamo Nature Photo- festival was organised at the same time. We watched three slide programs. Martti Rikkonen showed what you might see near the regions we had been visiting: the Golden Eagles and Northern Lights, both of which Martti had now photographed in the mountain landscape. The nightly bus-trip toward to the Oulanka Station inspired as a farewell the National songs in the native languages.

Sunday 16th of September

Most of the participants departed. But some groups made excursions along the Oulanka river. And some watched slide-programs and exhibitions at the Kuusamo Hall. On Monday morning it was the time for departure for the rest of the group. But the Polish delegation had still in mind the desire to see the Arctic Ocean and they got it!
General Assembly
The official General Assembly was held on the evening of 13th of September and it was continued on 14th of September. In the agenda there were e.g. reports of the member associations, topics of the year 2002, IFWP-2001 competition, new member applications, election of the president and other members of the council, the places of the coming General Assemblies and ethics in nature photography.

The detailed report of the GA will be sent to member associations. Some main decisions.

The new council

- Matti Torkkomäki, Finnish Nature Photographers (president)
- Staffan Arvegård, Swedish Nature Photographers (vice-president)
- Jussi Helimäki, Finnish Nature Photographers (treasurer)
- Bernard Mallet, ASCPF, France
- Josef Stefan, VTNÖ, Austria
- Marjolijn Lopes Cardozo, Natuur in Beeld, the Netherlands
- Karlo Pesjak, Photo Natura, Sweden
- Paflavi Tamas, Foto Natura Hungary

New members

The association got an application from the Union of Polish Wildlife Photographers, which has 350 members. The application was approved and the association will be member from the beginning of the year 2002.

Coming General Assemblies
The next meeting will be held in Sweden (in the neighbourhood of the lake Vänern) and in the year 2003 the meeting is possibly arranged together by the Polish and the Check (Slovak) associations.

 

Author : Matti Torkkomäki

All photographs © Matti Torkkomäki