Wetlands of Polesia: how to walk on bog and not to drown

Traveling over Polissya - wetlands of Ukraine and Belarus

foto: polesia bogs wetlandBogs - one of two main features of Polissya land. Even today we have very much of them. And the name Polissia likely comes not from the obvious "forest" (in Ukrainian - "lis") but from the ancient Baltic "pala" - "quagmire."
Travel in a swamp - a dangerous thing, as it is easy to get lost or drown there. So anyone who wanders by Polissya, should know the basic rules of how to walk across bogs...

Translated from Ukrainian by Billie Bonce, www.quicksandfans.com

Оригінальний текст українською "Про поліські болота"

The first and most important rule: if you can (see how to) bypass the bog - then bypass! Those who have once in a life beyond their own will found themselves in serious quagmire, remember this forever.

General advice:

1. Walking along the boggy land, don't trust maps. They all lie because they are updated many times rarer than the bogs change. Much better to ask locals (Polishchuks) about available trails, causeways, ways to bypass dangerous areas in the local bog, and the best - to take a guide. But remember that even last year's trail on a bog may already be dangerous. Bogs change every year ...

2. Choosing between human and animal path, trust the latter - those of wolves, deers, boars.

3. Carefully check any marsh trail. Even if you see that an automobile road goes in a swamp - do not rush, it can only be "zymnyk", the road which accessible only in winter when ice covers the swamp.

4. Under any circumstances, follow the selected path, even if it is very winding, never attempt to make a shortcut across the bog.

5. The more problematic are lowland swamps, which collect subterranean waters and covered with lush vegetation, including dense sedge, reed, willow, birch, alder. Transitional cranberries moors and upland moss bogs, which fed by rain water, are usually easier to pass, but they are the most treacherous.

Before crossing a bog:

1. Find a strong, wide but light pole 2.5-3 meters long and keep it in hands.

2. We advice to loosen all straps of your backpack, and wrap things inside it in plastic. In case of trouble they will be protected from getting wet and provide greater buoyancy.

3. Fix shoes as firmly as possible.

4. Particularly difficult areas can be crossed over mat - chop branches or even reeds and throw them crosswise, creating a dam.

5. In winter bogs easier to cross on skis, in summer one may made a light "bog shoes" from thin branches. Swamps are the most dangerous in summer and fall, critically dangerous after rainfalls that pour after a long drought.

When going across the bog:

1. Probe the way ahead with the pole; on upland bog - very carefully.

2. Going in a group without a trail, keep spacing of 5 meters between the members of the group, and don't follow each other, go in row.

3. The best way in a bog closer to the roots of trees. Also try to step on the undergrowth or lane of moss.

4. The particular option of walking on bog with tussocks (but to say the truth, there is only one such bog in the region - Syra Pogonya in Rivne Oblast) - gently stepping from tussock to tussock, setting feet at the center of each tussock and leaning on a pole. Never jump from tussock to tussock!

5. On shaky ground one should go in small steps, without delay; stop to rest on solid places only.

6. Avoid bright green spots - usually water "windows" hide under them. Remember - where is more verdure, there is more water. Also avoid areas that are completely without vegetation, especially during drought ("mochazhyna"). Never even dream to jump over "mochazhyna"! But most of all one should beware "mochara" that looks like a lovely green glade between trees. Under a thin layer of moss or grass there may be the whole quagmire lake. Inside it – just a death for sure.

5. If you make a step and the ground around begins to wobble like waves, or water begins to quickly gather around the foot - that means it is "splavyna". Smoothly, but quickly get out of it.

When you go across a lowland swamp - the main danger is closer to its center, on an upland swamp - on the contrary, be especially vigilant on its side, when you come in the mire and out of the mire.

If you sink in the swamp:

1. Don't flounder! You must NEVER, under any circumstances, wave your legs or hands or head!

2. Instantly roll on your back, at the worst - to the stomach

3. Drop off the backpack

4. Leaning on a pole, or on your hands, slowly try to reach some tree branches or roots, or just solid ground nearby. Even if the bushes are uprooting, lay them under yourself.

5. If you plunge in instantly quickly and deeply - do not frighten, probably at 95% that you fell in the lake water from which it's easy to swim out. However, the remaining 5% that you plunged in a very deep quagmire, then, unfortunately, there are almost no chances of saving.

6. Rescue in a group - toss a rope or your pole to the victim and slowly pull them out of the swamp. It's important to pull smoothly, but without weakening efforts.

If nothing helps, there is nobody around, and the swamp slowly sucks you down:

1. Pray!

2. Try to call

3. Put the pole in front of you and try to slowly crawl on it on your stomach

4. If you have no pole - try to take your clothes off very slowly and distribute them in front of you, then try to move on them.

Signs of passable marshes:

1) Fully covered with thick grass with sedge
2) Has even a little pine undergrowth
2) Completely covered with moss

Signs of problem marshes:

1) Has enough of apparent "mochazhyns"
2) Covered with birch, alder

Signs of impassable swamps:

1) Covered with reeds
2) The islands of grass are floating
3) Peat is very mellow, liquid, flows through fingers while compressed in the hand

Also remember about good things: if you press a cup into the peat - you can get wonderful delicious water. Furthermore, sphagnum - an effective antiseptic, and you can also use it to wash your hands or clean clothes.

Vsevolod Khybun for IC Polissya.

Subject: wetlands of Polesie, bogs in Ukraine & Belarus



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Як називають Полісся?

Поліщуки часто кажуть Полісьсе чи Палесьсе, східні слов'яни та казахи звуть Палессе, Полесье. Словаки та норвежці називають Polesie, чехи - Polesí, південні слов'яни - Polissja чи Полесие, Полесия, Полесје. Литовці іменують Polesė. Німці й шведи звуть Polesien, голандці - Polesië, латиши Poļesje, французи - Polésie. Англійці, італійці, іспанці, фіни - Polesia, рідше Polissia. Норвежці та естонці кажуть Polesje, греки Πολεσία, деякі євреї - פּאָלעסיע, вірмени Պոլեսիե, тайці โปเลเซีย, японці ポリーシャ, корейці 폴레시아, ті, кого найбільше звуть 中文, а турки як завжди - Polesiye.

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