Oil and ice: a potentially horrible combination

When writer Anton Chekhov arrived on the Russian island of Sakhalin in 1890, he was overwhelmed by the harsh conditions at the Tsarist penal colony. More than a century on, Sakhalin's prisoners have been replaced by oil and gas workers, most of whom seem to agree that Chekhov's description still fits. The sparsely populated island -- which is the length of Britain -- has some of the most extreme weather on earth. Marine cyclones and violent snowstorms rip through its forested hills, and the ocean waters off its northern coast freeze solid for a good part of the year. In winter, temperatures drop to minus 40 Celsius and snow can pile three meters high.
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