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More than a century on, Sakhalin’s prisoners have been replaced by oil and gas workers, most of whom seem to agree that Chekhov’s description still fits.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.