The Arctic is defined as the area north of the Arctic Circle (66 degrees 30' latitude), which is 2,655 kilometers (1650 miles) south of the North Pole, or an area in the northern hemisphere (excluding high mountains), where the warmest month has a mean temperature of less than 50 degrees F (10 degrees C). The coldest part of the Arctic, the "polar segment," is where the warmest month has a mean temperature of less than freezing (32 degrees F, 0 degrees C). Areas where the mean temperature of the warmest month is between freezing and 50 degrees F are sometimes called the "subarctic."

The Arctic is colder than the equator because the slant of the earth in the Arctic region means that it gets less direct sunlight than the equator where the earth directly faces the sun. In the winter parts of the Arctic doesn't receive any sunlight at all because the earth’s tilt causes the Arctic regions to become situated beyond the sun’s rays.

Russians visited the far northern reaches of the Russian Arctic in Novaya Zemlya from the 11th century, when hunters from Novgorod visited the area. The first Western Europeans came in search of a northern sea route. The first to visit area was the Englishman Hugh Willoughby in 1553. Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz, the source of the name Barents Sea, reached the west coast of Novaya Zemlya in 1594, and in a subsequent expedition of 1596, he rounded the northern cape and wintered on the northeastern coast. Barentsz died during the expedition, and may have been buried on Severny Island. Henry Hudson came to the region in 1608 while searching for the Northeast Passage but was to turned back by impenetrable ice in July.

In the summer of 2007, Russian scientists plunged through the ice pack at the North Pole and planted their flag on the bottom of the ocean. Upon surfacing, the explorers declared that the feat had strengthened Moscow claims to nearly half the Arctic seabed.

Arctic Ocean and Arctic Ice

The Arctic Ocean (also known as the Northern Ocean) is located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region. the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions, it is recognized by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) as an ocean, although some oceanographers regard it as an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean or a water body like the Mediterranean Sea. The salinity of the Arctic Ocean is the lowest on average of the five major oceans, due to low evaporation, heavy fresh water inflow from rivers and streams, and limited connection and outflow to surrounding oceanic waters with higher salinities. [Source: Wikipedia]

In some places in the Arctic Ocean the water is highly stratified with relatively fresh water supplied by river water on top and more saline water in the lower depths. In some basins the water has remained undisturbed and isolated for more than 500 years. Rivers supply about a third of the fresh water that enters the Arctic Ocean. Scientist can track down the source of these water by the unique chemical signature of the water. The movements of ice, surface water and near surface water are driven by the clockwise Beaufort Gyre. Below this is a contraclockwise current that moves water primarily of Atlantic origin to the east along the continental margin.

Almost completely surrounded by Eurasia and North America, the Arctic Ocean is partly covered by sea ice throughout the year (and almost completely in the winter). The Arctic Ocean's surface temperature and salinity vary seasonally as the ice cover melts and freezes. The summer shrinking of the ice has been quoted at 50 percent. The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) uses satellite data to provide a daily record of Arctic sea ice cover and the rate of melting compared to an average period and specific past years. [Source: Wikipedia]

Ice flows that endure through several summers are called multi-year ice flows. They can be more than ten feet thick. In the summer they can melt so blue melt ponds are produced on the top of the ice. A phenomenon called elastic gravity waves and sonar from submarines can be used to measures the thickness of ice. Arctic ice is always moving. Large expanses of water doesn’t necessarily mean that ice has melted. Often it has simply been pushed in one direction or another by winds or currents.

Barents Sea

The Barents Sea is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean, situated off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia. It is a rather shallow shelf sea, with an average depth of 230 meters (750 feet), and it is an important site for both fishing and oil and gas exploration. Embracing both Norwegian and Russian territorial waters, the Barents Sea is bordered by the Kola Peninsula to the south, the shelf edge towards the Norwegian Sea to the west, and the archipelagos of Svalbard to the northwest, Franz Josef Land to the northeast and Novaya Zemlya to the east. The islands of Novaya Zemlya, an extension of the northern end of the Ural Mountains, separate the Barents Sea from the Kara Sea.

Although part of the Arctic Ocean, the Barents Sea has been characterised as "turning into the Atlantic" because of its status as "the Arctic warming hot spot." The Gulf Stream, one of the main currents of the Atlantic Ocean, brings relatively warm water to the Barents Sea, reducing the amount of ice in the southern part of the sea, making it navigable pretty throughout the year, an important attribute Russia.. Changes due to global warming have reduced the amount sea ice and made it melt quicker. Changes in stratification of the water column could affect currents and which could produce major climate changes in Eurasia.

The Barents Sea coastline is indented and full of fjords. The greatest depth of 600 meters. In medieval times, Russians called it the Murman Sea ("Norwegian Sea"). The current name of the sea comes from Dutch navigator Willem Barentsz (1550-1592), who led a historic expedition to the Arctic. The Barents Sea ports are generally ice-free. Only occasionally, during the harshest winters, does a crust of ice form. But in the northern parts of the Barents thicker, and more long-lasting, ice forms

Atlantic salmon, cod, haddock, herring, sea bass, catfish, flounder, halibut, sea urchins, scallops and many other creatures are harvested. In 20th century, king crab was introduced in the sea, and its population has exploded due in part to an absence of natural enemies. The Barents Sea is part of the Northern Sea Route, the shortest waterway between Europe and East Asia, which is considerably cheaper than other routes and is increasingly being exploited as polar ice disappears as a result of global warming.

Kara Sea

The Kara Sea is part of the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia. It is separated from the Barents Sea to the west by the Kara Strait and Novaya Zemlya, and from the Laptev Sea to the east by the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago. It is named after the Kara River (flowing into Baydaratskaya Bay), which is now relatively insignificant but which played an important role in the Russian conquest of northern Siberia. The Kara River name is derived from a Nenets word meaning "hummocked ice". [Source: Wikipedia]

The Kara Sea is roughly 1,450 kilometers (900 miles) long and 970 kilometers (600 miles) wide with a surface area 926,000 square kilometers (358,000 square miles). It is relatively shallow: with an average depth of 131 meters (430 feet) and practically frozen all year round. Its shallow depth is significant in that it helps Russia claim it as part of its continental shelf and if oil and gas are found it will be easier to extract than if the water was really deep.

The Kara Sea's northern limit is marked geographically by a line running from Cape Kohlsaat in Graham Bell Island, Franz Josef Land, to Cape Molotov (Arctic Cape), the northernmost point of Komsomolets Island in Severnaya Zemlya. Its main ports are Novy Port and Dikson and it is important as a fishing ground although the sea is ice-bound for all but two months of the year. Significant discoveries of petroleum and natural gas have been made in the East-Prinovozemelsky field, an extension of the massive West Siberian Oil Basin. Deposits in the Kara Sea have not been developed. Exxon has been active in the Kara Sea but has seen operations restricted and stopped by U.S. government sanctions on Russia.

Water circulation patterns in the Kara Sea are complex. The Kara Sea tends to be covered with sea ice between September and May. Between May and August it heavily influenced by freshwater run-off of the Ob, Yenisei, Pyasina, Pur, and Taz Rivers, The Kara Sea is also affected by the water inflow from the Barents Sea, whose water originates in the Atlantic Ocean and whose currents are stronger in the winter than the summer.

The disposal of nuclear materials in the Kara Sea is an issue. In 1994, the Bellona Foundation estimated that radioactive dumping in the Kara Sea north of western Siberia and adjacent waters constituted two-thirds of all the radioactive materials that ever have entered the world's oceans. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]

Northern European Russia and Western Russian Arctic

Northern European Russia is roughly defined as the area north of Moscow between Finland and the Baltic Sea in the west, the Arctic Ocean and its branches in the north and the Ural mountains in the east. The regions is mostly flat and dotted with lakes and marshes. The area’s far northern areas are covered by tundra. Further south are taiga forest.

Northern European Russia was first inhabited by reindeer herders like the Sami people (Lapps) and later by Novgorodian merchants and Swedes, who occupied the region for a long times. The Russians didn't completely lay claim to the area until Peter the Great drove the Swedes from the eastern Baltic. The area was largely ignored until its importance as a supply line was realized in World War I and World War II.

Most places of interest lie along three routes: 1) the semi-circular route through lake, rivers and canals between Moscow and St. Petersburg; 2) the north-south rail-road route between St. Petersburg and Murmansk; and 3) the north-south rail-road route between Moscow and Arkhangelsk. The route between St. Petersburg and Murmansk travels largely through Karelia, a vast area that stretches along the Finnish border between St. Petersburg and the Arctic Circle and is the homeland of 140,000 Karelians, cousin of the Finns.

Western European Arctic is located on the White Sea, Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean and borders Norway and Finland. The White Sea is navigable more months of the year than you would think because the Gulf Stream ends at Solovetsky Island in the White Sea and keeps the sea relatively ice free. That is why the Soviets selected the area as the location of their largest submarine base.

The Western Russian Arctic is a brutally cold place where winter lasts for 11 months, children wear wool hats the year round, blustery winds are the norm, and 30 kinds of mosquitos emerge in the one month of relatively warm weather when the temperatures climb into the 50s. Even so the Arctic Russia has 50 times the population as Arctic Canada.

Much of the Western Russian Arctic lies in Arkhangelsk Oblast, a large region in northeastern Russia that mainly lies south of White Sea and the Arctic Circle but includes the Arctic archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya. Arkhangelsk (known in English as Archangel and Archangels) Oblast covers an area of 587,400 square kilometers (226,800 square miles), is home to about 1.25 million people (including Nenetsia) and has a population density of only two people per square kilometer. Cape Fligely in Franz Josef Land is the northernmost point of Russia, Europe and Eurasia and Cape Zhelaniya in Novaya Zemlya is the easternmost point of Europe. Both are located within Arkhangelsk Oblast.

Driving in the Arctic Area

The Key cities in the northwestern Russia are Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, and Petrozavodsk. The main roads are often in pretty good but some roads are in poor condition. Harsh weather conditions contribute to the difficulty of building and maintaining highways and roads. Distances between cities are great. Fuel may be difficult to find. If renting a vehicle, choose cars with high ground clearance, so that it does not get stuck in the snow.

Take a spare fuel can; unleaded fuel is not available. It is not a bad idea to carry a significant amount of spare fuel. Road conditions are often much rougher than those typical in western countries. Be alert for stones, well covers and bumpy stretches. Take spare tires, a tire repair kit, a hand pump and a towing service number. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT)]

Karelia Republic: Most of the road network is in poor condition. Traveling by road is difficult, especially in the winter and during rainy seasons. The St. Petersburg-Murmansk Motorway (M18) is the only federal highway in Karelia. There are two other main transport routes: Kochkoma-Kostomuksha- Lutta-Vartius on the Finnish border and Sortavala to Vartsila-Niirala, also on the Finnish border.

Murmansk Region:: Most roads in this region are dirt or are paved with crushed stone and gravel. Between Kandalaksha-Murmansk and Apatity- Koashva, the M-18 highway is paved with asphalt or concrete with a crushed stone and gravel base.

Murmansk Railroad

Murmansk Railroad the world's most northern railway. It is over 1,000 kilometers long and was was built in 20 months. After it was completed in November 1916, Arkhangelsk Governor A.P. Engelhardt said: “the railroad to Murmansk coast, the waters of which are open year-round navigation, making Russia the actual owner of the Arctic Ocean during the whole year, could serve the purposes of our Navy and have important strategic significance way"

Murmansk Railroad between Petrozavodsk on Lake Onega and Murmansk, has a length of 1,054 kilometers. Originally named Murman Railway, it was built in 1915–17 and required about 200,000 linear yards of drainage structures, 1138 artificial structures longer than 8500 meters and 49 stations. Due to a lack of Russian workers a large number of German and Austrian war prisoners were put to work building it. In 1935 it given the name Kirov Railway, in honor of Sergei Kirov, a prominent Bolshevik leader of the Russian revolution, who had been assassinated the year before. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Kirov Railway was later extended to St. Petersburg. It is a 1,520 millimeters (4 ft 11 27∕32 in) broad gauge Russian railway network that links the Murman Coast and Murmansk city (in the north) and Saint Petersburg (in the south). The railway is operated by the Arktika passenger train. The total distance between Saint Petersburg and Murmansk is 1,448 kilometers. There are 52 stations. The line is of vital military importance because of Murmansk is an ice-free port on the Arctic Sea. It was electrified in 2005.

The Murmansk–Nikel Railway is a 206-kilometer-long railway between Murmansk and Nike. It used,primarily for freight and to carry ore from the nickel mine at Nikel. The is no passenger service east of Kola. Part of it was was built 1936 Trailway was the whole thing was completed in 1968 and is not electrified.

History of the Murmansk Railroad

The Military-strategic situation in the early 20th century Europe and the outbreak of World War I II prompted the tsarist government to construct the Murmansk Railway. At that time Russian warships were based mostly in the Black and Baltic Seas and their maneuvers, ports and military bases were limited.

The construction of the Murmansk Railway was approved in October 1914. The starting point was Petrozavodsk in Lake Onega, which could be easily reached by boat from St. Petersburg. For construction purposes the route Murmansk railway divided into four plots, responsible for their work: 1) Southern Section:Petrozavodsk-Soroca Bay (356 kilometers); 2) the Northern Section: Soroca Bay-the shore of the Arctic Ocean (631 kilometers: and Kandalaksha-Murmansk section (260 kilometers); About 1100 bridges were built.

Almost everything needed for construction had to be brought in from abroad: light rail and rolling stock (locomotives, carriages and platforms), tools, machinery, including steam "katuchie" cranes and excavators, other necessary equipment, materials, clothing, parts of the food. Orders totaling 12.5 million rubles were placed mainly to England and France but also to the U.S. and Canada. Russia produced laying material and rolling stock.

Most everything was brought in by ship either to Petrozavodsk or Murmansk. A huge amount of stuff was brought in. A total of 4 million pounds of goods was shipped in 1915. In 1916, 800,000 tons of flour, 5000 pounds of tea, 35,000 ponds of sugar, 300,000 pounds of oats and 400,000 pounds of hay as well as tens of thousands of pairs of leather and felt boots, a hundreds of thousand of pieces of warm clothes and linen.

Almost as important as building the railway was equipping ports in several key points — Soroka, Kem and Kandalaksha in Murmansk — to handle the ships and all the goods brought in. At the beach Magpie a six-kilometer-long railway line was built. Navolok was given a full sea port. And, oh yes, the city of Murmansk had to be built. Constriction of the city began in 1916 on the . the shore of Kola Bay of the Barents Sea. At first the city was called Romanov-on-Murman.

In the first year of construction the movement of materials, machinery, food and people on land was largely done with animal-drawn transport. Workers were brought from different regions of the empire –- including Semipalatinsk and Manchuria — and the "hot south" — Tatars, Armenians, Circassians and Dagestanis. Construction managers determined three times cheaper to use use prisoners than it was to "recruit a builder." "The first 8100 prisoners — mostly “Slavs, Czechs, Rusyns, Slovaks " — arrived at the beginning of 1915 In the second half of the summer 2100 people were added. After the spring offensive by Russian troops in 1916, 25,000" Germans and the Magyars" were delivered.

White Sea

The White Sea is a southern arm of the Barents Sea located on the northwest coast of Russia. Covering an area of 90,000 square kilometers (34,700 square miles), about the size of Portugal, it is bordered by Karelia to the west, the Kola Peninsula to the north, and the Kanin Peninsula to the northeast. The whole of the White Sea is under Russian sovereignty and considered to be part of the internal waters of Russia. Administratively, it is divided between Arkhangelsk and Murmansk oblasts and the Republic of Karelia. The Barents Sea connects with the Arctic Ocean.

The White Sea was previously called “Studyonoe”. It has an average depth of 60 meters (197 feet) and a maximum depth 340 meters (1,115 feet). It has recorded the world's lowest surface sea temperature (28 degrees F). It is often covered by ice until mid June. The ice is not stationary; about 90 percent of it is floating and is continuously removed to the Barents Sea. Ice thickness is usually about 40 centimeters but may reach 150 centimeters in cold winters. The weather on the sea gets rough starting in mid-September. The White Sea is navigable more months of the year than you would think because the Gulf Stream ends at Solovetsky Island in the White Sea and keeps the sea relatively ice free. That is why the Soviets selected the area as the location of their largest submarine base.

The White Sea contains a large number of islands, but most of them are small. The main island group is the Solovetsky Islands, located almost in the middle of the sea, near the entrance to Onega Bay. Kiy Island in Onega Bay is significant due to a historic monastery. Velikiy Island, located close to the shore, is the largest island in the Kandalaksha Gulf. The White Sea is one of the four seas named in English after colors. The others are the Black Sea, the Red Sea, and the Yellow Sea.

White Sea-Baltic Canal: Connecting the Arctic with Europe

White Sea-Baltic Canal (between the desolate town of Belomorsk on the White Sea and Lake Onega) is a 227-kilometer (140-mile) -long waterway built through thick forests and swamps between the Baltic Sea and the White Sea, which connects to Arctic Ocean, during the Stalin era between 1930 and 1933. The work was done mainly by gulag labor equipped with little more than shovels, pick axes and wheelbarrows. As many as 200,000 people died, many from hunger and cold. Many were buried on banks of the canal.

The canal facilities include 128 elements: 19 locks, 15 major dams, 19 outlets, 49 smaller dams, 33 artificial canals, five hydroelectric power stations. The important transport route, with its with a set of complex hydraulic structures, has provided vital communication links between the Baltic Sea and the North and made it possible to deliver more natural resources of the Kola Peninsula and Karelia to the processing centers further south, avoiding the distant roundabout way around the Scandinavian Peninsula.

Today, the White Sea-Baltic Canal historical and cultural complex operates on the canal grounds. This is a system of hydraulic structures, housing and administrative buildings, as well as memorial places of forced labor and canal workers burial grounds. The canal sometimes smell bad. Sometimes there traffic jams of barges and freighters at the locks but the people are friendly. "A lock lady to whom I had playfully blown a kiss," one National Geographic writer write, "returned to drop flowers on the deck." Sights include some 7th-century B.C. petroglyphs near Belomorsk and a museum at one the canal's 19 locks.

History of the White Sea-Baltic Canal

The 160-kilometer-long Suez Canal took 10 years to build, while the 227-kilometer-long White Sea Canal, which sometimes involved drilling through rock formations, was completed in a year and nine months. Forced labor was provided by the White Sea-Baltic Corrective Labor Camp and the infamous gulag, the Solovetsky Forced Labor Camp.

The construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal began in April 1930. At that time, three years were allocated for its construction, but later the dimensions of the locks and the depth of the canals were changed to speed up the work. The construction was classified and supervised by the NKVD (forerunner the KGB).

The record speed of building the channel was achieved by the cruel exploitation of about 280,000 gulag prisoners who worked practically without equipment. From 1931 to 1933, the construction was supervised by N.A. Frenkel. It is he who is credited with the idea of using prisoners as a cheap labor to work on large national economic projects. According to various sources, from 50,000 to 200,000 people died from hardship and hard work during the construction of the canal.

The construction of the canal left a mark even in the slang. That's how the words “tufta” and “ammonal” appeared in the camp folklore: “We can't build the canal without tufta and ammonal.” Ammonal is an explosive. Tufta is a slang word for the Technique of Fictitious Labor. The word “zek” also appeared here. Originally it sounded like z/k — a shortened version of “zaklyuchonniy kanaloarmeets” (prisoner of the canal).

By May 1933 the first steamers were using the new canal, The official opening and first navigation took place in August 1933. After the construction ended, 71,000 prisoners were employed in the canal operation. During the World War 2, the canal was a prime, strategically-important target and took many hits. It southern part was completely destroyed. After the war, the damaged facilities were restored, and the canal was re-commissioned in July 1946. In 1950s, work to electrify its structures and mechanisms started.

Novaya Zemlya

Novaya Zemlya is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in northern Russia that is made up of two main islands; Severny Island in the north and Yuzhny Island to the south. Yuzhny is separated from the Russian mainland by the Matochkin Strait. Administratively, Novaya Zemlya is part of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. It contains the easternmost point of Europe (Cape Flissingsky on the Northern island). West of Novaya Zemlya is the Barents Sea, and to the east is the Kara Sea. [Source: Wikipedia]

The population of Novaya Zemlya in 2010 Census was about 2,429, of which 1,972 resided in Belushya Guba, the main town. The indigenous population (from 1872 to the 1950s when it was resettled to the mainland) consisted of about 50–300 Nenetses who subsisted mainly on fishing, trapping, reindeer herding, polar bear hunting and seal hunting. Natural resources include copper, lead, and zinc.

Covering about 90,650 square kilometers (35,000 square miles), Novaya Zemlya is an extension of the northern part of the Ural Mountains and the interior is mainly mountainous throughout. The northern island of Severny has a large ice cap, the Severny Island ice cap, as well as many active glaciers. The southern island Yuzhny is largely unglaciated and has a tundra landscape. The coast of both islands is heavily indented, and it has the largest number of fjords in the Russian Federation. The highest mountain is located on the Northern island and is 1,547 meters (5,075 feet) high.

Novaya Zemlya was a sensitive military area during the Cold War years, and parts of it are still used for airfields today. The Soviet Air Force maintained a presence at Rogachevo on the southern part of the southern island, primarily for interceptor aircraft operations. Novaya Zemlya was the site of one of the two major nuclear test sites managed by the U.S.S.R. It was used for air drops and underground testing of the largest of Soviet nuclear bombs. On October 30, 1961, it was the site of the largest, most powerful nuclear weapon detonation: the air burst explosion of Tsar Bomba,.

The polar bears found here and in the Barents Sea region are genetically distinct from other polar bear subpopulations. In recent years polar bears have entered human-inhabited areas with some frequently, a phenomena attributed to climate change. Global warming reduces sea ice, forcing the bears to come inland to find food. In February 2019, Arkhangelsk region authorities declared a state of emergency when a mass migration of polar bears occurred in the northeastern portion of Novaya Zemlya and dozens of bears entered homes, public buildings, and inhabited areas.

Franz Josef Land

Franz Josef Land is a Russian archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean and is one of the world’s northernmost pieces of land. Making up the northernmost part of Arkhangelsk Oblast and,inhabited only by military personnel, It consists of 192 islands, which cover an area of 16,134 square kilometers (6,229 squar miles), extending 375 kilometers (233 miles) from east to west and 234 kilometers (145 miles) from north to south. The islands are divided into three groups: western, central and eastern, separated by the British Channel and the Austrian Strait. The central group is further divided into a northern and southern section by the Markham Strait. The largest island is Prince George Land, which measures 2,741 square kilometers (1,058 square miles), followed by Wilczek Land, Graham Bell Island and Alexandra Land. [Source: Wikipedia]

Eighty-five percent of the archipelago is glaciated. The islands have a combined coastline of 4,425 kilometers (2,750 mi). The highest mountains are found in the eastern group, with the highest point being 670 meters (2,200 feet) above mean sea level.

The Austro-Hungarian expedition of Payer and Weiprecht, search for the Northern Sea Route, discovered the archipelago in 1873 — almost by accident, as the schooner they were traveling was pushed by ice to the archipelago’s shore. The discoverers named the place they found after the Austria-Hungary Emperor Franz Josef I. The first Russian researchers arrived there in 1901. In 1926, the Soviet Union annexed the islands and established small military and research outposts. Norway rejected the claim. During the Cold War, the islands became one of the northern limits of Soviet territory and two military airfields were built. The islands have been a nature sanctuary since 1994 and became part of the Russian Arctic National Park in 2012.

Polar bears, arctic foxes, walruses, narwhals, beluga whales, harp seals are all found in Franz Joseph Land. Birds include auks, guillemots, ivory gulls and murres. Polar stations operate on the islands of the archipelago. The area is accessible to organized tourists; there are icebreaker scientific expeditions and tourist trips.

Russian Arctic National Park

The Russian Arctic National Park (far northern Novaya Zemlya) is one of the largest natural reserves in Russia. It was established in 2009. Originally it included about 6,500 square kilometers of land and over 750,000 square hectares of the Arctic Ocean, including Severny Island on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, part of the Barents Sea, and 191 islands of the Franz Joseph Land Federal Conservation Area. In 2016, by decree of the Government of the Russian Federation, the Franz Joseph Land Conservation Area was included into Russian Arctic National Park.

The Russian Arctic National Park is is capable of winning anyone's heart, from the beauty of the Oran Islands with their bird colonies and walrus rookeries, to the coast of Novaya Zemlya with the majestic waterfall in Inostrantsev Bay, to Ice Harbor Bay, the last refuge of V. Barents. The park is visited by tourists from all around the world.

The most popular islands in the park are Champa Island, where spheric concretions (round stones of various sizes, from fist-sized to several meters in diameter) are located, Gall Island with rock outcroppings on Cape Tegetgof, and Northbrook Island, where vegetation that is completely atypical for this region grows on Cape Flora. On the sheer slopes of the unique Rubini Cliff geological monument in Silent Bay on Guker Island lies one of the largest bird colonies in the whole archipelago. All in all, the Russian Arctic National Park is home to many rare species, including the ivory gull and the brant (brent goose), which nest here. The waters host the great bow-headed whale, the narwhal, and the walrus.

Tourists may visit the park for sightseeing only on organized landings along the shore. These places are not equipped with piers, so visitors are ferried ashore by the ship's helicopter, if available, or by Zodiac boats. The manner of landing depends as well on the weather, ice conditions, and the particularities of the shore and coastal areas. Animals can also be observed while on board the ship.

Quiet Cove

Quiet Cove (in Russian Arctic National Park) is located in the northwestern part of Hooker Island, part of Franz Joseph Land, discovered by the Dutch expedition of De Bruyne in 1879. The source of name of the cove is from the Russian polar explorer Georgy Sedov, a naval officer, whose expedition spent the winter at the cover in 1913-1914. In 1929, Sedov set up a scientific polar station at the cove. From this point on the Franz Joseph Land was officially becomes part of the Arkhangelsk region.

In 1959, scientific research in the area was completed but structures and machinery are well preserved. Near the research station are the graves of Russian polar explorers: Zander, a mechanics on Sedov’s expedition vessel; N.I, Yesca, a polar pilot; and P.I, Fotieva, an ionosphere specialist.

In good weather you can be seen a huge glacier, called the dome Churlonisa, from the cove. Nearby is Rubini rock, classic example of columnar basaltic. It is home to about 30,000-35,000 birds, including 5,000 little auks and thick-billed murre, about 18,000, kittiwake and about 10,000 fulmars.

Spherulites on Champa Island

Champa Island (Russian Arctic National Park) is in Franz Joseph Land. It’s main claim to fame are its spherulites: stone balls, ranging in size from ping-pong-size balls to boulders several meters in diameter. Some are perfectly round; others have lost their roundness due to the influences of water, sun, precipitation, wind and temperature.

Spherulites are composed of silicon and sandstone. Their origin is a matter of debate among scholars. According to one hypothesis, they are the result of a bomb gas explosion of a volcano. According to another theory, they are concretions: spherical formations of the minerals produced in sediments. Such spherulites have also been found in South America.

Champa Island was discovered in 1904 by the American E. Fiala expedition. The island is named after William of Champa, the commander of an auxiliary detachment of the expedition. To visit him and to see the spherulites can be visited as part of the national park "Russian Arctic".

Island Apollo

Apollo island (Russian Arctic National Park) was discovered by the Anthony Fiala expedition in the early 20th century. It was named 30 years later, in 1933 by the Soviet team sealer "Smolny" in honor of Captain Dmitri Apollo vessel. The island can be visited during the cruise through the national park "Russian Arctic" on the expedition ship.

The island has a rounded shape with a diameter of less than 500 meters. The central part is a small rock formation. The walrus rookery on the island is the largest known in the Franz Josef Land archipelago. At certain times of the year up to 1,000 animals gather here, mostly females and young.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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