Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (6,766 kilometers east of Moscow and about 2,220 kilometers north of Vladivostok) .is the capital and largest city on Kamachatka, with about 180,000 people. It is nestled in between 3456-meter (11,338-foot) -high Koriaksky Volcano, 2,751-meter (9,025-foot) -high Avchinsky Volcano and stretches for several kilometers along Avacha Bay, one of the world's great natural harbors. Founded by Vitus Bering in 1740, it was the sight of a Crimean War invasion in 1854, but other than that not a whole lot has happened here. Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky means “Peter Paul of Kamchatka” and is named after Bering ships Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In 1822 it received a town status with a name of Petropavlovsky port. In 1924 it was renamed Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (also spelled Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. Over the half of Kamchatka Krai population live in the capital of the region.
Fish harvesting and processing are the main branches of the city economy. Several major fish harvesting and processing factories, along with small companies, operate in Petropavlovsk. In the Soviet era, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky was home to 270,000 people and a major submarine base. It was one of the home ports of the Soviet Pacific Fleet and was regarded as strategically important with an important mission. The personnel that worked there were highly paid. The base was deemed so secretive that the main reason the the Korean Air 747 was shot down in 1983— killed 269 people— was because it thought it might take reconnaissance photographs of the base.
After the Soviet Union collapsed the submarine base’s status and role was reduced Many people left. The population is now about two thirds what it was in the Soviet era. Most of the city's residents live in drab concrete apartment block, and the market features goods from goods from China and North Korea. There is a bus system but it doesn't expand very far from the city. The once a strategically important Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky naval base is now cluttered with rusting submarines, rusting cranes and depressed sailors who have nothing to do. The base was departure point for the mini-sub that got caught in fishing nets in 2005.
Petropavlovsk Kamchatski, Earthquakes, Volcanoes and the Sea
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky has been described as the volcanic capital of Russia. It is the only urban area in Russia — one of the few in the world — surrounded by three volcanoes. Local people call their town “home of volcanoes”. The three volcanoes — Kozelsky, Avachinsky and Koryaksky — can be seen from almost any place in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is also seismically active. Local people have a mundane attitude towards earthquakes. The town is frequently struck constantly by earthquake shocks in two-to-three magnitude range, which are generally imperceptible, unless you take a look at a bottle with water. Several times a year earthquakes with a magnitude of five or six. One of the largest earthquakes on record, with a magnitude of 8.2, struck the area in 1959.
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is the only Russian city with a direct access to the ocean. It is worth mentioning, that despite seismic activity and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean the Far-East port doesn't suffer from tsunami. More importantly, even the most severe storm in the Avacha Bay can't cause big waves, harming the city. The bay is 24 kilometers long, but the access to the ocean is only three kilometers wide. These “gates” calm down any waves and weaken tsunamis. The Avacha Bay is the deepest natural bay in the world. It is 26 meters deep.
Avacha Bay, one of the world's great natural harbors.
Getting to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
Travel to Kamchatka (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) is expensive. Kamchatka has no ground connection with the Russian mainland. No roads or railways connect the Kamchatka Peninsula to the rest of the world. Moscow is 6,773 kilometers away. The Russian Navy, freighters and fishermen mainly use the seaport of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. There are no regular passenger ferries to anywhere from this port. Occasionally cruise ships stop here for the day. The only way to get to Kamchatka or get out is by air.
The airport is located 20 kilometers from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky near the town of Yelizovo and is called both Yelizovo Airport and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Airport. There are flights from Moscow. The travel time is about 8.5 hours. There are also direct flights from Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Novosibirsk, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Yakutia Airlines (Air Russia) has direct seasonal flights between Anchorage, Alaska, Petropavlovsk -Kamchatsky and Yakutsk in Siberia. The fights are run by Air Russia, a brand of InterPacific Aviation and Marketing, a travel distributor based in Seattle that sells the Alaska to Siberia flights. The flights, on Boeing 737-800 planes, run once a week between mid July and early September. Tickets are US$1,150 roundtrip.
Transport and Accommodation in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
Public transport is poor. Bus and fixed-route taxi are the main public transports. There are no railroads in Petropavlovsk, nor in Kamchatka. A few roads go to villages around the city but they don’t go very far. The only regular buses operate at the routes from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to the nearest villages. Hitchhiking is unlikely to get you much of anywhere because there is so little traffic. Cycling or trekking without the guide is difficult due a lack of decent maps and dangers posed by wild animals, particularly bears. There are no rent-car companies. There are some taxies but they generally stick to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and nearby villages.
It is hard to get around Kamchatka by yourself. There is virtually no public transport and permission is required to visit most places in Kamchatka, which the closed for security reasons or because they are in nature reserves. There are a handful of places can be reached by the independent traveler without permission but not many. Most of the volcanoes and geysers and other places of interest are in the nature reserves, for which you need permission to visit. To try and take care of the paperwork yourself to get the necessary permits can be quite formidable and thus it is pretty hard to avoid using the services of tour operator or travel company.
Accommodation: The average cost of accommodation in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky hotels is 4,000-6,000 rubles per day. The Avacha hotel has a good location, close to shops, cafes and the market with fresh seafood and fish delicacies. Nachalnik Kamchatki mini hotel is in the city center, with all significant sights in walking distance.
Petropavlovsk hotel complex in the historical center of town has been in operation for decades. Famous Russian cultural and artistic figures, as well as politicians from the U.S., Japan, France, and Great Britain have stayed here. English-speaking staff and an on-site travel agency will make your stay even more comfortable.
Sights in Petropavlovsk -Kamchatsky
There isn't much to see in terms of sites, other than a rundown street of 19th century wooden homes, a regional museum, a museum of volcanology, a museum of geology, a Lenin statue and natural formation called Three Brother's Rocks. The main attraction is the clear air, clean water and the sea. There are few factories and the river is full of fish and the water is clean enough that you can drink it and .
Kultuchnoye Lake is a nice lake located right in the heart of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It is 815 meters long, 283 meters wide and six-seven meters deep. Walkways border the lake. SS Peter and Paul monument and the monument to V.S. Zavoiko — the first Governor of Kamchatka — are near the lake, which used to be situated on the edge of Petropavlovsk harbor settlement. In the old days, it served as a leisure area and as a place for preparing fish and game. Nowadays, people like to stroll along the lake walkways and waterfront. There are plans to place some ethnic villages here.
Steller’s Sea Lions Rookery in Mokhovaya Bay is one of the main tourist attractions of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It is located within the city boundaries on some old unused piers in the Mokhovaya area. From October until April you can see groups of the huge animals here. At the entrance to a viewing area there is a small fish store. Tourists used to purchase fish and go feed the sea lions.
Khalaktyr Beach is accessible from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Kamchatka residents call this place the edge of the world. Facing the Pacific Ocean, the black sand beach is about 30 kilometers long. When the wave retreats, the sky reflects on a perfectly smooth, mirrorlike surface. The water is very cold. No one dares swim there. However, the sand warms up in the summer, and walking along the is very nice. The only way to get here is by car. There are many forks along the way, and we suggest using local help. A guided trip starts from 2,000 rubles. One person posted on Trip Advisor: “Lovely long black sand beach. Splurge (relatively speaking) on a taxi to get there and back from Petropavlovsk or take the number 24 bus to its terminus for 25 roubles and walk for a couple of hours (easy walking, mosquitos on some routes) if you want to economise. Take some form of map with you to avoid the long irrigation ditches.“
Avacha Bay (southside of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) is one of the world's great natural harbors. It is 24 kilometers long, but the access to the ocean is only three kilometers wide. These “gates” calm down any waves and weaken tsunamis. The Avacha Bay is the deepest natural bay in the world. It is 26 meters deep and according to some estimates, it can accommodate the entire merchant fleet of the world.
Avacha Bay is the main transport gate to Kamchatka and exceeds 200 square kilometers in size. Russians discovered Avacha Bay in 1703, several months before the foundation of St. Petersburg. The Governor-General of Eastern Siberia Nikolay Muravyov (later, count Muravyov-Amursky) wrote: “...I have seen many ports in Russia and Europe, but I have never met anything like Avacha Bay.”
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky occupies almost 20 kilometers of the northern shore of Avacha Bay. To catch a view of the whole bay, with all its creeks and capes that seem to step down to the Pacific Ocean, you need to ascend Mishennaya or Petrovskaya hill. From these vantage points, the bay seems to form a huge bowl. Two capes — Bezymyanny and Mayachny — form the gateway into the bay. During ocean storms, ships from all over the Avacha Gulf use the bay as a refuge.
Several species of sea stars, sea urchins, sea anemones, colonial hydrozoa, sea sponges, sea cucumbers, and 32 species of fish inhabit the bay. Avacha Bay is an excellent site for cold water diving. Guided, ecological boat trips of the bay lasting four to eight hours are available. People often seals and sea lions and sometimes see bears and orcas. The best time for such trips is spring or summer. In the middle of spring, bird colonies comes to life. By early September, these birds have largely dispersed. A guided trip with fishing is about 6,500 rubles per person.
Starichkov Island is situated not far away from entrance to Abacha bay. It is not big — about half of square kilometer — but is alive with birds. More than 44 sea birds colonies of 10 bird’s species are found here. You can see Pacific gulls, thick-billed guillemots, pelagic and red faced cormorants, auklets and other species. In 1981 the island was designated a natural monument. Over 50,000 birds breed and nest on the island. You can see Steller's sea eagle here. The name of the island means “Island of Old Men”.
Three Brothers Rocks (300 meters from the eastern shore of the Avacha Bay) are the symbol of Avacha Bay and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Located at the entrance to the bay at a distance of 14.5 kilometers from the city center, the rocks are said to protect the city from tsunamis. According to legend, three handsome young men from a tribe that lived on the shores of Avacha Bay decided to protect their tribe from strong ocean waves. The brothers stood at the bay entrance and turned their bodies to stone to withstand and push back a tsunami. The three columnar rocks — known as kekurs — stand high in water and greet ships that enter the bay. They are large enough that they can be seen from planes flying over the bay. From the eastern shore of the mouth Avacha Bay, the view of Vilyuchinsky volcano and Three Brothers Rocks is outstanding.
Observation Areas in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
Observation Deck on Peter Hill offers great panoramic views of Avacha Bay, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. Clearly visible are the three-kilometer narrow entrance to the bay, Vilyuchinsky volcano on the opposite side of the bay and St. Nicholas church, the target hills and Lake Kultuchnaya in the city. The observation deck on Peter Hill is located on the Ring Road, also known as High-rise street, and easily accessible by car or by foot. The hill is 248 meters high.
Observation Deck on the Target Hill is located at an altitude of 382 meters on famous hills that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. From the observation deck, there are stunning views of the entire city, the volcanoes Koryakinsky, Avachinskiy and Kozelskiy and Avacha Bay. Even locals don’t tire of the view. Couples and families come here to watch the sunset and greet the dawn.
The observation deck on Target Fill is one of the main famous attractions in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. In the winter, the slopes are used for training by mountain climbers and skiers and snowboarders and arrange freeride competitions. Lookout Hill is a launching area for paragliders.
On the outskirts of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky are forests with bears and foxes. It is possible to climb Koriaksky and Avchinsky volcanos. There are established trails but you need a guide, ice ax and crampons. Both have erupted since 1990. Milkovo (200 kilometers north of Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy) is a jumping off point for wilderness trips.
Malka and Paratunka Thermal Springs (about 25 kilometers south of the airport) are hot springs frequented by locals.. Hot springs with temperatures up to 80°C gush directly out of the sand and pebbles. Mixed with the cold water of the river, they form several natural baths. Each has a specific chemical composition and temperature. Swimming there not only feels nice, but also is said to be very healthy. Local health spas provide treatment with the use of healing thermal water. It stays warm even in the winter. Tourists can find accommodation at recreation centers. A room costs around 4,000-4,500 rubles per day. Sixteen kilometers further away there is a more beautifully situated hot spring at Goryachaya
Yelizovo (30 kilometers northwest of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) is the second largest city on the Kamchatka Peninsula and the home of the airport. This town dates back to the end of the 17th century. At first it was called "Old fort", and then was renamed Zavoiko - in honor of the governor-general of Kamchatka. The name was given Yelizovo (also spelled Elizovo) was given it in 1924.
Kainyran Ethnocultural Complex (40 kilometers away from the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) is near Zelenovskiye hot springs .in a picturesque place on a lake shore with breathtaking views of the Koryak-Avacha group of volcanoes. Here you can check out a dwelling made of reindeer skins, ride in a dog sled, try rose-hip tea and wood-fired tortillas.
Pimchah Itelmen Village and Ethnographic Complex (village of Sosnovka in Yelizovsky district, near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) is an open air museum with Itelmen winter and summer homes with traditional objects of everyday life and totem idols. The complex was built in 2002 in accordance with the descriptions SP Krasheninnikov, who explored Kamchatka in the 18th century. "Pimchah" means “light” in the Itelmen language. Visitors can sample treats and delicacies, observe national dances and songs, witness shaman rituals and "walking on coals", collect mushrooms and berries, fish and taste the Itelmen ear. Acute mountain, which you can climb, is holy for the Itelmens.
Bear Areas in Kamchatka
Kamchatka is the home to between 10,000 and 20,000 bears. About 8,000 of them are brown bears, one of the largest populations in the world. The brown bears found in Kamchatka are slightly larger than American grizzly bears. They grow fat on eating the plentiful supplies of char and salmon and berries that grow in the tundra meadows.
Tumroki Camp (45 minutes by helicopter from Milkovo) is a popular destination for bear hunters and adventure travelers. Located at the foot of Tumroki volcano, it is a beautiful places. Visitors spend their time hiking, picking blue berries and visiting a spot where bears pluck salmon from a river.
South Kamchatka Sanctuary (90 minutes by helicopter from Petropavlosk on the southern tip of Kamchatka) is a roadless nature preserve filled with beautiful scenery, bears and other wildlife. It is often rainy or shrouded in fog. Large numbers of bear live around Kambalnoya Lake in South Kamchatka Sanctuary. A Canadian named Charlie Russell had a cabin in the area and became quite friendly with the about 20 bears in area, raising three orphaned bears himself and writing a popular book about them, Grizzly Heart. One spring he returned and found none of the bears but found a bear gall bladder pinned up in side his cabin. He suspects the bears were killed by poachers. It wasn’t clear whether the gall bladder was a message or an oversight. Russell worried that being friendly with the bears might lead to their demise (the bears might have been too trustful of humans and allowed the poachers to approach them).
During the spring the bears around Kuril Lake emerge from hibernation "hungry, sex-starved and irritable" and wander through settlements on the lake as they approach the shore to fish. They often tear up gardens and root through garbage, Over the years more than 100 problem bears have been killed. See Kuril Lake Below
Kronotsky Nature Biosphere Reserve
Kronotsky Nature Biosphere Reserve (northeast of Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy) features virgin forests, volcanos, the Valley of the Geysers and rivers filled with several species of salmon. It has been a protected area since 1802, when it was declared off limits to sable hunters. The Valley of the Geysers is located in the reserve.
About 90 percent of the reserve is made up of mountains in an volcanic There are 25 volcanoes, including eight active ones, and landscape is very volcanic.The Valley of Geysers is among the unique natural sites in the reserve. Numerous gushing, pulsating, and pouring hot springs are concentrated in the deep, six-kilometer-long canyon of the Geyser River. The largest active geyser, the Giant Geyser, ejects a water column of 30 meters, with its steam rising up to 300 meters.
The Uzon Caldera is a huge nine-x-twelve-kilometer volcanic bowl with active volcanoes that are in their fumarole-salfate stage.Kronotsky Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Kamchatka, covering 242 square kilometers. The lake's inhabitants include an isolated sockeye salmon population and three endemic species of char that are under the careful watch of ichthyologists.
The Valley of Death is an area of 100 by 30 meters in the upper reaches of the Geyser river at the foot of Kikhpinych Volcano. Due to the strong concentration of toxic gases in the area, mainly hydrogen sulfide, many different birds and animals, including brown bears, wolverines, and foxes die here every year. The Bolshoi Semyachik volcano is a huge mountain massif with a glacier and fumarole grounds at its foot. The Graceful Fir Grove is a forest area of about 30,000 fir trees occupying 22 hectares. Its origin is still a mystery to scientists.
The reserve is home to the world's largest population of the wild brown bear. There are also consistently high numbers of sables, foxes, otters, swans and Steller's sea eagles. Wild northern reindeer can be found only in the Kamchatka peninsula. Among the 236 bird species that nest, migrate, or winter at the reserve are Steller's sea eagle, golden eagle, merlin, peregrine falcon and Aleutian tern The reserve's flora include 767 species of vascular plants, including 11 species listed in the Russian Red Data Book and 29 species that are rare in Kamchatka and the Far East. Some species grow only in the reserve and are unknown to other areas of the peninsula.
The park lies the Kamchatka Volcanoes UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1882, the Commission of the Primorsky Governor-General declared Kronoki to be a reserved area. The purpose of creating the reserve was to maintain and increase commercial stocks of sable. The reserve was given official status on November 1, 1934. The current area of Kronotsky Reserve is more than one million hectares, including a three-mile water zone in the Pacific Ocean adjacent to the coastal border of the reserve. In February 1985, the Kronotsky Reserve was internationally recognized through the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program and was included in the international network of biosphere reserves. In December 1996, the territory of the reserve was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka site.
Valley of the Geysers
Valley of the Geysers (160 kilometers north of Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy) is the second largest and most impressive geysers field in the world after the one at Yellowstone. One of Russia's most interesting geological wonders, it is located in a valley so remote it wasn't even discovered until 1941. The largest geyser shoots a column of water 30 meters feet into the air and emits a cloud of steam that climbs as high as 300 meters.
The Valley of Geysers (Dolina Geiserov in Russian) lies in a deep, six-kilometer-long canyon of the Geyser river. The geysers perform at intervals ranging from every 10 minutes to every 5½ hours. A wooden walkway was built to prevent tourists from falling into scalding water. In addition to the geysers, tourists can see hot lakes, steam jets, fumaroles, hollows full of bubbling mud, boiling springs, bursts of hot steam. Another 200 or so geothermal valves in the area create less reliable geysers, hot rivers, strong sulfur smells and bubbling ocher, pea green and blue gray mud.
The Valley of Geysers is the only place on continental Eurasia where geysers are found. The Kamchatka geyser field contains over 20 large geysers and 200 smaller thermal springs in a seven-square-kilometer (2.7-square-mile) area. Much of the peninsula, including the unique Valley of the Geysers is part of Kamchatka Volcanoes UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1973, the Sannikov Land film was shot here
The only way to get to the Valley of the Geysers is by helicopter, with the cost per person as part of a group starting from 40,000 rubles (US$600). Independent access to the valley is impossible. Tourists are not allowed to leave the decked path or observation decks. Most of 3,000 or so annual visitors are day trippers who arrive by helicopter with a special permit. A six-hour group trip for up to 20 people leave from outside Petropavlosk. The trip includes flyovers of volcanos and steaming craters.
Opened for public view in 1991, the Valley of Geysers lies in Kronotsky Reserve in a mountain canyon that four kilometers wide, 400 meters deep, and eight kilometers long with the Geyzernaya River flowing through. Fifty geysers, shooting springs, water and mud pots are found within six kilometers from the river mouth. It’s prohibited to approach geysers, to put fingers into water or mud cauldrons, or to bathe in the Valley’s warm lakes. This is because the valley lies a strictly protected area and second, because it is extremely dangerous.
The tour in the valley is made on boardwalks, located at a safe distance from thermal springs. Thus, visitors do not risk scalding themselves under a shower of boiling water, and they do not harm the fragile ecosystem of the canyon either. At present, visitors can enjoy the modern infrastructure of Uzon-Geyzerny District in Kronotsky Reserve: view-points are equipped with benches and information boards, telescopes offer a better observation of the canyon slopes and animals. The best time for visiting the Valley is July and August when vegetation is lush, the rivers are roaring and the temperatures are comfortable. But the valley is spectacular in any season — in autumn when the trees and bushes turn yellow and red, or winter when the canyon slopes are covered in snow.
A geyser is a type of hot spring that erupts periodically, ejecting a column of hot water and steam into the air. Their existence comes about through a combination of factors (water, heat and fortuitous plumbing) that exists in only a few places on Earth, making them very rare.
Erupting geysers provide spectacular displays of underground energy suddenly unleashed, but their mechanisms are not completely understood. Large amounts of hot water are presumed to fill underground cavities. The water, upon further heating, is violently ejected when a portion of it suddenly flashes into steam. This cycle can be repeated with remarkable regularity, as for example, at Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, which erupts on an average of about once every 65 minutes.
Geysers have a particular geometry that act as conduits for spasmodic burst of hot water. The classic ones produce intermittent explosive eruptions of steam and hot water that occur at regular intervals. The word geyser comes from the Icelandic word geysa , which means "to rush forth furiously."
Geysers occur in volcanic basins where porous, fissured rock layers contain water under pressure and magma is close enough to the surface to heat this water. In places where there is a wide, unobstructed passage a hot spring is formed. In places where the passage is narrow and there is a hole for the water to escape geysers sometimes form.
In geyser basins water accumulates in small subterranean chambers and seeps towards the magma zone, were it is superheated under pressure. As the water is forced back towards the surface, the pressure is relieved and the volume expands, until it finally flashes into steam and a columns of water that surge from the surface as erupting geysers.
A geyser forms where water collects in a tube but doesn't boil immediately because of pressure caused by water in the upper reaches of the tube raises the boiling point. The temperature of the water at about 300 feet down can be over 400̊F. When the water finally does reach its boiling point some of it vaporizes which causes the remaining water to first bubble out of the tube and then explode violently as the pressure from vaporization is released. After the water is expelled, more ground water fills up the tube and the process begins all over again.
There are about 1,000 geysers worldwide, with about half of them in the Yellowstone National Park in the, U.S. By some reckonings the Valley of Geyser is the second largest geyser field in the world. The other major geyser areas are : El Tatio, Chile; Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand; and Iceland. Smaller geysers or geyser-like phenomena can be found in California, Peru, Bolivia, Dominica, Azores, Kenya and Japan.
Valley of the Geysers Buried Under a Huge Landslide
In June 2007, a massive landslide engulfed the Valley of the Geysers and covered many of the geysers. Earthweek reported: “A torrent of mud, trees, snow and stones covered two-thirds of the unique nature park, damming the valley’s Geysernaya River and creating a large lake over the geyser field.Experts believe the river will not be powerful enough to dislodge the blockage. Some of the valley’s more powerful geysers appeared again four days after the mudslide covered them. NTV and Vesti-24 broadcast footage of white steam rising from the ground. [Source: Earth Week, June 2007]
“The world's second geyser field has literally disappeared in a minute...The famous valley was buried on June 3 after an entire mountainside collapsed. Geyser River, which once ran freely through the unique vale filled with millions of gallons of rock, gravel, snow and ice. "We've lost one of the great natural wonders of the world," said Laura Williams, director of WWF Russia's Kamchatka office. "The landslide was likely caused by an earthquake, as Kamchatka is located on the tectonically unstable "Ring of Fire" circling the Pacific Ocean," said Margaret Williams of WWF's Alaska office.
If the new river blockage is not broken, the valley could turn into a large heated lake. This would eliminate from the area many local species. Salmons will lose a spawning area and their predators like bears and sea eagles, will be affected. Tourists of the uninhabited valley were lucky: a group of 19 barely escaped alive from the disaster, as the debris stopped less than 3 ft (1 meters) from their helicopter and the buildings they were housed in.”
According to a report by the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program in 2009: “The landslide created a dam on the Geysernaya River, forming a lake. According to Leonov (2008), the lake surface rose to a maximum elevation of 435 m on 7 June 2007, before eroding, causing a rapid decline in water level to 426 m elevation. During July and August 2007, the Emergency and Disaster Relief Ministry and volunteers deepened the new bed of the Geysernaya River by hand to lower the lake level by another 2 m, thus freeing the Bolshoi geyser vent from the cover of lake water. After these efforts, on 19 September 2007, the Bolshoi geyser revived and erupted for the first time since the 2007 landslide.
“When studied in October 2008, the Bolshoi geyser (figure 10) responded to minor fluctuations of the water level in the lake. Bolshoi was seen to operate in either the regime of a geyser or in the regime of a pulsating source. When the water was low, the geyser regime was seen. With the rise of water of only about 10-15 cm (as a result rains or the melting of snow ) the water began to pour out of Bolshoi's vent in episodic pulsations.”
Uzon Caldera (320 kilometers north of Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy) is a 100-square-kilometer (40-square mile), 10-kilometer (6½ -mile) -across caldera produced by a catastrophic explosion 40,000 years ago. Inside the caldera is a mix of hot springs, furmole, ponds and tundra that can sometimes became a brilliant green and red in color. Some exploring reveals ponds full of gas bubbles and bubbling pots of grey mud. It is possible to bath on sulfuric-smelling pond. Visitors are warned not to stay in long lest they absorb too much radon gas
Together with the Geyzernaya caldera it hosts the largest geothermal field in the Kamchatka Peninsula. The calderas were formed in the mid-Pleistocene in several large eruptions that deposited 20–25 cubic kilometers of ignimbrite over a wide area. Lake Dalny fills a Holocene maar in the northeast of Uzon Caldera. The Uzon Caldera is a location of the occurrence of extremophile micro-organisms due to its high localized temperatures.
The route around Uzon volcano caldera is partly on wooden pathways and steps. There are numerous lakes, rivers and streams in the caldera. Hundreds vapor columns are erupting from the ground, intermitting with green graves and brownish tundra. In year of 2008, after a long term calm period, Uzon geyser has started up again. That definitely improved the image and the force of attraction for ecology and educational excursions.
Valleys of Death and Kikhpinych Volcano
The Valley of Death (250 kilometers north of Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy) is an area of 100-by- 30 meters in the upper reaches of the Geyser river at the foot of the western slope of Kikhpinych Volcano. Due to the strong concentration of toxic gases in the area, mainly hydrogen sulfide, many different birds and animals, including brown bears, wolverines, and foxes die here every year. This is one of three valleys of death in Russia. The other two are in in Krasnoyarsk Region and in Yakutia and are very, very difficult to get to.
As soon as the snow melts, the ground is covered in dead mice; the foxes that come here following the smell of carrion also die. And so it goes, on up the chain to bears and birds of prey. More than a hundred researchers who went to Kamchatka as part of expeditions back in Soviet times died from intoxication, so visitors have to be extra careful.
The Valley of Death lies in the upper reaches of the river in an area of hot springs at the foot of Kikhpinych Volcano that extends about two kilometers, with a width of 100-500 meters. Animals are killed regularly is this area. Studies have shown that most of the animals and birds died primarily from the inhalation of large amounts hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and carbon disulfide.
Death Valley was only discovered in July 1975, by volcanologist VL Leonov and forester Reserve VS Kalyaev even the general area had been pretty thoroughly examined by geologists. About 300 meters from the main site of death (OPG), an area was tourists following the planned route between Uzon and the Valley of Geysers.
Volcano Kikhpinych is a geothermal energy source for the both the Valley of Death and Valley of Geysers. The volcano is a complex array consisting of several different volcanic structures of different ages. Young Kikhpinych is at the top. Dacite volcano Yellow hill is located slightly lower. Young Kikhpinych is an active volcano formed by two fused stratovolcanoes: 1500-meter-high West and 1552-meter-high Savic. The east crater of Savic 60-70 meters diameter and is 30 meters deep. Numerous lava flows extend over the northern foothills. The youngest flow poured out of Bocchi on the southern slope. The last eruption 600 was years ago Old Kikhpinych is an extinct stratovolcano. It has shaped by erosion and glacial processes and has complex heavily modified agglomerate lavas of basaltic composition. The lowest thermal platform — 984 feet wide and 6,561 feet long — is home of the “Valley of Death.”
Menedek Evenk Camp
Evenk Camp Menedek (400 kilometers north of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) is an ethno-cultural complex located two kilometers from the village of Anavgay Bystrinsky. Built the bank of a river in 2004, it has Even and Koryak dwellings, yaranga and yurts, farm building, - mamychki and booths serving for storing clothes and utensils. “Menedek" means "camp." in the Evenk language.
Before you can enter the Evenk camp, you need to go through a cleansing ritual involving drumming and stepping over a small fire and being brush with steaming juniper sprigs. Around the camp are larch and birch trees, rosemary flowers, Ivan-tea, blueberries, honeysuckle, Shiksha and cranberries. In the summer you can try yukola salmon soup. In the winter anavgayskuyu Shurpa venison is the mainstay. To pass the time people sit in their tents around a campfire, drink healing "Kamchatka herbal tea" made from the berries and herbs fees.
There are classes bead weaving, tanning hides, wood and bone carving and birch bark weaving. You can go hiking or horse riding in the surrounding camps, to take part in national games such as jumping on a bearskin rug and over the sledge, throwing chauta (lasso) and tug of staff. You can go out with nomads and their reindeer or enjoy a concert by a Evenk folk ensemble. In March there are sled dog races. Other celebrations at the camp include the feast of the first deer, the Even New Year's meeting.
Kuril Lake (210 kilometers south of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) is located in a 50,000 year old caldera. Over a million salmon return every year to the lake to spawn. This not only appeals to fisherman and roe collectors, it also appeals to large numbers of brown bears who live and breed here. Giant stellar sea eagles also come here to feed in the salmon-choked streams. The huge bears also feast on cloudberries. Unique porous volcanic rocks floats on the lake. On one island there is a huge colony of gulls.
Part of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kuril Lake (also called Kurilskoye Lake or Kurile Lake) is the most significant red salmon spawning ground in Asia, and maybe the whole world. During the spawning season, the water takes on a bright red hue from endless schools of fish. And in the midst of this abundance, bears feast. Over 200 bears gathering on the shores.
Kuril Lake covers 77 square kilometers and the large caldera it lies in is about 300 meters deep.. From the lake a single river flows out and connects to the Sea of Okhotsk. Up this river swim hundreds and thousands of sockeye salmon to the lake to spawn. The water literally boils with fish. In some years, more than 8 million salmon come to the lake to spawn.
The first European travelers who visited the Kuril Lake, was Georg Steller. Who described it in his "Description of the Land of Kamchatka" The indigenous group that lived in the area were Itelmans. Cossacks named the lake after the Kuril Islands to the south because they mistakenly thought the inhabitants of the lake were the same as those on the Kuril Islands.
On average Kuril Lake is visited by about 700 people. To get to there you have to take a helicopter. The ride takes one hour and 15 minutes. Flights are supposed to take place daily from July to September but sometimes there are weather issues. A tour lasts seven hours. The cost is 42,000 rubles. On the way back, tourists visit the caldera of a volcano and a hot springs. A tour by car takes several days. The route is very complicated is not recommended to try on your own. Travel companies organize trips. The cost per person starts at 30,000 rubles.
Kutukhiny Baty (four kilometers from the Ozernaya riverhead at Kuril Lake) the lake, is a sacred place to the Itelman. Especially in the summer, the white pumice deposits here are clearly visible against the green mass of the forest. From a distance the white eroded cliffs look like giant upright boats. According to legend bats or boats were put on a shore by the wise crow Kutkh — an important god to the indigenous people of Kamchatka — to air them out but were forgotten by him there.
Kuril Lake Bears and Steller’s Sea Eagles
The supper abundance of fish at Lake Kuril attracts bears to the shores of the lake. Usually these predators avoid each other, but during spawning salmon the gather together around by the lake, sometimes in groups with15-18 individuals. These bears are the largest subspecies of brown bears. Adult males can reach 600 kilograms in weight and 260 centimeters in length. It is theorized they are so big at least in part because the eat so much meat and fat — from the salmon. Usually bears omnivores and feed primarily on berries. Kamchatka bears are dangerous and should be given a wide berth.
Different bear at Kuril Lake have different feeding behavior. Some wait for the fish in the water; others fish from the shore. The bears tolerate each other because food supply is so enormous. Sill, large adult males control the best spots. Females with take more sideline positions. Sometimes the bears keep fishing even when they are full and discard much of the fish. At first, when the fishing season begins, the bears eat the whole fish. By the the end of the season, they are choosing only the most delicious and nutritious parts, including eggs, tossing aside the rest.. Salmon are the main source of the bear’s fat reserves, which allow them endure the long Kamchatka winter.
Hundreds of Steller's sea eagles also gather at Lake Kuril. They spend most of their time perched in the trees and come to life during the winter sockeye salmon run. Steller's sea eagles sometimes have such difficulty finding in food in winter they starve but those that gather around Lake Kurilskoye sometimes are so gorged with fish they can't fly and naturalist have caught them by hand. Klaus Nigge wrote in National Geographic: “Steller's sea eagles eat like sibling rivals — they seldom dine alone, and few scraps of food are won without a squabble...Eagles begin each day watching for magpies and crows. Although equipped for hunting, eagles prefer to let other keen-eyed birds lead them to beached salmon. The scouts get food in return. An eagle's massive can tear open a fresh salmon's tough skin, allowing smaller birds to sneak a meal." Near the lake there is an observation tower, from where you can watch the bears fish in safety. [Source: Klaus Nigge, National Geographic, March 1999]
The Commander Islands (between the Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean, 250 kilometers from the Kamchatka Peninsula) are an animal lovers paradise. Millions of seabirds nest on the islands. The rocks are home to loud seals and sea lions. A total of 20 whale species — including sperm whales, orcas and humpback whales — and sea otters inhabit the seas around the islands. The local animals and birds are not afraid of people. They don't hide, fly, or swim away, but rather watch you curiously. The islands themselves are also interesting to hikers, seafarers, history lovers and adventurers. They come here to meet descendants of the Aleuts and visit the last resting place of Vitus Bering's expedition. Divers enjoy observing the sea creatures that thrive in the kelp forests and looking for orcas and seals. Getting to the Commander Islands is quite difficult and expensive but can be done either by air (local airline) or by sea. It all depends on the whims of the local weather, though. A week-long tour starts from 170,000 rubles.
The Commander (Komandorskiye) Islands are a small archipelago of four islands: Bering, Medny, Ariy Kamen and Toporkov. They form the Aleutsky District of the Kamchatka Krai and part of the Komandorski nature reserve. Their name commemorates Commander Vitus Bering (1681-1741) who discovered them during the second Kamchatka expedition and died on the island which now bears his name. In The Soviet era, the islands had a population of approximately 1200 people, including 700 Aleuts. Now only about 700 people live in Nickolskoye village (including 300 Aleuts).
Commander Islands(Comandorsky State Nature Reserve) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. According to a report submitted to UNESCO:The Commander Islands archipelago consists of 15 islands of different size from 1667 square kilometers to less than 0.5 square kilometers which are crowns of a huge submarine volcanic ridge extending from Alaska to Kamchatka. The most ancient Commander structures are dated as the beginning of Paleogene (60-70 million years ago). Now low hills and coniform mountains occupy the most part of the Islands' territory. The highest point of the largest Bering Island is the Steller peak (755 meters). The most part of river valleys (except the greatest ones - as a rule formed along fractures) is cut short by a coastal scarp forming picturesque waterfalls 10 - 100 meters high. [Source: Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO Russian Ministry of Natural Resources]
Climate is characterized by mild winter (- 4°C in February) and cool summer (+ 10.5°C in August) with short intermediate seasons; low precipitation, constantly high relative humidity of air and strong winds The Commander elevation shelf and continental slope are characterized with very abrupt depth: in the limits of 30 miles from the shores all the depth diapason can be observed – from littoral to ultraabyssal. It could be mentioned that about 1,000 macrobenthic species inhabit the most studied shallow shelf zone (up to the depth of 40m) only. As for inland waters the two large islands have well-developed drainage network with one navigable river, and Toporkov and Ariy Kamen' are absolutely devoid of fresh water. According to the last data, 389 species of vascular plants have been registered in the Commander Islands' flora, relating to 183 genera and 63 families. In the system of floristic zoning the Commander Islands are related to the Commander-Aleut region of Kamchatka province of Boreal floristic area.
There are 203 bird species registered on the Commanders according to the last data, including 58 nesting ones. There is a number of endemic forms and it is the only place in Russia where a number of American birds are regularly reproducing. Fauna of the marine mammals is extraordinary diverse. 32 species of 13 families and 4 orders has been registered there. About 50 percent of marine mammal fauna representatives are regarded as rare and needing special protection: 12 species are enlisted into the IUCN Red List and another 2 species - into the Red Book of Russia. Arctic fox is the only aboriginal species of terrestrial mammals inhabiting the Commander Islands. There are two relict endemic Arctic fox sub-species: Bering Arctic fox - Alopex lagopus beringensis and Medny one -A. I. semenovi, differing not only by their outward appearance, but also by some ecological and morphological features. According to preliminary data, the fish fauna of the Commander underwater plateau includes 216 species and subspecies, representing 148 genera, 56 families and 20 orders.
Commander State Reserve is the conservation, research and environmental education of federal significance. Created in 1993, it embraces 36,486 square kilometers that includes some islands but is mostly sea. The aim of the reserve is preservation of natural complexes, flora and fauna unique island ecosystems. The main tourist sites are the breeding grounds of marine mammals — sea lions, fur seals and sea otters. Visiting the reserve is possible only with special permission and as part of an organized tour. The best time to visit is from June to September. Tourists arrive by air and by sea.
The Aleuts have traditionally lived in the western tip of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. In the late 18th century and early 19th century when Russians entered their homeland, some of them resettled in the Pribilof Islands and the Commander Islands, which now lie in Russian territory, where they are known as the Komandorskiye islands. The term Aleut is used to describe someone who is descendant of the original inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands. The Aleuts are also known as Unangan.
In the old days the Aleuts engaged in frequent raids. Early Russian explorers described islands that had been depopulated by raids. The Aleuts also battled with the Russians, often with great loss of life. In one incident four Russian trading vessels were destroyed and there were only 12 survivors. The Russians retaliated and later forced the Aleuts to engage in forced labor and fight against other groups. Aleut weapons included animal skin armor, sinew-backed composite bows, war lances and sea darts.
The Aleuts that settled on the Komandorskiye islands did so primarily to earn money from the fur seal trade. They were joined by Kodiak Islanders and Atkans and Attuans, All of these groups converted to Orthodox Christianity and were collectively known as Aleuts. They stayed there after Alaska was sold to the United States. They were employed mostly as sea otter and whale hunters.
There are about 500 Aleuts on the Komandorskiye islands. They live in sheltered bays near spits that are easy for animal skin boats to land on. Access to freshwater streams, salmon rivers and beaches where driftwood washes ashore and can be collected are also important. Communities traditionally lived in semi-subterranean loghouses that could sometimes accommodate around a hundred people.
The Aleuts have traditionally lived off what their sea environment could provide them: seals, walruses sea lions and fish. They caught salmon in rivers and the sea and hunted birds. Clothes were made from sea mammal fur. The only sources of wood were driftwood and trade with other peoples. Today they have been absorbed into the cash economy. Some communities have done well by selling fish.
In the old days sister-exchange marriage, polygamy and polyandry were all practiced. Society was arranged with high nobles, nobles, commoners and slaves (mostly captive of war). Today, marriage customs are in line with those of the Orthodox church, the ranking system has been abandoned and most Aleuts live in nuclear families.
Even Aleuts that lived in the United States are mostly Orthodox Christians. Easter and Christmas are big holidays. During Christmas young men bring stars to the church to be blessed. This is followed by a ritual bath in a stream. St. Peter and Paul Day is celebrated by Aleuts in Alaska who are ancestors of people who were shipped there generations ago from Siberia. Services are conducted in Aleut, Chukchi and Russian.
The Aleut language is relegated mostly to church services. Russian is used at home and in everyday life. Aleut men are known as skilled carvers of ivory and bones. Women create garments from fur and bird skin adorned with gut-on-gut applique and hair embroidery. Interest in these art form has declined.
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