Severnaya Zemlya

Severnaya Zemlya (Russian: Северная Земля (Northern Land), pronounced [sʲevʲɪrnəjə zʲɪmlʲa] ) is a 37,000-square-kilometer (14,286-square-mile) archipelago in the Russian High Arctic . It lies off Siberia ‘s Taymyr Peninsula , separated from the mainland by the Vilkitsky Strait . This archipelago separates two marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean, the Kara Sea in the west and the Laptev Sea in the east.

Severnaya Zemlya was first noted in 1913 and first charted in 1930-32, making the last sizeable archipelago on Earth to be explored. [1] Administratively, the islands form share of Russia ‘s Krasnoyarsk Krai federal subject . In Soviet times there Were a number of research stations in different locations, goal Currently there are no human habitants in Severnaya Zemlya except for the Prima Polar Station [2] near Cape Baranov . [3]

The largest glacier in the Russian Federation, the Academy of Science Glacier , is located in Severnaya Zemlya. The archipelago is notable for the multi-year ongoing Arctic sea ice decline . Until recently, ice joined the islands to Eurasia Even Smallest at ict extent During the late summer melt season, blocking the Northeast Passage entre the Atlantic and Pacific. By the late summer of 2012, however, the permanent ice had reached a record in the archipelago. [4]


Northern Hemisphere of the Arctic, the archipelago known as Severnaya Zemlya was not formally recorded until the 20th century. Earlier explorers of the land of the archipelago, Matvei Gedenschtrom and Yakov Sannikov made in 1810 at the time of their exploration of the New Siberian Islands .

Later in the 19th century Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld during the Vega Expedition sailed very close to this land in 1878 but did not notice it. In 1882 Danish Arctic explorer and naval officer Andreas Peter Hovgaard , leader of the Arctic survey Dijmphna Expedition , set himself the goal of discovering the land of Cape Chelyuskin and explores the unknown northeastern limits of the Kara Sea . [5] However, Hovgaard was unable to recover from the Taymyr Peninsula’s shores. [6]

Even at the end of the 19th century Both Nansen’s Fram Expedition of 1895 as well Eduard Toll ‘s Russian Polar Expedition of 1900-1902 we ship Zarya failed to score Any traces of land to the north of the 55 km (34 miles) wide strait between the Kara Sea and the Laptev Sea that they navigated. [7]

Emperor Nicholas II Land

See also: Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition and Russian Hydrographic Service

The archipelago was not put on the map until the 1913-1915 Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition of icebreakers Taimyr and Vaigach . The chief organizer and first captain of the Vaygash was officer Aleksandr Vasiliyevich Kolchakof the Imperial Russian Navy . The expedition was privately financed and was launched in 1910, being led by Boris Vilkitsky on behalf of the Russian Hydrographic Service . [7] [8] This venture is an accomplishment in the exploration of Northern Ireland’s Northern Sea Route as a culmination of the Great Northern Expedition, an ambitious enterprise initially conceived by emperor Peter The Great in order to map the whole of the northern coast of Russia to the east.

On September 3, 1913 (22 August 1913 in the Julian calendar used by Russia at the time), members of Vilkitsky’s expedition landed on what is known as Cape Berg on October Revolution Island. [9] They raised the Russian flag on the shore and named the new territory Tayvay Land ( Russian : Земля Тайвай , Zemlya Tayway ) partner after the first syllable of Their icebreaker’s names. During the days that followed Vilkitsky’s expedition charted parts of the Laptev Sea coast of what they believed to be a single island. [10] Barely six months later in early 1914, by order of the Secretary of the Imperial Navy, the new discovery was renamedEmperor Nicholas II Land ( Russian : Земля Императора Николая II , Zemlya Imperatora Nikolaya II ), after ruling Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. [11]

Later exploration and present era

In 1926 the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR renamed Severnaya Zemlya . [12] In May 1928 an attempt was made by Umberto Nobile and his crew in the Airship Italia to overfly the islands, but adverse weather conditions forced them to turn southward when only to watch the archipelago’s coastline. [13]

In the spring of 1931 Georgy Ushakov , accompanied by geologist Nikolay Urvantsev , veteran surveyor Sergei Zhuravlev and radio operator Vasily Khodov thoroughly surveyed Severnaya Zemlya during a two-year expedition to the archipelago. [14] Ushakov and his team established a small base at Golomyanny – the western end of Sredniy Island , off October Revolution Island’s western coast. From there they made multiple surveys in the interior and the coastlines of the larger islands. [15] The first detailed map drawn by the expedition’s cartographers showed Severnaya Zemlya to be divided into four main islands. [1]Geographic features of the territory were named after communistorganizations, events and personalities. About Severnaya Zemlya Ushakov wrote:

I have seen God-forsaken Chukotka Peninsula , blizzard-ridden Wrangel Island , twice visited fog enshrouded Novaya Zemlya , and I have seen Franz Josef Land with its enamel sky and proud cliffs garbed in blue, hardened glacial streams, but nowhere did I witness such grimness or such depressing, lifeless relief … [16]

The Graf Zeppelin flew over the area during its flight of July 1931 and took some mapping and meteorological data; Hugo Eckener tried to take pictures of the yet unsurveyed western coast, but it was obscured by fog and clouds. [17]

Even though German communists had endured great suffering under the Third Reich , following the Anti-German sentiment caused by the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War in the USSR some features of the geography of Severnaya Zemlya that had been previously named in German Communism their names altered to Russian or neutral-sounding names – eg Cape Unslich becoming Mys Peschanyy and Proliv Yungshturm Yuny Strait . [18] [19] [20] [21]

During the Cold War era the islands of Severnaya Zemlya continued to be studied by a team of geologists from NIIGA (Scientific Research Institute of Arctic Geology) in St. Petersburg between 1948 and 1954 under B. Kh. Egiazarov who compiled a comprehensive geological map. [22] Also more accurate maps were drawn by means of cartographic data collected from aerial photography surveys. [23]

Administratively Severnaya Zemlya Was share of the Taymyr Autonomous Okrug up to this Okrug Was merged into Krasnoyarsk Krai on 1 January 2007. Currently it belongs to the Taymyrsky Dolgan-Nenetsky District of Krasnoyarsk Krai . There has been a request to the Krasnoyarsk Krai Legislative Assembly to reinstate the name of Severnaya Zemlya as “Emperor Nicholas II Land” ( Russian : Земля Николая II ). This request, however, has been rejected for the time being. [12]


Severnaya Zemlya included four major islands – October Revolution, Bolshevik, Komsomolets, and Pioneer – and around 70 smaller islands, covering a total area of ​​about 37,000 km 2(14,300 sq mi). It is separated from the Taymyr Peninsula by the Vilkitsky Strait . [22]

Four of the main islands are largely glaciated, October Revolution, Komsomolets, and Pioneer, as well as smaller Schmidt Island at the northwestern limit. The glacierized area on Bolshevik, the southernmost main island of the group, covers a quarter of its land’s surface. The southernmost point of Severnaya Zemlya is Cape Neupokoyev at SW end of Bolshevik Island. [24] The highest point of the archipelago is 965 m (3,166 ft) Mount Karpinsky, the summit of the Karpinsky Glacier, an ice dome on October Revolution Island. The Red Army Straitseparates Komsomolets Island from October Revolution Island and the broader Shokalsky StraitBolshevik Island from October Revolution Island. Both straits connect the Kara Sea in the west with the Laptev Sea in the east. [25]

This archipelago encloses the northern limits of the Kara Sea on its western shores, with Novaya Zemlya located about 1,000 km (620 mi) to the southwest. The big rivers Ob and Yenisei , among others, flow from the south into this marginal sea of ​​the Arctic Ocean, their abundant waters contributing to a climate of high temperature. The Laptev Sea , where the mighty Lena River steadily expands its wide delta, lies to the east of Severnaya Zenlya. The topographic relief of the archipelago is quite smooth, with Neoproterozoic and Palaeozoicsedimentary successions dominating its bedrock geology. [26]


Glaciers in the archipelago have a characteristic dome shape with a continuously decreasing surface towards their edges. Ice cliffs are found only at the base. The places where the glaciers reach the sea contribute to the formation of icebergs. The most active glacier fronts being the eastern side of the Academy of Sciences Glacier at Krenkel Bay , as well as its southern side. Another quite active glacier is the Rusanov Glacier on the island of October Revolution with its terminus at Matusevich Fjord . [23]

October Revolution, with seven glaciers , is the island with the most individual glaciers in Severnaya Zemlya. Next are the islands of Bolshevik with six, Komsomolets with four, Pioneer with two and Schmidt Island with one. The largest glacier is the Academy of Science Glacier in Komsomolets, which is also the largest ice cape of Russia -a 5,575 km 2 (2,153 sq mi) and 819 m (2,687 ft) thick ice reaching reach 749 m (2,457 ft) above sea level of two-thirds of the surface of the island.

Main islands

October Revolution

October Revolution Island (Russian: Остров Октябрьской Революции , Ostrov Oktyabrskoy Revolyutsii ) is the largest island of the Severnaya Zemlya group in the Russian Arctic .

The area of ​​this island has been estimated at 14,170 km 2 (5,470 sq mi) making it the 59th largest island in the world. [27] It rises to a height of 965 m (3,166 ft) on Mount Karpinsky . Half the island is covered with glaciers reaching down into the sea. In the sections free from ice, the vegetation is desert or tundra . The island was first explored by the expedition of GA Ushakov and Nikolay N. Urvantsevin 1930-32. [28]

October Revolution Island houses five domed ice caps; They are named Rusanov , Karpinsky , University , Vavilov and Albanov . [29] The Vavilov Meteorological Station was operated from 1974 to 1988 on the northern part of the Vavilov Ice Cap. [30] Other minor ice caps on the island include the Mal’yutka Glacier. The Podemnaya River and the Bolshaya River drain to the northwest between the Vavilov and Albanov glaciers, and the Bedovaya and Obryvistaya Rivers drain to the north between Albanov and Rusanov . [31] The largeMatusevich Fjord and the smaller Marat Fjord are located in this island. Cape October is located in the northern part of the island facing the Red Army Strait. [32]

Ostrov Vysokiy is an islet located in a small bay on October Revolution Island’s southwest shores.


Bolshevik Island (Russian: остров Большевик , pronounced [ostrəv bəlʲʂɨvʲik] ) is the southernmost and second largest island in the group, located on the Shokalsky Strait of October Revolution Island. The area of ​​this island has estimated at 11,312 km 2 (4,370 sq mi).

Bolshevik Island is mountainous, reaching a height of 935 m (3,068 ft). It houses an Arctic base named Prima [33] near Cape Baranov . [34]

Parts of the shore of the island are deeply indented, with Mikoyan Bay in the north and Solnechny Bay in the south, as well as fjords Such As the wide Akhmatov Fjord , and the smaller Thaelmann Fjord , Spartak Fjord and Partizan Fjord .

Bolshevik Island is comparatively less glaciated than the other islands of Severnaya Zemlya. Only about 30% of the island is covered by glaciers while the coastal plains have a sparse vegetation of mossand lichen . The Leningrad Glacier , Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky Glacier , Kropotkin Glacier , Mushketov Glacier and Aerosyomki Glacier are located in the interior of the island and do not reach the sea. [35]

Ostrov Tash is a small island located on Bolshevik’s southern shore. Lavrov Island is located on the NE shore and Ostrov Lishniy off its northern tip.


Komsomolets Island (Russian: остров Комсомолец ) is the northernmost island of the Severnaya Zemlya group in the Russian Arctic , and the third largest island in the group. It is the largest 82nd islandon earth.

The northernmost point of the island is called the Arctic Cape . This is the launching point for many Arctic expeditions.

The area of ​​this island has been estimated at 9,006 km 2 (3,477 sq mi). It rises to a height of 780 m (2,559 ft). Some 65% of the island is covered with glaciers. The soil is mostly composed of loose loamand sand . Komsomolets Island is home to the largest ice cap in Russia, the Academy of Sciences Ice Cap . [36] which covers most of the island, between Krenkel Bay in the east and Zhuravlev Bay in the west. [35] [37]

The soil of the island is mostly composed of loose loam and sand , with tundra desert scattered with mosses and lichens. [38] The island was first explored by the expedition of Georgy Ushakov and Nikolay Urvantsev in 1930-32. In keeping with their scheme of naming the islands and events of the Revolution , this island was named in honor of the members of the Komsomol , the “Communist Union of Youth”.

Off the NW shores of Komsomolets Island lies a group of islets known as Ostrova Dem’yana Bednogo .

Pioneer Island

Pioneer Island , Ostrov Pioner in Russian. It is the westernmost of the large islands of the Severnaya Zemlya group and is separated from Komsomolets Island by the Yuny Strait . Pioneer island measures 1,527 km 2 (590 sq mi) in area.

This island houses the Pioneer Glacier. [35] Thelodonti fossils from the Upper Silurian have been found in the island. [39]

Off Pioneer Island’s southwestern end lies Krupskoy Island . This is a fairly large island, over 20 km (12 mi) in length and about 11 km (6.8 mi) in width. The sound that separates it from Pioneer is only 0.5 km (0.31 mi) in width.

This island should not be confused with Pioneer Island in Canada ( 76 ° 57’N 96 ° 57’W ).

Schmidt Island

Schmidt Island , measuring 467 km 2 (180 sq mi), is located at the far northwestern end of the archipelago. Severnaya Zemlya group. It is also in the permanent sea ice .

This island is almost completely covered by the Schmidt Ice Cap . Owing to its exposed position, the climate in the Schmidt Island is much more than the rest of the archipelago. [30]

Schmidt Island was named after the Soviet scientist Otto Schmidt .

Minor islands and island groups

Close to the archipelago of Severnaya Zemlya there are a number of smaller islands and archipelagos. There are also many smaller and smaller islands in different locations, such as Krupskoy to the west of Pioneer and Naydenysh ( Russian : Найдёныш ) near Cape Anuchin in October Revolution Island. [40] Among the other minor islands

Sedov Archipelago

The Sedov Archipelago, formerly known as Sergey Kamenev Islands , [41] is located just west of October Revolution Island on the Kara Sea side. The main islands of this archipelago are Sredny (the longest island), Domashnyy , Strela , and Figurnyy . Island of Obmannyy Island, Island of Obmannyy Island, 32 km (20 mi) from Dlinnyy Island . These other coastal islands are sometimes included as part of the Sedov Group.

Golomyanniy Meteorological Station , located on the western tip of Sredniy Island at 79 ° 33’N 90 ° 38’E , [42] was the wintering site and base of the 1931-32 expedition [15] and has been taking continuous measurements since 1954 . [30]

Domashnyy Island as Svyatoy Anastasii ( остров Святой Анастасии ), St. Anastasia Island. [12]

Krasnoflotskiye Islands

Located just south of October Revolution Island in the Kara Sea. The Krasnoflotskiye Islands ( Russian : Краснофлотские ) extend from north to south in an almost straight line 78 ° 36’N 98 ° 40’E . The main islands are Sverdlova – very close to Sverdlov Cape on the coast, Bolshoy – not much larger than the others, Sredniy and Greben far offshore. All islands are devoid of vegetation.

35 km (22 mi) to the SW of Greben Island lies two small islets named Opasnye , which are also part of this group.

The Krasnoflotskiye Islands were first sighted and mapped in August 1932 by the expedition of the All-Union Arctic Institute on Rusanov’s icebreaker. There is an Arctic Station in the Krasnoflotskiye Islands (AS-042), which has been operating since 1953. [43]

Maly Taymyr and Starokadomsky

This is a small group located in the Laptev Sea, off the far southeastern end of Bolshevik Island. Maly Taymyr , the largest island, has a surface area of ​​232 km 2 or 90 sq mi and is at 78 ° 07’N 107 ° 15’E.

Maly Taymyr was discovered by Boris Vilkitsky during the Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition in 1913 and was named “Tsarevich Alexei Island” ( Russian : Остров Цесаревича Алексея ), [7] after the son of Zar Nicholas II of Russia. Following the 1917 October Revolution the island was renamed “Maly Taymyr”. In 2005 an official request was forwarded to the local government in Krasnoyarsk Krai in order to reinstate its name to the island as Alexei Island .

Starokadomsky Island is close by to Maly Taymyr, located on a narrow six-kilometer-wide (3.7-mile) sound. This island was named after Dr. Leonid Starokadomsky , one of the leaders of the 1913 Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition.

Lishniy Island

Lishniy Island ( Russian : Лишний ) is a coastal island located on the eastern side of the mouth of Akhmatov Fjord , southeast of Cape Unslicht , off Bolshevik Island’s northern end at 79 ° 11’N 103 ° 24’E. The island has an irregular shape and is 6 km (4 mi) long with a maximum width of 3.5 km (2.2 mi).

A deep round lake with a diameter of 700 m (2,300 ft) is located in the western part of the island and is connected to the sea by a small channel. Almost all the island is rocky, except for the northwestern part. The highest point of Lishniy Island is 27 m (89 ft) [44]

South of Lishniy lies Yuzhnyy , a smaller island, and two islets. [45] Lishniy off Severnaya Zemlya should not be confused with Lishny Island off Toll Bay , South of the Firnley Islands .


Severnaya Zemlya is always cold and quite dry, with a mean annual temperature of -14.8 ° C (5.4 ° F ), mean annual precipitation of about 420 mm (16.5 in), and overcast skies. Monthly average temperature ranges from -28 ° C (-18.4 ° F) in February to 1 ° C (33.8 ° F) in July. The archipelago sees large fluctuations during winter months, as low-pressure cyclonic activity in the North Atlantic makes its way across the Arctic, bringing precipitation and higher temperatures. These cyclones are most common in September and October, which see 30% of annual precipitation. Snowfall in summer is common as temperatures hover around 0 ° C (32 ° F), although higher temperatures occur when warm air masses move north from Siberia. [30]The climate data below, taken from the Golomyanniy Meteorological Station gives an indication of the weather experienced in the archipelago.

Flora and fauna

See also: List of species on Severnaya Zemlya

Severnaya Zemlya is a polar desert with sparse vegetation and permafrost at less than 50 centimeters (20 inches). Rare vascular plants include species of Cerastium and Saxifraga . Non-vascular plants include the moss genera Detrichum , Dicranum , Pogonatum , Sanionia , Bryum , Orthothecium and Tortula , as well as the lichen genera Cetraria , Thamnolia , Cornicularia , Lecidea ,Ochrolechia and Parmelia . [47] Common flowering plants of the high ArcticSuch as the purple saxifrage ( Saxifraga oppositifolia ) and the Arctic poppy ( Papaver radicatum ) aussi Occur we Severnaya Zemlya.

According to Kork, Volkov, and Gavrilo, thirty-two bird species have been observed on Severnaya Zemlya, 17 of which are known to breed on the islands. Eight species are spread across the archipelago: five seabirds: little auk ( Alle alle ), black-legged kittiwake ( Rissa tridactyla ), black guillemot ( Cepphus grylle ), ivory gull ( Pagophila eburnea ), and glaucous gull ( Larus hyperboreus ); and three species of tundra bird: the snow bunting ( Plectrophenax nivalis),purple sandpiper ( Calidris maritima ), and brent goose ( Branta bernicla ). [48]

The most common mammal on Severnaya Zemlya is the collared lemming ( Dicrostonyx torquatus ), also known as Arctic lemming, which is present on all of the larger islands, in some places to reach a density of 500 per km 2(1,300 per sq mi). The Arctic fox ( Alopex lagopus ) has been known to many people in the 1980s. Other examples include the wolf ( Canis lupus ), the polar bear ( Ursus maritimus ), [49] ermine ( Mustela erminea ), Arctic hare(Lepus timidus ), and reindeer ( Rangifer tarandus ). [48]


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  30. ^ Jump up to:d Bassford, Robin; Siegert, Martin; Dowdeswell, Julian; Oerlemans, Johannes; Glazovsky, Andrey; Macheret, Yuri (February 2006). “Quantifying the Mass Balance of Ice Caps on Severnaya Zemlya, Russian High Arctic.I: Climate and Mass Balance of the Vavilov Ice Cap” . Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research . University of Colorado. 38 (1): 1-12. doi : 10.1657 / 1523-0430 (2006) 038 [0001: QTMBOI] 2.0.CO; 2 . Retrieved 13 August 2015 .
  31. Jump up^ Männik, Peep; et al. (2002). “Silurian and Devonian strata Severnaya Zemlya and Sedov archipelagos (Russia)” (PDF) . Geodiversitas . 24 (1): 99-122.
  32. Jump up^ “Mys Oktyabr’skiy” . Mapcarta . Retrieved 28 December 2016 .
  33. Jump up^ “Photo gallery” . .
  34. Jump up^ New Russian polar station at Severnaya Zemlya
  35. ^ Jump up to:c “Arctic Ocean – Severnaya Zemlya” . Archived from the original on 23 December 2010 . Retrieved 2010-12-23 . . Retrieved on 19 October 2010.
  36. Jump up^ Ecoshelf ArchivedFebruary 5, 2012 at theWayback Machine.
  37. Jump up^ “Lednik Akademii Nauk” . Mapcarta . Retrieved 24 December 2016 .
  38. Jump up^ “Russian Arctic – Severnaya Zemlya” . Archived from the original on 23 December 2010 . Retrieved 2010-12-23 . (which also features satellite photos of the islands of the Severnaya Zemlya group).
  39. Jump up^ Upper Silurian thelodonts from Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago (Russia) = Upper Silurian Thelodonts of the Severnaya Archipelago Zemlya (Russia). Retrieved on 19 October 2010.
  40. Jump up^ “Ostrov Naydënysh” . Mapcarta . Retrieved 3 December 2016 .
  41. Jump up^ “Serge Kamenev Islands Research Station, 1930-32” . 1 (4). 1 July 1932: 43-45. doi : 10.1017 / S0032247400029703 – via Cambridge Core.
  42. Jump up^ Gonçalves, Mário (7 February 2016). “Ultima Thule: Golomyanniy Station in Severnaya Zemlya-south of nowhere in Siberia’s High Arctic, plus a … museum!” . .
  43. Jump up^ TD13 Duplicate Stations List.
  44. Jump up^ “Ostrov Lishniy” . Mapcarta . Retrieved 3 December 2016 .
  45. Jump up^ “Топографическая карта T-48-VII, VIII, IX залив Ахматова” . .
  46. Jump up^ “Weather Data for Golymyanniy Meteorological Station” . Weather Reports . Retrieved 1 April 2012 .
  47. Jump up^ Manfred Bolter & Hiroshi Kanda (1997). “Preliminary results of botanical and microbiological investigations on Severnaya Zemlya 1995” (PDF) . Proc. NIPR Symp. Polar Biol . 10 : 169-178. Archived from the original(PDF) on 19 July 2011.
  48. ^ Jump up to:b Bird Observations in Severnaya Zemlya, Siberia . (PDF). Retrieved on 19 October 2010.
  49. Jump up^ Polar Bears of the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago of the Russian Arcti

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