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Russia's Laptev Sea

Named in honor of Russian explorers Khariton Laptev and Dmitry Laptev, the Laptev Sea is located between the Taimyr Peninsula, Severnaya Zemlya, the northern coast of Siberia and the New Siberian Islands, with the Arctic Ocean to the north. Known for their Arctic exploration, these two cousins mapped the coastline of the Laptev Sea between 1735 and 1740 – a time when intrepid adventurers explored new territories without the aid of modern navigational tools.

Although the climate of the Laptev Sea coastline is harsh, there is nonetheless a variety of flora and fauna to be found. Marine vegetation consists primarily of phytoplankton and zooplankton that can survive, and even thrive, in the brackish waters, while marine life found in the rivers emptying into the sea, and the sea itself, include muksun, broad whitefish, sardine, cisco, cod and inconnu.

Flora along the coastline includes lichens, mosses and some flowering plants such as the arctic poppy (Papaver radicatum), which roots itself in cracks and crevices, adding color to the landscape. Other plants include Saxifraga, Latin for "stone-breaker", giving some idea of its hardiness, and a number of the more than 300 species of Draba. Beluga whales are seasonal visitors to the waters of the Laptev Sea and mammals found along the shoreline include the bearded seal, harp seal, ringed seal and walrus. The Arctic fox, Arctic hare, polar bear and reindeer are also spotted from time to time. Birdlife is abundant with several dozen species inhabiting the shores in large colonies. These include ducks, gulls, grouse, guillemot, and the beautiful snowy owl.

The Ust-Lena Nature Reserve, established in the Lena River Delta in 1985, is home to more than 400 species of plants, 32 species of fish, over 100 species of birds and 33 mammal species. Several Russian rivers empty into the Laptev Sea, which contains dozens of islands, many of which contain well preserved examples of mammoth remains – members of the elephant (Elephantidae) family believed to have become extinct around 4,500 years ago.

For thousands of years before the Russians began exploring the region in the 17th century, the coastline was occupied successively by indigenous tribes of Yukaghirs, Evens, Evenks and Yakuts. Today the largest town is Tiksi, with just under six thousand residents, and several small settlements are found along the coast. The meteorological station at Tiksi is one of four Arctic stations participating in the Atmospheric Observatory program run by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – the other three being Alert and Eureka in Canada, and Barrow in Alaska.


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