Discover the Unique New Siberian Islands

The New Siberian Islands of Russia consist of an archipelago of large islands, which are located in the Arctic Ocean off the north-eastern coast of Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, Siberia. This archipelago (chain or cluster of islands) is surrounded by the Laptev Sea to the west, the East Siberian Sea to the east and the open Arctic Ocean to the north.

The New Siberian Islands are divided in to three groups with the total land area being approximately 29,000 square kilometres. These groups are known as New Siberian Islands (Anzhu Islands), the Lyakhovskiye Islands and the De Longa Islands. These low lying islands were formed by retreating sea levels that exposed parts of the continental shelf. The Anzhu Islands and Lyakhovskiye Islands consist mainly of loose sediment, limestone and slate with a few low rounded hills and are not ice-bound by glaciers. The De Longa Islands, the smallest of the three groups that make up the archipelago, is different from the other two in that it is rockier and higher, as well as having approximately 80% of its landmass covered by glaciers. All the islands are covered with snow for at least nine months of the year and have scant tundra (an ecosystem dominated by lichens, mosses, grasses and woody plants) with permafrost being common. There are also numerous lakes on the islands.

These relatively remote islands were first discovered in the early 18th century by a Cossack named Yakov Permyakov. Various expeditions were undertaken after this first discovery and in the spring of 1892, explorer and scientist Baron Eduard Von Toll, with four fellow adventurers, reached the south coast of Lyakhovskiye Island by dog-pulled sleds. Here he made some interesting discoveries in the moss and lichen covered permafrost, including fragments of willow and the shoulder bone of a saber-toothed tiger. He also found complete trees of Alnus fruticosa complete with leaves and cones, proving that tree-vegetation had reached three degrees further north during the mammoth period, than is found at the present time. Mammoth tusks and entire skeletons have been found in permafrost layers that are thought to have originated from the “ice age”.

The Russian authorities did not turn their attention to the New Siberian Islands until 1927, when meteorological stations were established on the islands. It remains to be seen if any further discoveries will be made about the past of this interesting archipelago.


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