The Unique Beauty of Severnaya Zemlya

Severnaya Zemlya is a group of islands with a total land area of approximately 37,000 square kilometres, located in the Arctic Ocean off the Taymyr Region’s coast in Siberia, Russia. The often ice-bound Vilkitsky Strait separates these islands from the mainland. Severnaya Zemlya consists of four major islands and about 70 smaller islands, with the Kara Sea to the west and the Laptev Sea to the east. The four major islands are: October Revolution; Komsomolets; Bolshevik; and Pioneer.

Russia's Severnaya Zemlya was first recorded in 1913-1915 when the expedition of icebreaker ships “Taimyr” and “Vaigach”, lead by Boris Vilkitsky, were exploring the Northern Sea Route and broke through the ice-locked waters of the Arctic Ocean. The expedition raised the Russian flag on 3 September 1913 and named what they thought at the time was a single island after the emperor of Russia - Emperor Nicholas II Land. The island was renamed Severnaya Zemlya in 1928. In 1931 during an arctic flight of the Graf Zeppelin, it was determined that there were two or more islands. In the 1931-1933 expedition of Nikolay Urvantsev and Georgy Ushakov, it was discovered that Severnaya Zemlya consisted of many more islands than originally thought, and the first map was drawn up. From 1948 to 1954 a team of geologists from the Scientific Research Institute of Arctic Geology in St. Petersburg studied the islands further and compiled a more accurate geological map. Interestingly, the author Veniamin Kaverin, made the discovery of Severnaya Zemlya the subject of his novel “The Two Captains”.

The islands of Severnaya Zemlya are mountainous, with Mount Karpinski on October Revolution Island being the highest peak at 965 meters. The lowland areas are made up of arctic desert, coastal plains and tundra. Approximately half of Severnaya Zemlya is permanently covered in ice. The smaller island of Komsomolets features “The Academy of Sciences Ice Cap”, the largest ice cap of the Russian Arctic.

Even in the icy and harsh conditions on the islands, a surprising variety of flora and fauna flourish. Among the flora found on Severnaya Zemlya islands is the eye-catching Purple Saxifrage, as well as a number of moss and lichen genera. The fauna include collared lemmings, Arctic foxes, wolves, reindeers and Arctic hares, as well as thirty-two bird species.

Certainly, the islands that make up the archipelago of Severnaya Zemlya in Russia are uniquely beautiful.


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