Wrangel island

Wrangel island Wrangel island

Wrangel Island is an island in the Arctic Ocean between the Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea, and is one of the most wonderful places in the Arctic. The existence of this large island to the north of the Chukchi Peninsula was predicted by Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov in 1763. In 1764 Russian sergeant Stepan Andreyev claimed to have sighted this island. Calling it Tikegen Land, Andreyev found evidence of its inhabitants, the Krahay. Eventually the island was named aſter Baron Ferdinand von Wrangel, who, aſter reading Andreyev's report, set off on an expedition (1820–1824) to discover the island, with no success. In 1849 Henry Kellett, captain of HMS Herald, observed the island from the sea and is regarded as its first discoverer.

In 1911 the Russian Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition on the icebreakers Vaygach and Taymyr under Boris Vilkitsky landed on the island, mapped the coast and raised the Russian flag. In 1916 the island was declared part of the Russian empire. In 1926 a permanent polar research station and Ushakovskoye settlement were established on Wrangel Island.

Wrangel Island is about 150 km wide and 7,600 km2 in area. The highest mountain is Sovetskaya Mountain, 1,096 m above mean sea level. It has a severe polar climate and is subjected to “cyclonic” episodes characterized by rapid circular winds. It is also an island of mists and fogs. The winters are prolonged and are characterized by steady frosty weather and high northerly winds. The short summers are cool but comparatively mild.
Evidence for prehistoric human occupation was uncovered in 1975. Paleoeskimos established camps for marine mammal hunters on the southern side of the island.
The island and the surrounding waters were classified as a Nature Reserve in 1976 and, as such, receive the highest level of protection. In 2004 Wrangel Island and neighboring Herald Island, along with their surrounding waters, were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List.

It is a breeding ground for polar bears (having the highest density of dens in the world), seals, walrus and lemmings. During the summer it is visited by many types of birds. Arctic fox also make their home on the island. Woolly mammoths survived there until 2000–2500 BC, the most recent survival of all known mammoth populations. The flora includes 417 species of plants, double that of any other Arctic tundra territory of comparable size and more than any other Arctic island. Tourism is primarily by cruise ship and is tightly controlled and includes scientific expeditions led by Reserve staff.