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Franz Josef Land
Franz Josef Land (russ. Земля Франца Иосифа, Zemlja Frantsa Iosifa) is an archipelago located in the far north of Russia. It is found in the Arctic Ocean north of Novaya Zemlya and east of Spitsbergen, and is administered by Arkhangelsk Oblast.
At latitudes between 80.0 and 81.9° north, it forms the most northerly group of islands in Europe and the whole of Eurasia. The extreme point is Cape Fligeli (mys Fligeli) on Rudolf-Island (ostrow Rudolfa). The archipelago is only 900 to 1110 km (560 to 690 statute miles) from the North Pole, closer than all land masses except for Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland. Franz Josef Land consists of 191 ice-covered islands and is largely uninhabited.
The archipelago was discovered on August 30, 1873 by the Austro-Hungarian Polar expedition of Payer / Weyprecht, financed by Н. Wilczek . After exploration of its southern islands it was named to the honour of the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I. In 1895 (and partly in 1896) Fridtjof Nansen supplemented the explorations. Old maps called the island group "Fridtjof Nansen Land". In 1926 the islands were taken over by the Soviet Union, and a few inhabitants came for research and military purposes. Access by ships is possible only for a few summer weeks and requires a special permit.
The archipelago is volcanic, composed of Tertiary and Jurassic basalts, and though covered mostly by ice it does have outcroppings covered with moss and lichens. The northeastern part of the archipelago is locked in pack ice all year round, however the ice sometimes retreats past the southern islands in the late summer. The northernmost point in the archipelago, and in the entirety of Asia, is Mys Fligeli (Fligeli Point), on Ostrov Rudol'fa (Rudolfa Island), which reaches as far north as 81°52'N. The largest island is Zemlya Georga (Georga Island) which measures 69 miles (110 km) from end to end. The highest point in the archipelago is on Zemlya Viner-Neyshtadt (Viner-Neyshtadt Island) which reaches 2,035 ft (620 m) MSL.
In January the normal daily low is -15°C (5°F) and the high is -10.5°C (13°F). In July the normal daily low is 0°C (32°F) and daily high 2.2°C (36°F). The annual mean temperature of -12.8°C (9°F). In a 30-year period, the highest temperature recorded has been 10°C (50°F) and lowest -48.9°C (-56°F). Precipitation is common year round, but is most common during the transition seasons of late spring and autumn. Fog is very common in the late summer. From data for Nagurskoye.
Native wildlife consists mostly of walrus, Arctic foxes, and polar bears. Common birds include kittiwakes, fulmars, and gulls. Beluga whales are often spotted in the waters. Caribou antlers have been found on Hooker Island, suggesting that herds reached here up to about 1,300 years ago during a warmer climate.
Places of significance
The following list describes important islands in Franz Josef Land and their significance.
- Zemlya Aleksandry. Nagurskoye () (see Yan Nagursky ) has served as one of the most important meteorological stations in the archipelago. During the Cold War it probably housed an air defense radar. It has a 4900 ft (1500 m) snow runway. An Antonov An-72 cargo aircraft crashed while landing at Nagurskoye on 23 Dec 1996.
- Ostrov Rudolfa (Rudolf Island) is the northernmost island. Teplitz Bay (81°48′ N 57°56′ E) is a camp site that served as a staging point for numerous polar expeditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Due to the steep terrain, the only airfield access is a small snow strip 300 m (1000 ft) up a glacier at (81°47'N 58°45'E).
- Ostrov Kheysa. Krenkel (80°37′ N 58°03′ E) is the site of a meteorological station.
- Ostrov Gofmana. Site of a snow runway (81°17′ N 60°13′ E).
- Ostrov Greem-Bell. Greem Bell is home to a Cold War outpost and to the airfield Greem-Bell (81°09′ N 64°17′ E), the largest airfield in the archipelago. It has a runway 7000 ft (2100 m) long. Russian cargo and fighter aircraft have regularly landed here since the 1950s.
- Ostrov Tsiglera (Ziegler Island). The Austrian observing site Payer-Weypricht (probably 81°06′ N 56°11′ E) was established around the turn of the century.
- Ostrov Nortbruk (Northbrook Island). The island is the most accessible location in the island group and formed the main base for polar expeditions in the late 19th and early 20th century. The camp (79°57′ N 50°05′ E) at Cape Flora is historically significant. A chance encounter between explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Frederick George Jackson took place here in 1896. In 1904 coal was mined about 500 ft (150 m) up the slopes by explorers wintering over after their ship sank at Rudolf Island.
- Ostrov Dzheksona (Jackson Island). Cape Norway (80°12′ N 55°37′ E) was where Fridtjof Nansen and Frederick George Jackson wintered in 1895-96 after failing to reach the North Pole. A hut and a wooden post still remain.
- Ostrov Gukera (Hooker Island). Tikhaya Bay (80°20′ N 52°47′ E) was the site of a major base for polar expeditions, and the location of a meteorological station from 1929 to 1963. It was visited by the Graf Zeppelin airship in July 1931 during a landmark aerial survey. Staff were marooned here from 1941 to 1945 during World War II. A graveyard and two modern buildings exist. A large seabird colony exists near Tikhaya Bay at Skala Rubini (Rubini Rock, 80°18′ N 52°50′ E).
- Ostrov Aldzher (Alger Island). The wintering site of the failed American Evelyn Baldwin expedition of 1901.
- Zemlya Vilcheka (Vilchek Island). Cape Geller (80°46′ N 59°36′ E) was the wintering site for two members of the 1899 Welle expedition waiting for the team's return from the pole.
- Ostrov Stolichki. This tiny island (81°11′ N 58°16′ E) is the site of a large walrus rookery.
- Ostrov Gallya was on August 30, 1873, the first of the Franz Josef Islands to be discovered. A small camp was built at Mys Tegetkhof (Cape Tegetthoff, 80°05′ N 58°01′ E) by the Walter Wellman expedition in 1898-99 and contains a marker honoring the discovery of the archipelago.
The archipelago was discovered in 1873 by Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition explorers Karl Weyprecht and Julius von Payer while their ship was locked in ice trying to find a "northeast passage". The name was bestowed in honor of Austrian emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. The Norwegians Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen passed through the islands in 1886 during an attempt to reach the pole. The islands then became a target of opportunity for explorers trying to reach the pole. By sheer coincidence, explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Frederick George Jackson met at Northbrook Island in 1896.
In July 1931, a German airship marked a milestone in Russian polar exploration. The Graf Zeppelin travelled from Berlin to Hooker Island, by way of St. Petersberg. Here it delivered 650 pounds of commemorative mail and met with the icebreaker 'Malygin'. After travelling east along the 81st parallel to Severnaya Zemlya, it returned to Hooker Island and began a groundbreaking aerial survey of the archipelago, flying as far north as Ostrov Rudolfa.
During the Cold War years, the polar regions were a hot buffer zone between the U.S. and Russia, and many points in the arctic became key strategic locations. The islands were declared one of many national security areas from the 1930s to 1991, and were off limits to foreigners. An airfield was built at Greem Bell to serve as a staging base for Russian bomber aircraft, and training missions were quite common between Franz Josef Land, the mainland, and Novaya Zemlya. Though the islands were militarily sensitive, a cruise ship visited in 1971.
- Duke Hans Wiltschek , Arkhangelsk, packice , Sibiria , Geophysics, Polar research
- H. Straub, Die Entdeckung des Franz-Joseph-Landes (discovery report), Styria-Verlag, Austria 1990.
- Österr.-ungarische Expedition 1872-74, "Unknown land becomes visible in the fog"
- Nothern tours to F.J.Land
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