July 01, 2012

Northern Limits

Northern Limits
Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Davthy (Dreamstime)

Summer is short in the Russian Arctic, especially in the 191 islands that make up Franz Josef Land, the huge archipelago devoid of any permanent human settlement that lies midway between Svalbard and the Severnaya Islands. Only very exceptionally in Franz Josef Land does the temperature ever rise above 50˚F (10˚C).

There are deeply glaciated mountains and barren territories where polar foxes roam in search of food. The islands and their surrounding seas are home to polar bears, walruses and belugas. Since 2009, parts of the archipelago have enjoyed protection within Russia’s newest national park (called Russkaya Arktika).

Actually, over the past few years Russia has sought to extend its protection and dominion over the Arctic (most notably with the planting of a Russian flag on the sea floor beneath the North Pole). Yet such ambitions have roots at least a century deep. In fact, this summer will mark three important Russian Arctic anniversaries.

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