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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 57°N 160°E / 57°N 160°E / 57; 160

Kamchatka, northeast Siberia and Alaska
Kamchatka is home to many volcanoes, including Avachinsky shown here
The Kamchatka Peninsula as seen from space

The Kamchatka Peninsula (Russian: полуостров Камчатка) is a 1,250-kilometer long peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of 472,300 km². It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west.[1] Immediately offshore along the Pacific coast of the peninsula runs the 10,500 meter deep Kuril-Kamchatka Trench.

The Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands, and Karaginsky Island constitute the Kamchatka Krai of the Russian Federation. The majority of the 402,500 inhabitants are Russians, but there are also about 13,000 Koryaks. More than half of the population lives in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (198,028 people) and nearby Yelizovo (41,533).

The Kamchatka peninsula contains the Volcanoes of Kamchatka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kamchatka receives up to 2,700 millimeters (110 in) of precipitation per year. The summers are moderately cool, and the winters tend to be rather stormy with rare amounts of lightning.



Topography of the Kamchatka Peninsula

Politically, the peninsula is part of Kamchatka Krai. The southern tip is called Cape Lopatka. The circular bay to the north of this on the Pacific side is Avacha Bay with the capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. North up the Pacific side, the four peninsulas are called Shipunsky Point, Kronotsky Point, Kamchatsky Point and Ozernoy Point. North of Ozernoy is the large Karaginsky Bay and island. Northeast of this off the map is Korfa Bay with the town of Tilichiki. On the opposite side is the Shelikhov Gulf.

The spine of the peninsula is the Kamchatka or Central Range. Along the southeast cost is the Vostochny or Eastern Range. Between these is the central valley. The Kamchatka River starts northwest of Avacha and flows north down the central valley, turning east near Klyuchi to enter the Pacific south of Kamchatsky Point at Ust-Kamchatsk. In the nineteenth century a trail led west from near Klychi over the mountains to Tegil river and town which was the main trading post on the west coast. North of Tegil is Koryak country, which is described as a desolate snow-swept plane. South of the Tegil is the Icha River. Just south of the headwaters of the Kamchatka, the Bistraya River curves southwest to enter the Sea of Okhotsk at Bolsheretsk, which was once a port connecting the peninsula to Okhotsk. South of the Bistraya is the Golygina River.

There is a road from Bolsheretsk to Petropavlovsk and another from this road up the central valley (with a bus service) to Ust-Kamchatsk. The northern end of the road is of poorer quality. Apart from the two roads, transport is by small plane, helicopter, four-wheel drive truck and army truck.

The obvious circular area in the central valley is the Klyuchevskaya Sopka, an isolated volcanic group southeast of the curve of the Kamchatka River. West of Kronotsky Point is the Kronotsky Biosphere Reserve with the Valley of Geysers. At the southern tip is the Southern Kamchatka Wildlife Refuge with Kurile Lake. There are several other protected areas: Palana is located in the Koryak area on the northwest coast.

History and exploration

Illustration from Stepan Krasheninnikov's Account of the Land of Kamchatka (1755).
Kamchatka three brothers

When the Russians reached the Sea of Okhotsk (Ivan Moskvitin, 1638) they were blocked because they lacked the skills and equipment to build sea-going ships. The country to the northeast was difficult and the Koryaks warlike. Therefore, Kamchatka was entered from the north. After helping found Anadyrsk, in 1651 Mikhail Stadukhin went south and followed the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk from Penzhina Bay to Okhotsk. From about 1667 there were reports of a Kamchatka River to the south. Some time before 1700 a group of Russians were stranded and died on Kamchatka.

In 1695 Vladimir Atlasov was made prikashchik of Anadyrsk. In 1696 he sent Luka Morozko south. Morozko got as far as the Tigil River and returned with reports and some mysterious writings, probably Japanese. In 1697-1699 Atlasov explored nearly the whole of the peninsula. He built an ostrog at Verkhny-Kamchatsk and rescued or captured a Japanese castaway and went to Moscow to report. In 1699 the Russians at Verkhny-Kamchatsk were killed by the Koryaks on their way back to Anadyrsk. The 1700 punitive expedition destroyed a Koryak village and founded Nizhne-Kamchatsk on the lower river. Bolskeretsk was founded in 1703. From about 1705 there was a breakdown of order. There were numerous mutinies and native wars all over the peninsula and north to the Koryak country of the Penzhina River and Olyutorsky Gulf. Several people were sent out to restore order, including Atlasov who was murdered in 1711. Some degree of order was restored by Vasily Merlin in 1733-39. There was no significant resistance after 1756. A major smallpox epidemic hit in 1768-69. By 1773 there were about 2,500 Itelmen and in 1820 1,900, down from an original population of 12 to 25 thousand. Russian customs were adopted and there was a great deal of intermarriage so that Kamchadal, the original Russian name for the Itelmen, came to mean any Russian or part-Russian born on the peninsula.

In 1713 Peter the Great sent shipbuilders to Okhotsk. A fifty-four-foot boat was built and sailed to the Tegil River (June,1716). This one week journey, later shifted to Okhotsk-Bolseretsk, became the standard route to Kamchatka. Vitus Bering's first voyage left Nezhe-Kamchatsk in 1728. As part of his second voyage he founded Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in 1740.

The Second Kamchatka Expedition by the Danish explorer Vitus Bering, in the employ of the Russian Navy, began the "opening" of Kamchatka in earnest, helped by the fact that the government began to use the area as a place of exile. In 1755, Stepan Krasheninnikov published the first detailed description of the peninsula, An Account of the Land of Kamchatka. The Russian government encouraged the commercial activities of the Russian-American Company by granting land to newcomers on the peninsula. By 1812, the indigenous population had fallen to fewer than 3,200, while the Russian population had risen to 2,500.

In 1854, the French and British, who were battling Russian forces on the Crimean Peninsula, attacked Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. During the Siege of Petropavlovsk, 988 men with a mere 68 guns managed to defend the outpost against 6 ships with 206 guns and 2,540 French and British soldiers. Despite the heroic defence, Petropavlovsk was abandoned as a strategic liability after the Anglo-French forces withdrew. The next year when a second enemy force came to attack the port, they found it deserted. Frustrated, the ships bombarded the city and withdrew.

The next fifty years were lean ones for Kamchatka. The naval port was moved to Ust-Amur and in 1867 Alaska was sold to the United States, making Petropavlovsk obsolete as a transit point for traders and explorers on their way to the American territories. In 1860, Primorsky (Maritime) Region was established and Kamchatka was placed under its jurisdiction. In 1875, the Kuril Islands were ceded to Japan in return for Russian sovereignty over Sakhalin. The Russian population of Kamchatka stayed around 2,500 until the turn of the century, while the native population increased to 5,000.

World War II hardly affected Kamchatka except for its service as a launch site for the invasion of the Kurils in late 1945. After the war, Kamchatka was declared a military zone. Kamchatka remained closed to Russians until 1989 and to foreigners until 1990.


Volcanoes of Kamchatka*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Koryaksky Volcano rising above Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Type Natural
Criteria vii, viii, ix, x
Reference 765
Region** Asia
Inscription history
Inscription 1996  (20th Session)
Extensions 2001
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

List of volcanoes in Russia has a list of most Kamchatka volcanoes with links.

The Kamchatka River and the surrounding central side valley are flanked by large volcanic belts containing around 160 volcanoes, 29 of them still active. The peninsula has a high density of volcanoes and associated volcanic phenomena, with 19 active volcanoes being included in the six UNESCO World Heritage List sites in the Volcanoes of Kamchatka group, most of them on the Kamchatka Peninsula.[2]

The highest volcano is Klyuchevskaya Sopka (4,750 m or 15,584 ft), the largest active volcano in the Northern Hemisphere [3], while the most striking is Kronotsky, whose perfect cone was said by celebrated volcanologists Robert and Barbara Decker to be a prime candidate for the world's most beautiful volcano. Somewhat more accessible are the three volcanoes visible from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky: Koryaksky, Avachinsky, and Kozelsky. In the center of Kamchatka is Eurasia's world famous Geyser Valley which was partly destroyed by a massive mudslide in June 2007.[4]

Owing to the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench, deep-focus seismic events and tsunamis are fairly common. A pair of megathrust earthquakes occurred off the coast on October 16, 1737, and on November 4, 1952, in the magnitude of ~9.3 and 8.2 respectively.[5] A chain of more shallow earthquakes were recorded as recently as April 2006.[6]

Terrestrial flora

Kamchatka boasts abundant flora. The variable climate promotes different flora zones where tundra and muskeg are dominant succeeded by grasses, flowering shrubs and forests of pine, birch, alder and willow. The wide variety of plant forms spread throughout the Peninsula promotes just as wide a variation in animal species that feed off them.

Terrestrial and aquatic fauna

A Kamchatka Brown Bear in the spring

Kamchatka boasts diverse and abundant wildlife. This is due to climates ranging from temperate to subarctic, diverse topography and geography, many free-flowing rivers, proximity to highly productive waters from the northwestern Pacific Ocean and the Bering and Okhotsk Seas, and to the low human density and minimal development. It also boasts the southernmost expanse of Arctic tundra in the world. Commercial exploitation of marine resources and a history of fur trapping has taken its toll on several species.

Among terrestrial mammals, Kamchatka is best known for the abundance and size of its brown bears. In the Kronotsky Nature Preserve there are estimated to be three to four bears per 100 square kilometres.[7] Other fauna of note include carnivores such as wolf, arctic and other fox, lynx, wolverine, sable, several species of weasel, ermine and river otter; several large ungulates, such as bighorn sheep, reindeer, and moose; and rodents/leporids, including hares, marmot, lemming and several species of squirrel. The peninsula is the breeding ground for Steller's sea eagle,[8] one of the largest eagle species, along with the golden eagle and gyr falcon.

Kamchatka contains probably the world's greatest diversity of salmonid fish, including all six species of anadromous Pacific salmon (chinook, chum, coho, seema, pink, and sockeye). Biologists estimate that a sixth to a quarter of all Pacific salmon originates in Kamchatka. [1] Kuril Lake is recognized as the biggest spawning-ground for sockeye in Eurasia. In response to pressure from poaching and to worldwide decreases in salmon stocks, some 24,000 square kilometers (9,300 sq mi) along nine of the more productive salmon rivers are in the process of being set aside as a nature preserve. Stickleback species, particularly Gasterosteus aculeatus and Pungitius pungitius, also occur in many coastal drainages, and are likely present in freshwater as well.

Cetaceans that frequent the highly productive waters of the northwestern Pacific and the Okhotsk Sea include: orcas, Dall's and harbor porpoises, humpback whales, sperm whales and fin whales. Less frequently, grey whales (from the Eastern population), the critically endangered North Pacific Right Whale and Bowhead Whale, beaked whales and minke whales are encountered. Blue whale are known to feed off of the southeastern shelf in summer. Among pinnipeds, Steller's sea lions, northern fur seals, spotted seals and harbor seals are abundant along much of the peninsula. Further north, walruses and bearded seals can be encountered on the Pacific side, and ribbon seals reproduce on the ice of Karaginsky Bay. Sea otters are concentrated primarily on the southern end of the peninsula.

Seabirds include northern fulmars, thick and thin-billed murres, kittiwakes, tufted and horned puffins, red-faced, pelagic and other cormorants, and many other species. Typical of the northern seas, the marine fauna is likewise rich. Of commercial importance are Kamchatka crab, scallop, squid, pollock, cod, herring, halibut and several species of flatfish.

See also


  • Diana Gealdhill, 'Kamchatka', Odyssey Books, 2007

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Kamchatka(Камчатка) is a 1,250km-long peninsula in Russian Far East. Kamchatka is extremely geologically active and has numerous volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and even a lake of acid! It contains the southernmost expanse of arctic tundra in the world and is notable for its wealth of arctic wildlife, fish, game, and marine life. Furthermore, nineteen of Kamchatka's volcanoes constitute the "Volcanoes of Kamchatka" UNESCO World Heritage Site, [1].

  • Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky — the only sizable city on Kamchatka and home to over half the peninsula's population
  • Yelizovo — Only notable for hosting the only commercial airport on the peninsula.
  • Palana — Capital of the northern Koryakia region of Kamchatka
Valley of the Geysers. Now largely buried in mud.
Valley of the Geysers. Now largely buried in mud.
  • The stunning and enormous Kronotsky Nature Reserve, accessible only via helicopter, and home to Kronotsky Volcano, as well as the Valley of the Geysers
  • Komandorsky Nature Reserve
  • Valley of the Geysers perhaps the most well known part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, Volcanoes of Kamchatka, and is located within the mammoth Kronotsky Nature Reserve, was the second largest geyser field in the world (and the only in Eurasia) with 90 geysers and many hot springs in a 6km-long valley. It was largely ruined by a massive, freak mudslide in 2007 that covered 2/3 of the territory.
  • Nalychevo Nature Park
  • Southern Kamchatka Nature Park (Yuzhno-Kamchatskii)
  • Bystrinsky Nature Park
  • Kluchevskoy Nature Park
  • Blue Lakes Nature Park (Golubye Ozyora)
  • Koryaksky Zapovednik — beautiful and almost impossibly remote, this reserve offers bear-watching opportunities galore.


Kamchatska is a unique land where fire meets ice, containing the southernmost expanse of Arctic tundra along with 160 volcanoes (29 of them active). Despite its great size, the peninsula is home to just 400,000 people of which half live in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and another 50-100k live in nearby communities (including Yelisovo). As such, the peninsula is vastly uninhabited wilderness where one can climb volcanoes, sport hunt for bears, visit geysers, spend hours in natural hot springs, or go fishing in wild rivers or off the coast. Politically, it is divided between Kamchatska Krai and Koryak Okrug (Koryakia).


Kamchatka was, like much of arctic Siberia & North America, originally sparsely inhabited by native tribes. In the 16th century, spurred by tales of a land of fire, rich in fish & furs, Kamchatka was claimed by Muscovite Russia. Two settlements of Cossacks were built in 1697 as fur trading posts.

The peninsula was mapped during Vitus Bering's expedition to explore the Far East of Russia and reach North America. In 1740, Bering reached Avacha Bay and laid the cornerstone for the settlement of Petropavlovsk—named after his two ships St.Peter & St.Paul. One year later, Petropavlovsk would be the settlement survivors of his expedition would reach with news of his death & discovery of Alaska as well as remaining artifacts...including the "finest fur in the world" (sea otter) from Alaska which would later spurn Russian interest in North America. Petropavlovsk grew into a main stopping point for travelers to the Russian Far East, the Kuril Islands, and North America.

In 1854, during the Crimean War, a joint Anglo-French naval fleet bombarded Petropavlovsk in what became the heroic defense of the city in which 988 men with just 68 guns defended against 6 ships with 206 cannons and 2,540 French and British troops. Unfortunately the Russians realized the city was a liability and when more invaders came one year later, the city was abandoned and proceeded to be burnt. With the sale of the Kurils to Japan and Alaska to the US, the peninsula waned in importance. Following World War II, it was deemed a military zone and placed off limits to Russians (except residents, of course) until 1989 and foreigners until 1991.

The peninsula hosts the largest Russian nuclear submarine pen & submarine construction yard. The only notable event since Petropavlovsk's defense in 1854 was the shootdown of KAL Flight 007 in 1983 after drifting off course and flying over sensitive military areas on Kamchatka, resulting in one of the most tense moments in the Cold War during the early-80s.

Get in

By car

There are no roads connecting Kamchatka with other parts of Russia. Indeed, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsk is the second-largest city in the world which cannot be reached by road.

By plane

Arriving by plane is the only practical way of reaching Kamchatka. All commercial flights arrive at Yelizovo, only 16km from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (which airlines list as the destination). There are regular flights between Petropavovsk-Kamchatsky and: Moscow (Aeroflot, Transaero), Saint Petersburg (Rossiya), Novosibirsk (S7, Rossiya), Irkutsk (S7), Khabarovsk (S7), and Vladivostok (S7, Vladivostok Avia). Korean Airlines offers frequent charter flights from Incheon in summers.

By boat

It may be possible to hitch a ride on boats from the Kuril Islands,

  • See one of the Koryak traditional dance ensembles in the regional capital, Palana
  • Salmon fishing
  • Volcano climbing/skiing/heli-skiing
  • Dogsled tours
  • Big game hunting
  • Hiking
  • Acid lake water sports
  • Giant Kamchatka crab is delicious and about 1/20 the price if eaten in Kamchatka, compared to anywhere else.

Stay safe

The Pacific Plate is subducted beneath the Okhotsk plate just miles off Kamchatka's coast in the and the peninsula is very geologically active. Two of the most powerful earthquakes of record shook the peninsula in 1737 and 1952 at ~9.3 and 9.0 magnitude, respectively. The latter caused a tsunami which ravaged Hawaii and even reached as far as New Zealand and Chile. In addition to these two megaquakes, powerful earthquakes occur quite often. A 6.0 magnitude earthquake occurs every 3-5 years with a 7.0 quake occurring every 10-15 years.

Get out

It may be possible to hitch a ride on a boat heading from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Severno-Kurilsk in the Kuril Islands.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

KAMCHATKA, a peninsula of N.-E. Siberia, stretching from the land of the Chukchis S.S.W. for 750 m., with a width of from 80 to 300 m. (51° to 62° N., and 156° to 163° E.), between the Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea. It forms part of the Russian Maritime Province. Area, 104,260 sq. m.

The isthmus which connects the peninsula with the mainland is a flat tundra, sloping gently both ways. The mountain chain, which Ditmar calls central, seems to be interrupted under 57° N. by a deep indentation corresponding to the valley of the Tighil. There too the hydrographical network, as well as the south-west to north-east strike of the clay-slates and metamorphic schists on Ditmar's map, seem to indicate the existence of two chains running south-west to north-east, parallel to the volcanic chain of S.-E. Kamchatka. Glaciers were not known till the year 1899, when they were discovered on the Byelaya and Ushkinskaya (15,400 ft.) mountains. Thick Tertiary deposits, probably Miocene, overlie the middle portions of the west coast. The southern parts of the central range are composed of granites, syenites, porphyries and crystalline slates, while in the north of Ichinskaya volcano, which is the highest summit of the peninsula (16,920 ft.), the mountains consist chiefly of Tertiary sandstones and old volcanic rocks. Coalbearing clays containing fresh-water molluscs and dicotyledonous plants, as also conglomerates, alternate with the sandstones in these Tertiary deposits. Amber is found in them. Very extensive layers of melaphyre and andesite, as also of conglomerates and volcanic tuffs, cover the middle portions of the peninsula. The south-eastern portion is occupied by a chain of volcanoes, running along the indented coast, from Cape Lopatka to Cape Kronotskiy (54° 25' N.), and separated from the rest of the peninsula by the valleys of the Bystraya (an affluent of the Bolstraya, on the west coast) and Kamchatka rivers. Another chain of volcanoes runs from Ichinskaya (which burst into activity several times in the 18th and igth centuries) to Shiveluch, seemingly parallel to the above but farther north. The two chains contain twelve active and twenty six extinct volcanoes, from 7000 to more than 15,000 ft. high. The highest volcanoes are grouped under 56° N., and the highest of them, Kluchevskaya (16,990 ft.), is in a state of almost incessant activity (notable outbreaks in 1729, 1 737, 1841, 1853-1854, and 1896-1897), a flow of its lava having reached to Kamchatka river in 1853. The active Shiveluch (9900 ft.) is the last volcano of this chain. Several lakes and probably Avacha Bay are old craters. Copper, mercury, and iron ores, as also pure copper, ochre and sulphur, are found in the peninsula. The principal river is the Kamchatka (325 m. long), which flows first northeastwards in a fertile longitudinal valley, and then, bending suddenly to the east, pierces the above-mentioned volcanic chain. The other rivers are the Tighil (135 m.) and the Bolstraya (120 m.), both flowing into the Sea of Okhotsk; and the Avacha, flowing into the Pacific.

The floating ice which accumulates in the northern parts of the Sea of Okhotsk and the cold current which flows along the east coast of the peninsula render its summers chilly, but the winter is relatively warm, and temperatures below - 40° F. are experienced only in the highlands of the interior and on the Okhotsk littoral. The average temperatures at Petropavlovsk (J3° N.) are: year 37° F., January 17°, July 58°; while in the valley of the Kamchatka the average temperature of the winter is 16°, and of the summer as high as 58° and 64°. Rain and snow are copious, and dense fogs enshroud the coast in summer; consequently the mountains are well clothed with timber and the meadows with grass, except in the tundras of the north. The natives eat extensively the bulbs of the Martagon lily, and weave cloth out of the fibres of the Kamchatka nettle. Delphinopterus leucus, the sea-lion (Otaria Stelleri), and walrus abound off the coasts. The sea-otter (Enhydris marina) has been destroyed.

The population (5846 in 1870) was 7270 in 1900. The southern part of the peninsula is occupied by Kamchadales, who exhibit many attributes of the Mongolian race, but are more similar to the aborigines of N.E. Asia and N.W. America. Fishing (quantities of salmon enter the rivers) and hunting are their chief occupations. Dog-sledges are principally used as means of communication. The efforts of the government to introduce cattle-breeding have failed. The Kamchadale language cannot be assigned to any known group; its vocabulary is extremely poor. The purity of the tongue is best preserved by the people of the Penzhinsk district on the W. coast. North of 57° N. the peninsula is peopled with Koryaks, settled and nomad, and Lamuts (Tunguses), who came from the W. coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. The principal Russian settlements are: Petropavlovsk, on the E. coast, on Avacha Bay, with an excellent roadstead; Verkhne-Kamchatsk and Nizhne-Kamchatsk in the valley of the Kamchatka river; Bolsheryetsk, on the Bolshaya; and Tighil, on the W. coast.

The Russians made their first settlements in Kamchatka in the end of the 17th century; in 1696 Atlasov founded Verkhne-Kamchatsk, and in 1704 Robelev founded Bolsheryetsk. In 1720 a survey of the peninsula was undertaken; in1725-1730it was visited by Bering's expedition; and in1733-1745it was the scene of the labours of the Krasheninnikov and Steller expedition.

See G. A. Erman, Reise urn die Erde iii., (Berlin, 1848); C. von Ditmar, Reisen and Aufenthalt in Kamchatka in den Jahren 1851-1855 (1890-1900); G. Kennan, Tent Life in Siberia (1870), and paper in Jour. of American Geog. Soc. (1876); K. Diener, in Petermann's Mitteilungen (1891, vol. xxxvii.); V. A. Obruchev, in Izvestia of the East Siberian Geographical Society (xxiii. 4, 5; 1892); F. H. H. Guillemard, Cruise of the "Marchesa" (2nd ed., London, 1889); and G. E. H. Barrett-Hamilton in Scott. Geog. Mag. (May, 1899), with bibliography. (P. A. K.; J. T. BE.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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From Russian Камчатка.

Proper noun




  1. A long peninsula in the Russian Far East, lying between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk.



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