Russian volcano rumbles, Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula


volcano-da-01.photoblog900Alexander Petrov / AP

Plosky Tolbachnik volcano erupts in Russia’s Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula on Jan. 6, 2013.

The Kamchatka Peninsula (Russian: полуо́стров Камча́тка, poluostrov Kamchatka) is a 1,250-kilometre (780 mi) peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of about 270,000 km2 (100,000 sq mi). It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west.

Kamchatka_Krai_(2008-03).svgImmediately offshore along the Pacific coast of the peninsula runs the 10,500-metre (34,400 ft) deep Kuril-Kamchatka Trench.

The Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands, and Karaginsky Island constitute the Kamchatka Krai of the Russian Federation. The vast majority of the 322,079 inhabitants are Russians, but there are also about 8,743 Koryaks (2002). More than half of the population lives in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (179,526 people in 2010) and nearby Yelizovo (38,980).

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

Kamchatka_peninsula_topoPolitically, 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 (Sredinny) Range. Along the southeast coast 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 Okrug. 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.

Akademia_naukThe 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.

The highest volcano is Klyuchevskaya Sopka (4,750 m or 15,584 ft), the largest active volcano in the Northern Hemisphere, 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.

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. A chain of more shallow earthquakes were recorded as recently as April 2006.

These volcanic features are the site of occurrence of certain extremophile micro-organisms, that are capable of surviving in extremely hot environments

Kamchatka’s volcanoes have never been bloodthirsty: the natives of Kamchatka can hardly recall eruptions that carried death there. A dark silhouette of volcano against the clean dawning skies does not imply a threat – it is usually a token of nice weather for the people of Kamchatka.

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky was founded on the shores of Avacha Bay in 1741 although Bering and Chirikov built their ships north at Ust Kamchatsk. Named after Bering and Chirikov’s ships the St. Peter and St. Paul, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is one of the largest ice-free ports in the Pacific. To this day it holds a Russian Navy submarine base across from the main city. Until the Soviet Union closed the port, Avacha Bay and Petropavlovsk were a favorite port of call for many of the Pacific’s most famous mariners. In 1779, Captain James Cook’s Discovery and Resolution anchored in the bay following Cook’s death in Hawaii.

women kamIn 1787, Juan de la Perouse came to Avacha Bay.

Yankee whalers and traders frequently stopped here for supplies and some Americans obviously stayed behind, marrying Native and Kamchatka women.

It is still hard, however, living in such proximity to the volcanoes, to get used to the idea that they are just some geological objects. The silence alongside the volcanoes is of a special sort, the one that fills the soul with an incomprehensible combination of anxiety and peace.

Everything looks strange and unusual; you are gazing around as if perceiving a scrutinizing glance of another universe: you feel scared and at the same time happy, for this scrutinizing glance makes you feel someone’s unbound power spreading over you – perhaps that sole true power you want to surrender to.

Which of Kamchatka’s volcanoes is the most beautiful?

kluch5There is not an unargued leader, but one can certainly name the first three – though, as it goes, there are few objective criteria to assess beauty – nevertherless, the three volcanoes are Kluchevskoy, Koryaksky and Kronotsky.

All the three can be good candidates to symbolize volcanic Kamchatka due to their total assets.

The feature of Kluchevskoy, its height, (the absolute heights of the volcanoes are 4,750m, 3,456m and 3,528m respectively), is not as significant as it looks as the first glance. The greatest Eurasian volcano has made nearly 5 kilometers of height due to the fact that it was formed on a specific geological “pedestal”, a slope of ancient volcano while the actual height (a relative one) is 3,000m, i.e. less than the height of Koryaksky (3,300m) or Kronotsky (3,100).

Kamchatka-Peninsual-Is-Perturbing-Air-Traffic-in-Northern-Pacific-2Considering the shape of a volcano’s cone or “marquee” as it was figuratively called in Krasheninnikov’s times, a lot of people with no doubts would prefer the one of the Kronotsky volcano. The geometrically regular, ribbed cone crowned with an icy hat looks in the waters of the biggest Kamchatka’s lake. In its beauty and majesty the Koryaksky volcano does not yield to its two “brothers”. It forms a magnificent ensemble together with the Avachinsky volcano, an integral part of the panorama of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. So, a lot of natives of the city have almost relative feelings towards it.

On the other hand, each of Kamchatka’s volcanoes has the beauty of its own.

Pliny_bustA Russian volcano which started erupting in November continues to spew ash and smoke into the air, The Associated Press reports. The Plosky Tolbachik volcano, in the Kamchatka Peninsula, last erupted in 1976.

The unexpected eruption was named the most significant volcanic event of 2012 by Denison University volcanologist Erik Klemetti on his Eruptions blog.

There are over 300 of them on the peninsula, among which 29 are still active. READ MORE

Image: Lava flows snaking from the erupting vent on Tolbachik, seen on December 15, 2012. KVERT/Yu. Demyanchuk.

volcano 1-tolbachikMOSCOW – A volcano erupting in Russia’s Far East is sending plumes of gas and ash high into the sky and creating a lava lake.
The Plosky Tolbachik volcano is located in Kamchatka peninsula, hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the nearest residential areas.
Gennady Karpov, a volcano expert at Russia’s Academy of Sciences in the Far East, said Friday: “There were no lava lakes at Kamchatka volcanos before now. We have never seen this before.”

Plosky Tolbachik has emitted jets of hot lava up to 650 feet (200 meters) high.

Its last eruption had occurred in November after the volcano was dormant for almost 40 years.

Russian officials say the current eruptions are not likely to end any time soon but that they aren’t affecting flight patterns over Russia. READ MORE

Scientists get dangerously close to active Russian volcano


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