1945-1991: Cold War world Wiki

A true colour MODIS photograph of Wrangel Island, Russia.


Wrangel Island (Russian: о́стров Вра́нгеля, tr. ostrov Vrangelya; IPA: [ˈostrəf ˈvrangʲɪlʲə]) is a northern Siberian island in the Arctic Ocean, set between both the Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea.


Native settlers[]

Paleo-Eskimos, Inuit, Chukchi and earlier Paleo-Siberians have lived on it intermittently since at least about 1,700BC established camps on the southern side of the island for marine hunters, but Wrangel Island was empty when it was first discovered by Europeans. Woolly mammoths survived there until 2,500–2,000 BC, with the last few individuals being killed by humans in ~1,700BC.

The local Chukchi legend tells the story of a chief Krachai (or Krächoj, Krahay, Khrakhai), who fled with his people (the Krachaians or Krahays, also identified as the Onkilon or Omoki to the Siberian Yupik people) across the ice to settle in a northern land.

The story proved that they had conceptualised and possibly had once actually knew of a further land mass to the north even though it was no major or outstanding place of worth. The story is given more validity by the facts of the annual migration of reindeer across the ice, as well as the appearance of slate spear-points washed up on Arctic shores, made in a fashion unknown to the Chukchi tribes people.

Michael E. Krauss has recently stated Wrangel Island was a way station on a trade route linking the Inuit settlement at Point Hope, Alaska with the north Siberian coast. It may have been inhabited as far back as late prehistoric and early historic times by Inuit settlers from North America. He goes on to suggests that the departure of these colonists was related to the Krachai legend.


In modern times it was re-discovered by the Cossack Sergeant Stepan Andreyev in 1764. Tikegen Land, Andreyev found evidence of its Siberian inhabitants, the Krahay.

Eventually, the island was discovered and named after Baron Ferdinand von Wrangel, who went there after both reading Andreyev's report and hearing the Chukchi stories of land at the island's approximate coordinates, in an expedition from 1820 to 1824. He met with no success.

103 years later, it was found on August 1867, Thomas Long, an American whaling captain, "approached it as near as fifteen miles and named the land mass "Wrangell Land".

George W. De Long, commanding USS Jeannette, led an expedition in 1879 attempting to reach the North Pole, expecting to go by the "east side of Kellett land," which he thought extended far into the Arctic. His ship became locked in the polar ice pack and drifted westward, passing within sight of Wrangel before being crushed and sunk in the vicinity of the New Siberian Islands.

A party from the USRC Corwin, under the command of Calvin L. Hooper, landed on Wrangel Island on 12 August 1881 and claimed the island for the United States and named it "New Columbia."

The expedition was seeking the USS Jeannette and two missing whalers in addition to conducting general exploration.

In 1911, the Russian Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition on icebreakers Vaygach and Taymyr under Boris Vilkitsky, landed on the island. In 1916 the Tsarist government declared that the island belonged to the Russian empire.

n 1914, members of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, organized by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, were marooned on Wrangel Island for nine months after their ship, the Karluk, was crushed in the ice pack. The survivors were rescued by the American motorized fishing schooner King & Winge after Captain Robert Bartlett walked across the Chukchi Sea to Siberia to summon help.

In 1921, Stefansson sent five settlers (the Canadian Allan Crawford, three Americans: Fred Maurer, Lorne Knight and Milton Galle, and Iñupiat seamstress and cook Ada Blackjack) to the island in a speculative attempt to claim it for Canada. Stefansson had claimed that his purpose was to head off a possible Japanese claim, but this is at best dubious, since Japan almost certainly knew little if any about the island's existence. In 1923, the sole survivor of the Wrangel Island expedition, Ada Blackjack, was rescued by a ship that left another party of 13 (American Charles Wells and 12 Inuit).

In 1924, the Soviet Union removed the American and 13 Inuit (one was born on the island) of this settlement aboard the Krasny Oktiabr. Wells and so did an Inuit child subsequently died of ill heath Vladivostok during a diplomatic American-Soviet row about an American boundary marker on the Siberian coast (which America then wanted all for it's self). The other settlers were deported from Vladivostok to the Chinese border post Suifenhe, but the Chinese government didn't want to accept them because the American consul in Harbin told them the Inuit were not American citizens, because America regarded Inuet, Native American Indians and Blacks as 'not human' and afforded them the same status as animals. Eventually the American Red Cross came up with $1,600 for their return via China, Japan and Seattle (another kid was born here and then died), back to Nome, Alaska.

In 1926, the Soviet government the reaffirmed the Tsarist Russian claim to sovereignty over Wrangel Island. A team of Soviet explorers, equipped with three years of supplies, landed on Wrangel Island. Attempts to reach the island by sea failed and it was feared that the team would not survive their fourth winter.

In 1929, the icebreaker Fyodor Litke was chosen for a rescue operation. It sailed from Sevastopol, commanded by captain Konstantin Dublitsky. It was low on coal and only making a few hundred meters a day trough the pack ice, but Litke eventualy reached the settlement August 28. On September 5, Litke turned back, taking all the 'islanders' to safety. This operation earned Litke and it's crew the order of the Red Banner of Labour (January 20, 1930), as well as commemorative badges for the crew.

Modern History[]

According to a 1936 article in Time Magazine Wrangel Island was ruled by the cruel, extortionate and murderous governor Konstantin Semenchuk. He banned the local Inuit (Eskimos recruited from Provideniya Bay in 1926) to hunt walrus, casing a island wide famine, but horded food for himself. He was then implicated in the mysterious deaths of some of his opponents, including the local doctor. He was sentenced to death for both "banditry" and violation of Soviet law in the June or 1936.

It is now a nature reserve. Resolution #189 of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was adopted on March 23, 1976. The Soviets wanted to save it before it was ruined by hunting, the military or industry, like so many other places had.

Suspected gulag camp[]

Evidence and visitor's eye witness accounts suggests there was a small forced labour camp on and Wrangell Island during 1962 and ashumidly also for a while before it's discovery. Neither the USSR or Russia have denied it on several occasions.

Legal status[]

De jure USA, de facto Russia. America (to the disgust of many of it's citizens at the time) gave up it's claim in the late 1980's and made this offical in the early 1991. 

Name sake[]

It was named after the Baron Ferdinand von Wrangel (1797–1870).

The island it's self[]

Arctic tundra on Wrangel Island.


  1. Wrangel Island is about 125 km (78 mi) wide.
  2. It 's 7,600 km2 (2,900 sq mi) in area.
  3. It has the 24 continuous hour winter dark/summer sun phenomena, like all of Russia's Arctic Islands.
  4. It is rarely free of pack ice.
  5. Record lowest temperature −57.7!
  6. Record highest temperature +18.2!
  7. Highest elevation- 1,096 m (3,596 ft)
  8. Highest point- Sovetskaya Mountain

Wrangel Island  is hilly since it consists of folded, faulted, and metamorphosed volcanic, intrusive, and sedimentary rocks ranging in age from Upper Precambrian to Lower Mesozoic.


With a tundra climate (Köppen climate classification ET). It is both very cold and prone to cyclonic blizzards in the winter, which are also known for steady frosty weather, high northerly winds and temperatures that usually stay well below freezing for months. In February and March there are frequent snow-storms with wind speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph) or above. As of 2003, the frost-free period on the island was very short, usually not more than 20-to-25 days, and more often only two weeks. Average relative humidity is about 83%.

The short summers are cool but comparatively mild as the polar day generally keeps temperatures above 0 °C (32 °F). Some frosts and snowfalls occur, and fog is common. Warmer and drier weather is experienced in the center of the island because the interior's topography encourages foehn winds.

There are noticeable differences in climate between the northern, central and southern parts of the island, since the central and southern portion is warmer, with some of the valleys having semi-continental climates that support a number of sub-Arctic steppe-like meadow species. It is coldest, snowyist, windiest and harshest on the central hill tops.

The former village of of Ushakovskoye experiences harsh weather almost all year round, and with temperatures only struggling above freezing for a few brief summer months, with temperatures often below freezing from September all the way through to the following June. Grass, moss and lichen live on the island, along with a few small shrubs in the more sheltered places.

Normal temperatures are very low and high winds can occer during stormy weather. The snow fall is almost continus on the hill tops.

Bodies of water[]

According to a 2003 report prepared by the Wrangel Island Nature Preserve, the hydrographic network of Wrangel Island consists of approximately 1,400 rivers are over 1 kilometer in length; 5 rivers are over 50 kilometres (31.07 mi) long; and approximately 900 shallow lakes, mostly located in the northern portion of Wrangel Island with a total surface area of 80 km2 (31 sq mi).


Wrangel Island is a major breeding ground for polar bears and has the highest density of polar bar dens in the world. Other mammalian life forms include seals, walrus, lemmings and Russians. During the summer it is visited by many types of Arctic birds. The arctic fox has made home on the island. The cetaceans such as bowhead, gray, and beluga whales can be seen close to shores.

Woolly mammoths survived there until 2,500–2,000 BC, with the last few individuals being killed by humans in ~1,700BC.

A party from the USRC Corwin, under the command of Calvin L. Hooper, landed on Wrangel Island on 12 August 1881 and claimed the island for the United States and named it "New Columbia." It included naturalist John Muir, who published the first description of Wrangel Island. They stayed about two weeks and conducted an extensive survey and search.

Domestic reindeer were introduced in the 1950s and musk ox were also introduced in 1975. In 2002 Arctic wolves were spotted on the island; wolves have lived on the island in historical times but previous packs were eradicated to reduce predation on reindeer and musk ox.

It is now a nature reserve. Resolution #189 of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was adopted on March 23, 1976. The Soviets wanted to save it before it was ruined by hunting, the military or industry, like so many other places had been.

The Island has 417 species of plants, double that of any other Arctic tundra territory of comparable size and more than any other Arctic island. For these reasons, the island was proclaimed the northernmost World Heritage Site by the UN with Russia's approval in 2004.


There is a small Russian weather station and 2 deserted former Chukchi fishing settlements on the southern side of the island (Ushakovskoye and Zvyozdny) on the shore of Somnitelnaya Bay. A handful of scientists and weathermen visit the island wide nature reserve a year.

Russian Navy announced plans to establish a base on the island in 2014, that reportedly consist of two sets of 34 prefabricated modules.

Also see[]

  1. Solovetsky Islands in Siberia, Russia
  2. Commander Islands in Siberia, Russia
  3. Franz Josef Land, Western Russia
  4. Severnaya Zemlya Islands in Siberia, Russia
  5. Sakhalin Island
  6. Gulag
  7. Soviet medals
  8. Soviet Ice Breaker Lenin
  9. Cold War


  1. http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Wrangel_Island
  2. http://statedepartmentwatch.org/GulagWrangell.htm
  3. http://siberiantimes.com/search/?text=Wrangel%20Island&tag=1
  4. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2011/01/04/siberian-rusty-russias-despoiled-wrangel-island/
  5. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/wrangel-island/sides-text
  6. http://www.onelight.com/hec/targets/mammothisland/mamothisland.htm
  7. http://www.crystalinks.com/woollymammoth.html