Shantar Islands

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The Shantar Islands.
Location of the Shantar Islands in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Shantar Islands (Острова Шантарские; Ostrova Shantarskiye) are a group of fifteen islands that lie in Uda Bay, in the southwestern zone of the Sea of Okhotsk. These islands are located close to the shores of the Siberian mainland. Most islands have rugged cliffs, but they are of moderate height; the highest point in the island group is 720 metres.

The largest island in the Shantar group is Bolshoy Shantar Island (1790 km2). It is about 72 km in length and 49 km in width. It has a large brackish lake (Lake Bol'shoe) in its northern end which is connected to the sea through a narrow passage. Smelts (Hypomesus japonicus) and (H. olidus) are found in this lake.[1]

Other islands include Feklistova Island (372 km2), Malyy Shantar Island, (100 km2), Prokofyeva, Sakharnaya Golova, Belichiy, Kusova, Ptichiy, Utichiy, Yuzhnyy and finally Medvezhiy, which lies very close to the coast.

Administratively this island group belongs to the Khabarovsk Krai of the Russian Federation.


Bowhead whales swimming near a cliff in the Strait of Lingolm [2]

There is no permanent population on the Shantar Islands, but they are often visited by commercial fishermen who use them as a base. Other economic activities undertaken on these islands are fur hunting and trapping as well as lumbering, which in the past were often done illegally.[3] There are spruce forests on the largest islands.[4] Other trees in the island taiga are the Siberian spruce, the Dahurian larch and the mountain pine.

The archipelago is newly registered as the Shantar Islands National Park.[5] Although there is little evidence of human impact, the Shantar island ecosystem is under threat. There are many endangered birds in these islands, including the Blakiston's Fish Owl, Osprey, Black Stork, Red-necked Grebe, Gyrfalcon, Solitary Snipe, Steller's Sea Eagle and the Siberian Grouse.[6] Total of 240 species inhabit in the areas.

The Kamchatka brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus), sable and marten, caribou, red fox, and river otter are common on the Shantar Islands.[7] Reindeers can be seen as well.

The waters around these coastal islands are frozen for about eight months on a yearly average, so that they are merged with the mainland most of the year. Pinnipeds such as Harbour Seals, Bearded seals, Common Seals, Ribbon seals (on sea ices), Steller sea lions, and Sea Otters, and Cetaceans of critically endangered population such as Bowhead whales, North Pacific right whales, western gray whales and Belugas can be seen in the waters off the islands and come very close to shore as well as Minke Whales and Killer Whales . In 2013, a wildlife sanctuary to protect these faunas were created by Russian scientists and nature conservationists with support from WWF and several international organizations.

Sturgeons, salmons, trouts, and various other fish swim into rivers here.


One of the most severe threats to the environment of the Shantar Islands is a proposed tidal hydroelectric power station, which is currently on hold for lack of funds.[8]

Lack of restrictions for tourism and resorting is also a problem as the number of people visiting the islands are increasing in recent years.


The islands are currently uninhabited but were known to the mainland Gilyak tribes for their fishing grounds.

The first recorded exploration of the Shantar Islands was in April 1640, when Russian explorer Ivan Moskvitin allegedly sailed to the mouth of the Amur River with a group of Cossacks and spotted the Shantar Islands on the way back. Moskvitin reported his discoveries to Prince Shcherbatov, the Muscovite voivode in Tomsk. Based on Ivan Moskvitin's account, the first Russian map of the Far East was drawn in March 1642.

The Shantar Islands were explored by Russian surveyors between 1711 and 1725.[9]

There is a plan to declare the Shantar Islands a National Park by 2010.[citation needed]

Adjacent Islands[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°00′N 137°36′E / 55.000°N 137.600°E / 55.000; 137.600