Learn more about Wrangel Island
Wrangel Island (Russian: о́стров Вра́нгеля, ostrov Vrangelya) is an island in the Arctic Ocean, between the Chukchi and East Siberian Seas. It is part of Russia. Wrangel Island lies across the 180° meridian. The International date line is displaced eastwards at this latitude to avoid the island as well as Chukotka Autonomous Okrug on the Russian mainland. The island is about 125 kilometers (78 miles) wide and 7,300 square kilometers (2,800 square miles) in area. The highest point on the island is Sovetskaya Mountain (1,096 meters, or 3,596 feet).
The rocky island has a weather station, a single permanent human settlement, and is a breeding ground for polar bears (having the highest density of dens in the world), seals and lemmings. During the summer it is visited by many types of birds.
During the last ice age, mammoths lived on Wrangel Island. It has been shown that mammoths survived on Wrangel Island until 1700 BC which is the most recent survival of all known mammoth populations. However, due to limited food supply, they were much smaller than the typical mammoth.
Its flora includes 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 in 2004.
The island is named after Baron Ferdinand Wrangel (1797–1870) who, after hearing of stories of an island at Wrangel Island's coordinates from some Chukchi, set off on an expedition (1820–1824) to discover the island, with no success.
In 1849, Henry Kellett, captain of HMS Herald, landed on and named Herald Island, and thought he saw another island to the west; thereafter it was indicated on British Admiralty charts as "Kellett Land".
In August 1867, Thomas Long, an American whaling captain, "approached it as near as fifteen miles. I have named this northern land Wrangell [sic] Land ... as an appropriate tribute to the memory of a man who spent three consecutive years north of latitude 68°, and demonstrated the problem of this open polar sea forty-five years ago, although others of much later date have endeavored to claim the merit of this discovery."
In 1879, George W. DeLong, commanding USS Jeanette led an expedition 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 eastward within sight of Wrangel before being crushed and sunk. The first known landing on Wrangel Island took place on August 12, 1881, by a party from the USRC Corwin who claimed the island for the United States . The expedition, under the command of Calvin L. Hooper, was seeking the Jeannette and two missing whalers in addition to general exploration. It included naturalist John Muir, who published the first description of Wrangel Island.
In 1911, a group of Russians made a landing on the island and in 1914, the survivors of the ill-equipped Canadian Arctic Expedition, organised by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, were marooned there for nine months after their ship, the Karluk, was crushed in the ice pack. The survivors were rescued after Captain Robert Bartlett walked to Siberia to summon help.
In 1921, Vilhjalmur Stefansson sent 5 settlers (1 Canadian, 3 American, and 1 Inuit) in a speculative attempt to claim the island for Canada. In 1923 the sole survivor of this expedition, the Inuk Ada Blackjack, was rescued. The rescue ship left another party of 13 (American Charles Wells and 12 Inuit). In 1924 the Soviet Union removed the members of this settlement and established the settlement that survives to this day on the island.
In the 1930s Wrangel island became the scene of a bizarre criminal story when it fell under the increasingly arbitrary rule of its appointed governor Konstantin Semenchuk who controlled the local populace and his own staff through open extortion and murder. He forbade the local Eskimos to hunt walruses, which put them in danger of starvation, while collecting proviant for himself. He was then implicated in the mysterious deaths of some of his opponents, including the local doctor. The subsequent Moscow trial in June 1936 sentenced Semenchuk to death for "banditry" and violation of Soviet law .
In the 1990 USSR/USA Boundary Treaty which has yet to have been approved by the Russian Duma, the US cedes its claim to 8 islands, one of which is Wrangel Island.
 External links
- UNESCO Link to Wrangel Island page at World Heritage site
- The Cruise of the Corwin John Muir's description of the 1881 exploration of Wrangel Island
- The Ice Master and Ada Blackjack Jennifer Niven's non-fiction works on Wrangel Island
- Adventure Associates Icebreaker journey to Wrangel Island
- Run For Wrangel Tourist's account
- Isolation, Desolation and Tragedy Historical overview by Roderick Eime
- Radiocarbon Dating Evidence for Mammoths on Wrangel Island
- Status of Wrangel and Other Arctic Islands U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet on Wrangel Island
- The First Landing on Wrangel Island, available freely at Project Gutenberg by Irving C. Rosse, (1883)
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