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Chukchi Sea

Map of the Chukchi Sea.

Chukchi Sea () is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the De Long Strait, off Wrangel Island, and in the east by Point Barrow, Alaska, beyond which lies the Beaufort Sea. The Bering Strait forms its southernmost limit and connects it to the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The principal port on the Chukchi Sea is Uelen in Russia. The International Date Line crosses the Chukchi Sea from northwest to southeast. It is displaced eastwards to avoid Wrangel Island as well as the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug on the Russian mainland.

Geography

Spring breakup of sea ice on the Chukchi Sea.

The sea has an approximate area of 595,000 km² (230,000 mi²) and is only navigable about four months of the year. The main geological feature of the Chukchi Sea bottom is the 700 km (435 mi)-long Hope Basin, which is bound to the northeast by the Herald Arch. Depths less than 50 m (164 ft) occupy 56% of the total area.

The Chukchi Sea has very few islands compared to other seas of the Arctic. Wrangel Island lies at the northwestern limit of the sea, Herald Island is located near its northern limit, and a few small islands lie along the Siberian and Alaskan coasts.

The sea is named after the Chukchi people, who reside on its shores and on the Chukotka Peninsula. The coastal Chukchi traditionally engaged in fishing, whaling and the hunting of walrus in this cold sea.

In Siberia places along the coast are: Cape Billings, Cape Schmidt, Amguyema River, Cape Vankarem, the large Kolyuchinskaya Bay, Neskynpil'gyn Lagoon, Cape Serdtse-Kamen, Enurmino, Chegitun River, Inchoun, Uelen and Cape Dezhnev.

In Alaska, the rivers flowing into the Chukchi Sea are the Kivalina, the Kobuk, the Kokolik, the Kukpowruk, the Kukpuk, the Noatak, the Utukok, the Pitmegea, and the Wulik, among others. Of rivers flowing in from its Siberian side, the Amguyema, Ioniveyem, and the Chegitun are the most important.

Extent

The sic] as follows:[2]

On the West. The Eastern limit of East Siberian Sea [From the Northernmost point of Wrangel Island through this island to Cape Blossom thence to Cape Yakan on the main land (176°40'E)]. On the North. A line from Point Barrow, Alaska (
) to the Northernmost point of Wrangel Island (179°30'W). On the South. The Arctic Circle [66°33'39"N] between Siberia and Alaska. [The northern limit of the Bering Sea.]

Common usage is that the southern extent is further south at the narrowest part of the Bering Strait which is on the 66th parallel north.

History

Scientists on the sea ice in the Chukchi Sea.

In 1648, Semyon Dezhnyov sailed from the Kolyma River on the Arctic to the Anadyr River on the Pacific, but his route was not practical and was not used for the next 200 years. In 1728, Vitus Bering and in 1779, Captain James Cook entered the sea from the Pacific.

On 28 September 1878, during Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld's expedition that made the whole length of the Northeast passage for the first time in history, the steamship Vega got stuck in fast ice in the Chukchi Sea. Since further progress for that year was impossible, the ship was secured in winter quarters. Even so, members of the expedition and the crew were aware only a few miles of ice-blocked sea lay between them and the open waters. The following year, two days after Vega was released, she passed the Bering Strait and steamed towards the Pacific Ocean.

In 1913, Karluk, abandoned by expedition leader Vilhjalmur Stefansson, drifted in the ice along the northern expanses of the Chukchi Sea and sank, crushed by ice near Herald Island. The survivors made it to Wrangel Island, where they found themselves in a hopeless situation. Then Captain Robert Bartlett walked hundreds of kilometers with Kataktovik, an Inuit man, on the ice of the Chukchi Sea in order to look for help. They reached Cape Vankarem on the Chukotka coast, on April 15, 1914. Twelve survivors of the ill-fated expedition were found on Wrangel island nine months later by the King & Winge, a newly built Arctic fishing schooner.

In 1933, the steamer Captain Vladimir Voronin and expedition leader Otto Schmidt became heroes.

Following several unsuccessful attempts, the wreck was located on the bed of the Chukchi Sea by a Russian expedition, Chelyuskin-70, in mid-September 2006. Two small components of the ship's superstructure were recovered by divers and were sent to the ship's builders, Burmeister & Wain of Copenhagen, for identification.

In July 2009, a U.S. Coast Guard has identified it as a large body of algal bloom.

On October 15, 2010, Russian scientists opened a floating polar research station in the Chuckchi Sea at the margin of the Arctic Ocean. The name of the station was Severny Polyus-38 and it was home to 15 researchers for a year. They conducted polar studies and gathered scientific evidence to reinforce Russia’s claims to the Arctic.[3]

Fauna

Defense Mapping Agency topographical map of the Chukchi Sea, 1973

The polar bear is found on pack ice of the Chukchi Sea; in fact, the population of polar bears that is found in the sea and its pack ice is one of the five genetically distinct Eurasian populations of this species.[4]

Phytoplankton

In 2012, scientists from the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory published findings describing the discovery of the largest-known oceanic phytoplankton algal bloom in the world. The findings were unexpected as it was previously believed that the plankton grows only after the seasonal ice melt, yet some algae was discovered under several metres of intact sea ice.[5]

Oil and gas resources

The Chukchi shelf is believed to hold oil and gas reserves as high as 30 billion barrels (4.8×109 m3). Several oil companies have competed for leases on the area, and on 6 February 2008, the U.S. government announced the successful bidders would pay US$2.6 billion for extraction rights. The auction has drawn some criticism from environmentalists.[6] In 2015, the Obama administration's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave a conditional approval for Shell Oil to drill in the Chukchi Sea.[7] In September 2015, Shell announced that it was ending it's oil exploration in the region, after not finding enough oil and gas to be viable.[8]

See also

References

Further reading

  • Polyak, Leonid, Dennis A Darby, Jens F Bischof, and Martin Jakobsson. 2007. "Stratigraphic Constraints on Late Pleistocene Glacial Erosion and Deglaciation of the Chukchi Margin, Arctic Ocean". Quaternary Research. 67, no. 2: 234.
  • Albert Hastings Markham. Arctic Exploration, 1895
  • Armstrong, T., The Russians in the Arctic, London, 1958.
  • William Barr, Discovery of the wreck of the Soviet steamer Chelyuskin on the bed of the Chukchi Sea
  • Early Soviet Exploration: http://www.whoi.edu/beaufortgyre/history/history_soviet.html
  • History of Russian Arctic Exploration: http://www.tour-land.ru/extr/north_p/eng/hist_ark.shtml
  • Niven, J., The Ice Master, The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk.
  • Polynyas in the Chukchi Sea: [1]
  • Polar bear protection in the Chukchi Sea: Polar bears shared by US, Russia to be managed jointly
  • Vinogradov V.A., Gusev E.A., Lopatin B.G. Structure of the Russian Eastern Arctic Shelf: [2]

External links

  • Ecological assessment
  • Audubon Alaska's Arctic Marine Synthesis: Atlas of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas

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