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Kamchatka

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Komandorsky Islands

Tourism in Russia > Kamchatka > Komandorsky Islands

Komandorsky Islands

Captain and commander Vitus Bering discovered these islands in 1741. They are located in the sea that lies between Kamchatka and Alaska. The islands were named Komandorsky after the explorer's title. The islands are located approximately at the same latitude as Denmark, captain Bering's birthplace. Bering, the great seaman, served Russia selflessly; the harsh place he himself had discovered also became Bering's final resting-place.

The Bering Island (75 km or 47 miles long and 15-20 km or 9-1 2 miles wide) and Medny ("Copper" island, where many copper deposits were discovered in the middle of the 18th century) are the largest of the Komandorsky Archipelago. Medny's waterfalls are also among its attractions: some of them are 100 to 200 meters (300-600 feet) tall!

The Komandorsky Islands also include small and rocky pieces of land. Ariy Kamen and Toporkov are the best known. These tiny islands are famous for their bird colonies; over 150 different bird species are found here.

The Komandorsky Islands are actually the tips of an underwater mountain range that separates the Bering Sea from the Pacific Ocean. This mountain range was once a natural bridge for Asian and American flora and fauna. That is what makes the Komandors (as the islands are called in the vernacular) incredible. Here you can encounter plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. For example, you can watch the Bering Arctic foxes that are almost completely unaccustomed to human presence. You can see unique species of seals and the very amusing little sea otters.

The Nikolskoye Village has a Regional Museum that features a unique object, a skeleton of the Steller's sea cow, possibly the only one in the world. Sea cows were unique to the Komandors; they were hunted into extinction as early as the I8th century. These friendly sea mammals used to graze on kelp and other algae found in the coastal waters. The sea cows at times reached 10 meters (30 feet) in length and could weigh up to 4 tons.

Nikolskoye also has a memorial dedicated to Bering, "to Columbus of the Russian Lands," as the words on the monument describe him. The commander's grave is marked by a cross and surrounded by an anchor chain.

Seals are the Islands' main attraction. Usually the first male seals appear on the coastal rocks at the beginning of April (the seals spend the winter in the Sea of Japan). Each male jealously guards his slot on the beach - the place for his future "harem." Each male's territory is usually about 20-25 sq. meters (or 215-220 sq. feet). The female seals do not arrive here until June, so the males fight it out over territorial disputes for a whole month. Any male's harem can have up to 100 females. Each unit stays together till August; in November the new baby seals and their parents take off and travel South.

The Komandorsky Nature Preserve was created in 1993; in 2002 it was included in the UNESCO Natural Heritage List. Commercial fishing and hunting have been prohibited within a 48 kilometer (or 30-mile zone) around the Komandorsky Islands for the last half-century. Thanks to the conservation efforts, today, as you take a boat out or go diving, you will see seals, dolphins, and several kinds of whales, including orcas and sperm whales.

 
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