an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, between the Barents and Kara seas. It is administered as part of Arkhangel’sk Oblast in the RSFSR and consists of two large islands and many small ones. The large North and South islands are separated by a narrow strait (2–3 km), called Matochkin Shar. Novaia Zemlia extends for 925 km from southwest to the northeast and has a total area of more than 83,000 sq km. North Island covers 48,904 sq km; South Island, 33,275 sq km; and the small islands, about 1,000 sq km. North Island has a maximum width of 123 km, and South Island, 143 km. In the south, Novaia Zemlia is separated from Vaigach Island by the Karskie Vorota, a 50-km wide strait.
The western coast is much more indented than the eastern, and many of the bays are fjords, for example, the Reineke, Medvezhii, and Neznaemyi bays.
Structurally, Novaia Zemlia is a continuation of the Ural and Pai-Khoi folded region. It is composed of Paleozoic deposits (sandstone, argillaceous schist, conglomerates, limestone), breached in many places by gabbro-diabase and, sometimes, granite intrusions. There are extensive glacial, talus, marine, and peat-swamp deposits. A mountain range extends along the islands, rising to 1,547 m near Nordenskjöld Bay on North Island. The mountains are dissected by river and glacial valleys. In the southern part of South Island the terrain is lower, gradually becoming a hilly plain with a maximum elevation of 100–150 m. Permafrost is found everywhere.
There are few rivers, particularly on North Island. The larger rivers—the Gusinaia, Mitiushina, and Promyslovaia—are south of the Severnaia Sul’menevaia Bay. In the southwestern part of South Island flows the largest river, the Bezymiannaia. The rivers freeze to the bottom in winter.
Novaia Zemlia has a maritime arctic climate noted for its severity. Winters are long and cold, with blizzards and winds of up to 40–50 m per sec, called the Novaia Zemlia bora. Temperatures may fall as low as -40°C. The average temperature in March, the coldest month, ranges from -14° to -17°C on the western coast and from -19° to -22°C in the east. The average August temperature ranges from 2.5°C in the north to 6.5°C in the south. The annual precipitation on the west coast of North Island averages about 300 mm. The eastern coast receives less precipitation, and the ice sheet the greatest amount, 600 mm or more, mainly in the form of snow.
Approximately half of North Island is covered by glaciers; an ice sheet 400 km long and up to 70–75 km wide occupies 20,000 sq km. The ice is more than 300 m thick, and in places it descends into the fjords or drops toward the open sea as an outlet glacier, forming glacial barriers and icebergs.
North Island and part of South Island lie within the zone of arctic deserts, and much of South Island falls within the tundra zone. The low-lying parts of South Island support arctic moss tundras that are swampy in many places. A moss and lichen tundra is found on higher terrain (up to 200 m). Reindeer moss is plentiful. Flowering plants, including tufted hair grass (De-schampsia borealis), saxifrage, draba, and the Iceland poppy, are found on both islands. Only crustaceous lichens and sparse mosses grow in the mountains.
Mammals on Novaia Zemlia include arctic foxes, lemmings, reindeer, and polar bears. The seas are inhabited by ringed seals, bearded seals, harp seals, walruses, white whales, and killer whales. Commercially important fish include cod and herring. In summer great numbers of birds migrate to nesting grounds on Novaia Zemlia, including sea gulls, guillemots, black guillemots, geese, and eiders. Various bird species form rookeries, especially on the rocky sections of the western coast.
REFERENCESOlenev, A. M. Ural i Novaia Zemlia. Moscow, 1965.
Oledenenie Novoi Zemli. Moscow, 1968.
Sovetskaia Arktika. Moscow, 1970.
E. V. IASTREBOV