Novaia Zemlia

Novaia Zemlia


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.


Olenev, A. M. Ural i Novaia Zemlia. Moscow, 1965.
Oledenenie Novoi Zemli. Moscow, 1968.
Sovetskaia Arktika. Moscow, 1970.


References in periodicals archive ?
One telegram arrived from Cape Zhelaniia, the northeast part of the northern island of Novaia Zemlia beyond the Arctic Circle: "The Arctic ice is melting because of your victory's flame.
After a first chapter on Ermolaev's early life prior to his 1925 voyage to Novaia Zemlia, the bulk of the book is concerned with his career in the field during the 1920s and 1930s and the period from 1938 to 1954, during which he was first imprisoned and then, after a brief period of freedom during 1940, became an inmate of the GULAG camp system and exile.
It locates its heroes on the 'New World' (Novaia zemlia), an island within the Arctic Circle, off the coast at Arkhangel'sk.
Despite widespread domestic and international opposition, the Soviet military managed to conduct a nuclear test, unannounced, on 24 October 1990, at the backup test site at Novaia Zemlia. It was the first nuclear test in over a year and, as it turned out, the last.
Rather than close the Novaia Zemlia test range, Mikhailov proposed using it to conduct tests of "peaceful nuclear explosions." He suggested using the site as a disposal center for toxic materials, such as chemical and nuclear weapons, that were being reduced in connection with arms control treaties.
Mikhailov presented three "treaties" for the President's signature: (1) to resume nuclear testing at Novaia Zemlia after the expiration of the one-year moratorium, thereafter conducting three or four tests per year; (2) to maintain the formerly closed nuclear research and test sites, such as Arzamas-16, under the central government's jurisdiction, in order to protect them from hardships of economic reform and from the interference of local authorities who might prefer to convert them to civilian activities; and (3) to promote Mikhailov to minister.
Near Novaia Zemlia our Soviet steamer Dikson saw the abandoned American ship Winston-Salem.