The Barents Sea (Norwegian: Barentshavet; Russian: Баренцево море, Barentsevo More) is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean, located off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia and is divided between Norwegian and Russian territorial waters. Known among Russians in the Middle Ages as the Murman Sea ("Norwegian Sea"), the sea takes its current name from the Dutch navigator Willem Barentsz.
It is a rather shallow shelf sea, with an average depth of 230 metres (750 ft), and is an important site for both fishing and hydrocarbon exploration. The Barents Sea is bordered by the Kola Peninsula to the south, the shelf edge towards the Norwegian Sea to the west, and the archipelagos of Svalbard to the northwest, Franz Josef Land to the northeast and Novaya Zemlya to the east. The islands of Novaya Zemlya, an extension of the northern end of the Ural Mountains, separate the Barents Sea from the Kara Sea.
Despite being part of the Arctic Ocean, the Barents Sea has been characterized as "turning into the Atlantic" because of its status as "the Arctic warming hot spot." Hydrologic changes due to global warming have led to a reduction in sea ice and in stratification of the water column, which could lead to major changes in weather in Eurasia.
Location of the Barents Sea
|Primary inflows||Norwegian Sea, Arctic Ocean|
|Basin countries||Norway and Russia|
|Surface area||1,400,000 km2 (540,000 sq mi)|
|Average depth||230 m (750 ft)|
|References||Institute of Marine Research, Norway|
The southern half of the Barents Sea, including the ports of Murmansk (Russia) and Vardø (Norway) remain ice-free year round due to the warm North Atlantic drift. In September, the entire Barents Sea is more or less completely ice-free. Until the Winter War (1939–40), Finland's territory also reached to the Barents Sea, with the harbor at Petsamo being Finland's only ice-free winter harbor.
There are three main types of water masses in the Barents Sea: Warm, salty Atlantic water (temperature >3 °C, salinity >35) from the North Atlantic drift, cold Arctic water (temperature <0 °C, salinity <35) from the north, and warm, but not very salty coastal water (temperature >3 °C, salinity <34.7). Between the Atlantic and Polar waters, a front called the Polar Front is formed. In the western parts of the sea (close to Bear Island), this front is determined by the bottom topography and is therefore relatively sharp and stable from year to year, while in the east (towards Novaya Zemlya), it can be quite diffuse and its position can vary a lot between years.
The lands of Novaya Zemlya attained most of their early Holocene coastal deglaciation approximately 10,000 years before present.
Other islands in the Barents Sea include Chaichy and Timanets.
The Barents Sea was originally formed from two major continental collisions: the Caledonian orogeny, in which the Baltica and Laurentia collided to form Laurasia, and a subsequent collision between Laurasia and Western Siberia. Most of its geological history is dominated by extensional tectonics, caused by the collapse of the Caledonian and Uralian orogenic belts and the break-up of Pangaea. These events created the major rift basins that dominate the Barents Shelf, along with various platforms and structural highs. The later geological history of the Barents Sea is dominated by Late Cenozoic uplift, particularly that caused by Quaternary glaciation, which has resulted in erosion and deposition of significant sediment.
Due to the North Atlantic drift, the Barents Sea has a high biological production compared to other oceans of similar latitude. The spring bloom of phytoplankton can start quite early close to the ice edge, because the fresh water from the melting ice makes up a stable water layer on top of the sea water. The phytoplankton bloom feeds zooplankton such as Calanus finmarchicus, Calanus glacialis, Calanus hyperboreus, Oithona spp., and krill. The zooplankton feeders include young cod, capelin, polar cod, whales, and little auk. The capelin is a key food for top predators such as the north-east Arctic cod, harp seals, and seabirds such as common guillemot and Brunnich's guillemot. The fisheries of the Barents Sea, in particular the cod fisheries, are of great importance for both Norway and Russia.
SIZEX-89 was an international winter experiment where the main objectives were to perform sensor signature studies of different ice types in order to develop SAR algorithms for ice variables such as ice types, ice concentrations and ice kinematics. Although previous research suggested that predation by whales may be the cause of depleting fish stocks, more recent research suggests that marine mammal consumption has only a trivial influence on fisheries and a model examining the impact of fisheries and climate was far more accurate at describing trends in fish abundance. There is a genetically distinct polar bear population associated with the Barents Sea.
The Barents Sea was formerly known to Russians as Murmanskoye Morye, or the "Sea of Murmans" (i.e., Norwegians), and it appears with this name in sixteenth-century maps, including Gerard Mercator's Map of the Arctic published in his 1595 atlas. Its eastern corner, in the region of the Pechora River's estuary, has been known as Pechorskoye Morye, that is, Pechora Sea.
This sea was given its present name in honor of Willem Barentsz, a Dutch navigator and explorer. Barentsz was the leader of early expeditions to the far north, at the end of the sixteenth century.
The Barents Sea has been called by sailors "The Devil's Dance Floor" due to its unpredictability and difficulty level.
The Barents Sea has been called by ocean rowers "Devil's Jaw". In 2017 after the first recorded complete man-powered crossing of the Barents Sea from Tromsø to Longyearbyen in a row boat in 2017 by Polar Row expedition, captain Fiann Paul was asked by Norwegian TV2 how a rower would name the Barents Sea. Fiann responded that he would name it “Devil's Jaw”, adding that the winds you constantly battle are like breathe from the devil's nostrils while he holds you in his jaws.
Seabed mapping was completed in 1933 with the first full map produced by Russian marine geologist Maria Klenova.
The Barents Sea was also the site of a notable World War II engagement, a German surface merchant raiding attack on a British convoy that later became known as the Battle of the Barents Sea. Under the command of Oskar Kummetz, the German warships sank minelayer HMS Bramble and destroyer HMS Achates, but in turn lost destroyer Z16 Friedrich Eckoldt and Admiral Hipper was severely damaged by British gunfire. The Germans later retreated and the British convoy arrived safely at Murmansk shortly afterwards.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet used the southern reaches of the sea as a ballistic missile submarine bastion, a strategy that Russia continues. Nuclear contamination from dumped Russian naval reactors is an environmental concern in the Barents Sea.
For decades there was a boundary dispute between Norway and Russia regarding the position of the boundary between their respective claims to the Barents Sea. The Norwegians favoured a median line, based on the Geneva Convention of 1958, whereas the Russians favoured a meridian based sector line, based on a Soviet decision of 1926. This led to a neutral "grey" zone between the competing claims that had an area of 175,000 sq.km, which is approximately 12% of the total area of the Barents Sea. The two countries started negotiations on the location of the boundary in 1974 and a moratorium on hydrocarbon exploration was declared in 1976.
In 2010, Norway and Russia signed an agreement that placed the boundary equidistant from their competing claims. This was ratified and went into force on 7 July 2011, opening the grey zone for hydrocarbon exploration.
Encouraged by the success of the North Sea in the 1960s, hydrocarbon exploration in the Barents Sea got underway in 1969. The Norwegian authorities acquired seismic reflection surveys through the following years, which were analysed to understand the location of the main sedimentary basins. NorskHydro drilled the first well in 1980, which was a dry hole, and the first discoveries were made the following year – the Alke and Askeladden gas fields. Several more discoveries were made on the Norwegian side of the Barents Sea throughout the 1980s, including the important Snøhvit field. However interest in the area began to wane due to a succession of dry holes, the wells only containing gas (which was cheap at the time) and the prohibitive costs of developing wells in such a remote area. Interest in the area was reignited in the late 2000s, after the Snovhit field was finally bought into production and two new large discoveries were made.
Exploration on the Russian side got underway around the same time as that on Norwegian side, encouraged by the success in the Timan-Pechora Basin. The first wells were drilled in the early 1980s and some very large gas fields were discovered throughout this decade. The Shtokman field was discovered in 1988 and is classed as a giant gas field—currently the 5th largest gas field in the world. However, due to the same reasons that interest declined in the Norwegian side of the Barents Sea, in addition to the political instability of the 1990s, interest in the Russian side of the Barents Sea declined.
The Barents Sea contains the world largest remaining cod population, as well as an important stocks of haddock and capelin. Fishing is managed jointly by Russia and Norway in the form of the Joint Norwegian–Russian Fisheries Commission, established in 1976, in an attempt to keep track of how many fish are leaving the ecosystem due to fishing. The Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission sets Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for multiple species throughout their migratory tracks. Through the Commission, Norway and Russia also exchange fishing quotas and catch statistics to ensure the TACs are not being violated. However, there are problems with the system and the effects of fishing on the Barents Sea ecosystem are not completely accurate. Cod is one of the major catches. A large portion of catches are not reported when the fishing boats land to account for profits that are being lost to high taxes and fees. Since many fishermen do not strictly follow the TACs and rules set forth by the Commission, the amount of fish being extracted annually from the Barents Sea is underestimated.
The Barents Sea, where temperate waters from the Gulf Stream and cold waters from the Arctic meet, is home to an enormous diversity of organisms, which are well adapted to the extreme conditions of their marine habitats. This makes these arctic species very attractive for marine bioprospecting. Marine bioprospecting may be defined as the search for bioactive molecules and compounds from marine sources having new, unique properties and the potential for commercial applications. Amongst others, applications include medicines, food and feed, textiles, cosmetics and the process industry.
The Norwegian government strategically supports the development of marine bioprospecting as it has the potential to contribute to new and sustainable wealth creation. Tromsø and the northern areas of Norway play a central role in this strategy due to excellent access to unique Arctic marine organisms and the presence of marine industries and R&D competence and infrastructure in this region. Since 2007, science and industry have cooperated closely on bioprospecting and the development and commercialization of new products.
MabCent-SFI is one of fourteen Research-Based Innovation Centers initiated by the Research Council of Norway, and is the only one within the field of “bioactive compounds and drug discovery” that is based on bioactives from marine organisms. MabCent-SFI maintains a focus on bioactives from Arctic and sub-Arctic organisms. By the end of 2011, MabCent has tested about 200,000 extracts, finding several hundred "hits". Through further research and development, some of these hits will become valuable "leads", i.e. characterized compounds known to possess biological effects of interest. The commercial partners in MabCent-SFI are Biotec Pharmacon ASA and its subsidiary ArcticZymes AS, ABC BioScience AS, Lytix Biopharma AS and Pronova BioPharma ASA. ArcticZymes is also a partner in MARZymes, a project financed by the Research Council of Norway to find marine enzymes which are adapted to the extreme conditions in the Arctic. The science partners in MabCent-SFI are Marbank, a national marine biobank located in Tromsø, Marbio, a medium/high-throughput platform for screening and identification of bioactive compounds and Norstruct, a protein structure determination platform. Mabcent-SFI is hosted by the University of Tromsø.
BioTech North is an emerging biotechnology cluster of enterprises and R&D organizations, which cooperate closely with regional funding and development actors (triple helix). As bioactive molecules and compounds from Arctic marine resources form the basis of activities for the majority of the cluster members, BioTech North serves as a marine biotech cluster. The majority of BioTech North’s enterprises are active within life science applications and markets. To date the cluster contains around thirty organizations from both the private and public sector. It has received Arena status and is funded through the [ Arena] programme financed by Innovation Norway, SIVA and The Research Council of Norway. Stakeholders of BioTech North include Barents BioCentre Lab, BioStruct, Marbank, Norut, Nofima, Mabcent-SFI, University of Tromsø, Unilab, Barentzymes AS, Trofi, Scandiderma AS, Prophylix Pharma AS, Olivita, Marealis, ProCelo, Probio, Lytix Biopharma, Integorgen, d'Liver, Genøk, Cognis, Clare AS, Chitinor, Calanus AS, Biotec Betaglucans, Ayanda, ArcticZymes AS, ABC Bioscience, Akvaplanniva.
a well drilled in the Havis prospect in the Barents Sea proved both oil and gas at an estimated volume of between 200 million and 300 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalents.
The meridian 50° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Madagascar, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.
The 50th meridian east forms a great circle with the 130th meridian west.55th meridian east
The meridian 55° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.
The 55th meridian east forms a great circle with the 125th meridian west.80th parallel north
The 80th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 80 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane, in the Arctic. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Asia, the Arctic Ocean and North America.Battle of the Barents Sea
The Battle of the Barents Sea was a World War II naval engagement on 31 December 1942 between warships of the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) and British ships escorting convoy JW 51B to Kola Inlet in the USSR. The action took place in the Barents Sea north of North Cape, Norway. The German raiders' failure to inflict significant losses on the convoy infuriated Hitler, who ordered that German naval strategy would concentrate on the U-boat fleet rather than surface ships.Bear Island (Norway)
Bear Island (Norwegian: Bjørnøya, pronounced [ˈbjøːɳœʏɑ]) is the southernmost island of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago. The island is located in the western part of the Barents Sea, approximately halfway between Spitsbergen and the North Cape.
Bear Island was discovered by the Dutch explorers Willem Barents and Jacob van Heemskerk on 10 June 1596. It was named after a polar bear that was seen swimming nearby. The island was considered terra nullius until the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920 placed it under Norwegian sovereignty.
Despite its remote location and barren nature, the island has seen commercial activities in past centuries, such as coal mining, fishing and whaling. However, no settlements have lasted more than a few years, and Bear Island is now uninhabited except for personnel working at the island's meteorological station Herwighamna. Along with the adjacent waters, it was declared a nature reserve in 2002.German submarine U-365
German submarine U-365 was a Type VIIC U-boat built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine for service during World War II.
She served exclusively against the Arctic Convoys from Britain to Murmansk and Archangelsk, principally targeting the Soviet forces which greeted the convoys in the Barents Sea.HMS Achates (H12)
HMS Achates was an A-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy during the late 1920s. Completed in 1930, she initially served with the Mediterranean Fleet. She was sunk on 31 December 1942 during the Battle of the Barents Sea.Icelandic Low
The Icelandic Low is a semi-permanent centre of low atmospheric pressure found between Iceland and southern Greenland and extending in the Northern Hemisphere winter into the Barents Sea. In summer it weakens and splits into two centres, one near Davis Strait and the other west of Iceland. It is a principal centre of action in the atmosphere circulation of the Northern Hemisphere, associated with frequent cyclone activity. It forms one pole of the North Atlantic oscillation, the other being the Azores High.Kola Bay
Kola Bay (Russian: Кольский залив) or Murmansk Fjord is a 57-km-long fjord of the Barents Sea that cuts into the northern part of the Kola Peninsula. It is up to 7 km wide and has a depth of 200 to 300 metres. The Tuloma and Kola Rivers discharge into the bay.
The eastern shore is craggy and precipitous, the western one is comparatively level. The ports of Murmansk and Severomorsk sit on the east side. Polyarny, the main base of Russia's Northern Fleet, is on the west side of the bay.
Semidiurnal tides in the Murmansk Fjord are as high as 4 metres. In winter, the southern part of the bay may be covered in ice. The Kola Bay Bridge spans the Kola Bay near its southern end.Mjølnir crater
Mjølnir is a meteorite crater on the floor of Barents Sea off the coast of Norway. It is 40 km (25 mi) in diameter and the age is estimated to be 142.0 ± 2.6 million years (Early Cretaceous). The bolide was an estimated 2 km (1.2 mi) wide.Operation Wunderland
Operation Wunderland (German: Unternehmen Wunderland) was a large-scale operation undertaken in summer 1942 by the Kriegsmarine in the waters of the Northern Sea Route close to the Arctic Ocean. The Germans knew that many ships of the Soviet Navy had sought refuge in the Kara Sea because of the protection that its ice pack provided during 10 months of the year.Pechora Sea
Pechora Sea (Russian: Печо́рское мо́ре, or Pechorskoye More), is a sea at the northwest of Russia, the southeastern part of the Barents Sea. The western border of the sea is off Kolguyev Island, while the eastern border is the western coasts of Vaygach Island and the Yugorsky Peninsula, and the northern border the southern end of Novaya Zemlya.
The Pechora Sea is quite shallow, its average depth being only 6 m. The deepest point reaches 210 m. In the southern part of the sea runs the eastward-flowing Kolguyev Current. There are a few islands close to the coast, the largest of which is Dolgiy Island.
The Pechora Sea is blocked by floating ice from November to June. The main river entering the sea is the Pechora.Polar low
A polar low is a small-scale, short-lived atmospheric low pressure system (depression) that is found over the ocean areas poleward of the main polar front in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, as well as the Sea of Japan. The systems usually have a horizontal length scale of less than 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) and exist for no more than a couple of days. They are part of the larger class of mesoscale weather systems. Polar lows can be difficult to detect using conventional weather reports and are a hazard to high-latitude operations, such as shipping and gas and oil platforms. Polar lows have been referred to by many other terms, such as polar mesoscale vortex, Arctic hurricane, Arctic low, and cold air depression. Today the term is usually reserved for the more vigorous systems that have near-surface winds of at least 17 m/s (38 mph).Shtil'
Space launch vehicle Shtil' (Russian: (Штиль - calm (weather)), is a converted SLBM used for launching artificial satellites into orbit. It is based on the R-29RM designed by State Rocket Center Makeyev and related to the Volna Launch Vehicle. The Shtil' is a 3-stage launch vehicle that uses liquid propellant. It is the first launch vehicle to successfully launch a payload into orbit from a submarine, although launch from land based structures is possible as well.Soviet minesweeper T-111
T-111 was a minesweeper of the Soviet Navy during World War II and the Cold War. She had originally been built as USS Advocate (AM-138), an Admirable-class minesweeper, for the United States Navy during World War II, but never saw active service in the U.S. Navy. Upon completion she was transferred to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease as T-111; she was never returned to the United States. The Soviets later scuttled the ship in the Barents Sea in 1956. Because of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy was unaware of this fate and the vessel remained on the American Naval Vessel Register until she was struck on 1 January 1983.Sveagruva
Sveagruva (meaning Swedish Mine), or simply Svea, is a mining settlement in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, lying at the head of Van Mijenfjord.
It is the third largest settlement in the archipelago (after Longyearbyen and Barentsburg). Currently, around 300 workers living in Longyearbyen commute to Sveagruva for work on a daily or weekly basis. Sveagruva has no permanent inhabitants. The mine is operated by Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani and is served by Svea Airport.Volna
Space launch vehicle Volna (Russian: Волна "wave"), is a converted Submarine-launched ballistic missile used for launching satellites into orbit. It is based on the R-29R designed by State Rocket Center Makayev and related to the Shtil' Launch Vehicle . The Volna is a 3-stage launch vehicle that uses liquid propellant. The warhead section is used for the payloads that can be either put into orbit with the help of an additional boost engine or travel along a sub-orbital trajectory to be recovered at the landing site. Volna can be launched from Delta III-class submarine or from land based facilities.White Sea
The White Sea (Russian: Белое море, Béloye móre; Karelian and Finnish: Vienanmeri, lit. Dvina Sea; Nenets: Сэрако ямʼ, Serako yam) is a southern inlet of the Barents Sea located on the northwest coast of Russia. It is surrounded by Karelia to the west, the Kola Peninsula to the north, and the Kanin Peninsula to the northeast. The whole of the White Sea is under Russian sovereignty and considered to be part of the internal waters of Russia. Administratively, it is divided between Arkhangelsk and Murmansk Oblasts and the Republic of Karelia.
The major port of Arkhangelsk is located on the White Sea. For much of Russia's history this was Russia's main centre of international maritime trade, conducted by the Pomors ("seaside settlers") from Kholmogory. In the modern era it became an important Soviet naval and submarine base. The White Sea–Baltic Canal connects the White Sea with the Baltic Sea.
The White Sea is one of the four seas named in English after common colour terms — the others being the Black Sea, the Red Sea, and the Yellow Sea.Yuzhny Island
Yuzhny (Russian: Южный, lit. southern) is the southern island of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, lying north of Russia. It has an area of 33,275 square kilometres (12,800 sq mi), which while smaller than the northern island of Severny, makes it one of the largest islands in the world. It is separated from Severny Island by the narrow Matochkin Strait, which is covered with ice most of the year. West of Yuzhny Island lies the Barents Sea, and to the east the Kara Sea.
Originally home to the Nenets people, the island was largely evacuated in the 1950s to make way for nuclear weapons testing.