Chukchi Sea

Chukchi Sea (Russian: Чуко́тское мо́ре, tr. Chukotskoye more, IPA: [tɕʊˈkotskəjə ˈmorʲɪ]), sometimes referred to as the Chukotsk Sea[4] or the Sea of Chukotsk,[5] is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the 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.

Chukchi Sea
Chukchi Sea
Coordinates69°N 172°W / 69°N 172°WCoordinates: 69°N 172°W / 69°N 172°W
Basin countriesRussia, United States
Surface area620,000 km2 (240,000 sq mi)
Average depth80 m (260 ft)
Water volume50,000 km3 (4.1×1010 acre⋅ft)


Chukchi Sea
Spring breakup of sea ice on the Chukchi Sea.

The sea has an approximate area of 595,000 km2 (230,000 sq mi) and is only navigable about four months of the year. The main geological feature of the Chukchi Sea bottom is the 700-kilometre-long (430 mi) Hope Basin, which is bound to the northeast by the Herald Arch. Depths less than 50 meters (160 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.


The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the "Chuckchi Sea" [sic] as follows:[6]

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 mainland (176°40′E)].

On the North. A line from Point Barrow, Alaska (71°20′N 156°20′W / 71.333°N 156.333°W) 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.

Chukchi Sea Shelf

The Chukchi Sea Shelf is the westernmost part of the continental shelf of the United States and the easternmost part of the continental shelf of Russia. Within this shelf, the 50-mile (80 km) Chukchi Corridor acts as a passageway for one of the largest marine mammal migrations in the world. Species that have been documented migrating through this corridor include the bowhead whale, beluga whale, Pacific walrus, and bearded seals[7][8][9]


Standing on the Chukchi Sea
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 Chelyuskin sailed from Murmansk, east bound to attempt a transit of the Northern Sea Route to the Pacific, in order to demonstrate such a transit could be achieved in one season. The vessel became beset in heavy ice in the Chukchi Sea, and after drifting with the ice for over two months, was crushed and sank on 13 February 1934 near Kolyuchin Island. Apart from one fatality, her entire complement of 104 was able to establish a camp on the sea ice. The Soviet government organised an impressive aerial evacuation, under which all were rescued. 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 large mass of organic material was found floating in the sea off the northwest Alaskan coast. Analysis by the U.S. Coast Guard has identified it as a large body of algal bloom.

On 15 October 2010, Russian scientists opened a floating polar research station in the Chukchi 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.[10]


Operational Navigation Chart C-8, 2nd edition
Defense Mapping Agency topographical map of the Chukchi Sea, 1973

The polar bears living on the pack ice of the Chukchi Sea are one of the five genetically distinct Eurasian populations of the species.[11]


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.[12]

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 drew considerable criticism from environmentalists.[13] In 2015, the Obama administration's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave a conditional approval for Shell Oil to drill in shallow (140 ft [43 m] deep) Chukchi Sea waters.[14] In September 2015, Shell announced that it was ending its oil exploration in the region, citing tremendous cost and declining oil prices.[15] Shell vowed to return, but eventually gave up all but one of the corporation's leases in the Arctic.[16]

See also


  1. ^ R. Stein, Arctic Ocean Sediments: Processes, Proxies, and Paleoenvironment, p. 37
  2. ^ Beaufort Sea, Great Soviet Encyclopedia (in Russian)
  3. ^ Beaufort Sea, Encyclopædia Britannica on-line
  4. ^ Seas and Oceans: The Chukotsk Sea
  5. ^ "Race against time to save ice-bound ships". The Times (61664). London. 15 October 1983. col D, p. 6.
  6. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  7. ^ Quakenbush L., R. Small, and J. Citta, "Satellite tracking of bowhead whales: Movements and analysis from 2006 to 2012", Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Outer Continental Shelf Study, 2013. Retrieved 16-09-2016.
  8. ^ Suydam R., F. Lowry, and K. Frost, "Distribution and Movements of Beluga Whales from the Eastern Chukchi Sea Stock During Summer and Early Autumn", Coastal Marine Institute and US Department of Interior, Minerals Management Service, 2005. Retrieved 16-09-2016.
  9. ^ Berchok C., J. Crance, E. Garlan, J. Mocklin, P. Stabeno, J. Napp, B. Rone, A. Spear, M. Wang, and C. Clark, "Chukchi Offshore Monitoring In Drilling Area (COMIDA): Factors Affecting the Distribution and Relative Abundance of Endangered Whales and Other Marine Mammals in the Chukchi Sea", Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Outer Continental Shelf Study, 2015. Retrieved 16-09-2016.
  10. ^ Russian Drifting Polar Station SP-38 Opens In Chukchi Sea, RIA Novosti, 8 November 2010
  11. ^ C. Michael Hogan (2008) Polar Bear: Ursus maritimus,, ed. N. Stromberg Archived December 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^
  13. ^ "'Chukchi Sea Lease Sale Is a Risky Fix for Our Oil Addiction' (Anchorage News, February 8, 2008)". Archived from the original on July 19, 2009. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
  14. ^ Davenport, Coral (11 May 2015). "Administration Gives Conditional Approval for Shell to Drill in Arctic". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  15. ^
  16. ^

Further reading

External links

A. Sibiryakov (icebreaker)

A. Sibiryakov (Russian Александр Сибиряков) was a Soviet icebreaker which was active in the Russian Arctic during the 1930s. She was built in 1909 in Glasgow and was originally the Newfoundland sealing steamer Bellaventure. After being purchased by Russia in 1916, she was renamed A. Sibiryakov. Her Russian name was chosen in honour of Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Sibiryakov, an Imperial Russian gold mine proprietor. Sibiryakov financed explorations to Siberia, such as Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld's, and also took part in some expeditions of his own.

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (often shortened to Alaska Maritime or AMNWR) is a United States National Wildlife Refuge comprising 2,400 islands, headlands, rocks, islets, spires and reefs in Alaska, with a total area of 4.9 million acres (20,000 km2), of which 2.64 million acres (10,700 km2) is wilderness. The refuge stretches from Cape Lisburne on the Chukchi Sea to the tip of the Aleutian Islands in the west and Forrester Island in the southern Alaska Panhandle region in the east. The refuge has diverse landforms and terrains, including tundra, rainforest, cliffs, volcanoes, beaches, lakes, and streams.

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is well known for its abundance of seabirds. About 75 percent of Alaskan native marine birds, 15 to 30 million among 55 species, use the refuge. AMNWR also provides a nesting habitat for an estimated 40 million seabirds, representing 80 percent of all seabirds in North America. The birds congregate in "bird cities" (colonies) along the coast. Each species has a specialized nesting site (rock ledge, crevice, boulder rubble, pinnacle, or burrow). Other animals present in this refuge include caribou, sea lions, bears, coyotes, seals, Canadian lynxes, beavers, foxes, muskrats, wolf packs, moose, walrus, river otters, marten, whales, Dall sheep and sea otters.

The administrative headquarters and visitor center are located in Homer, Alaska. In 1968, Simeonof National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

Alaska North Slope

The Alaska North Slope is the region of the U.S. state of Alaska located on the northern slope of the Brooks Range along the coast of two marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean, the Chukchi Sea being on the western side of Point Barrow, and the Beaufort Sea on the eastern.

Washington Post

Chukchi Peninsula

The Chukchi Peninsula (also Chukotka Peninsula or Chukotski Peninsula) (Russian: Чуко́тский полуо́стров, Russian: Чуко́тка), at about 66° N 172° W, is the easternmost peninsula of Asia. Its eastern end is at Cape Dezhnev near the village of Uelen. It is bordered by the Chukchi Sea to the north, the Bering Sea to the south, and the Bering Strait to the east. The peninsula is part of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of Russia. The peninsula is traditionally the home of tribes of the indigenous peoples of Siberia as well as some Russian settlers.

The peninsula lies along the Northern Sea Route, or Northeast passage. It was said to be the location of the prison camp/lead mine where Cornelius Rost claimed to have been imprisoned, as described in the book "As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me," by Josef Martin Bauer. However, the existence of such a camp at that time has been refuted.Industries on the peninsula are mining (tin, lead, zinc, gold, and coal), hunting and trapping, reindeer raising, and fishing.

Chukchi people

The Chukchi, or Chukchee (Russian: Чукчи, sg. Чукча), are an indigenous people inhabiting the Chukchi Peninsula and the shores of the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea region of the Arctic Ocean within the Russian Federation. They speak the Chukchi language. The Chukchi originated from the people living around the Okhotsk Sea. According to most recent genomic research ("Who we are and how we got here. Ancient DNA and the New Science of the human past", by David Reich. Pantheon books, New York, 2018), Chukchi people are the closest cousins of the First Americans in Asia.

Diomede Islands

The Diomede Islands (; Russian: острова́ Диоми́да, ostrová Diomída), also known in Russia as Gvozdev Islands (Russian: острова́ Гво́здева, ostrová Gvozdjeva), consist of two rocky, mesa-like islands:

The Russian island of Big Diomede (part of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug), also known as Imaqliq, Inaliq, Nunarbuk or Ratmanov Island

The U.S. island of Little Diomede (part of Alaska) or Ignaluk, also known as Krusenstern IslandThe Diomede Islands are located in the middle of the Bering Strait between mainland Alaska and Siberia, which borders the Chukchi Sea to the north and the Bering Sea to the south. 9.3 km (5.8 mi) to the southeast is Fairway Rock, which is generally not considered part of the Diomede Islands. Because they are separated by the International Date Line, Big Diomede is almost a day ahead of Little Diomede, but not completely; due to locally defined time zones, Big Diomede is only 21 hours ahead of Little Diomede (20 in summer; not 23 or 24 hours ahead, which is a common misconception). Because of this, the islands are sometimes called Tomorrow Island (Big Diomede) and Yesterday Island (Little Diomede).

Fyodor Matyushkin

Fyodor Fyodorovich Matyushkin (Матюшкин, Федор Федорович in Russian) (7.10(21).1799 — 9.16(28).1872) was a Russian navigator, Admiral (1867), and a close friend of Aleksandr Pushkin.

Matyushkin graduated from Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum in 1817. After having volunteered for the navy, he participated in Vassili Golovnin's world cruise on the ship Kamchatka in 1817—1819.

In 1820—1824, Matyushkin took part in Ferdinand Wrangel's Arctic expedition to the East Siberian Sea and the Chukchi Sea. They explored and mapped Chetyrekhstolbovoy Island, the southernmost of the Medvyezhi Islands, then an almost unknown island group. Following this survey Matyushkin explored on his own a vast tundra area east of the Kolyma river and collected valuable ethnographic data.

In 1825—1827, he joined Ferdinand von Wrangel in his world cruise on the ship Krotky. In 1828—1829, Matyushkin took part in the Russo-Turkish war, commanding different military vessels. In 1835, he served in the Black Sea Fleet, in 1850—1851 — in the Baltic Fleet. Starting from 1852, Matyushkin worked in the Department of the Navy as an admiral. In 1858, he was appointed Chairman of the Naval Scientific Committee. In 1861, Matyushkin became a senator.

Georgy Brusilov

Georgy Lvovich Brusilov (Russian: Гео́ргий Льво́вич Бруси́лов) or Hryhoriy Brusylov (May 19, 1884 in Nikolayev, Russian Empire (now Mykolaiv, Ukraine) – 1914?) was a Russian naval officer of the Imperial Russian Navy and an Arctic explorer. His father, Lev Brusilov, was also a naval officer.

In 1912 Brusilov led a maritime expedition which was intended to explore and map a route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific via a northeast passage, also called the Northern Sea Route. His expedition disappeared almost without a trace, and despite searches its ultimate fate was unknown until 2010.

Henry Kellett

Vice Admiral Sir Henry Kellett (2 November 1806 – 1 March 1875) was a British naval officer and explorer.

Kotzebue Sound

Kotzebue Sound (Russian: Залив Коцебу) is an arm of the Chukchi Sea in the western region of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is on the north side of the Seward Peninsula and bounded the east by the Baldwin Peninsula. It is 100 miles (160 km) long and 70 miles (110 km) wide.

Kotzebue Sound is located in the transitional climate zone, which is characterized by long, cold winters and cool summers. The average low temperature during January is −12 °F (−24 °C); the average high during July is 58 °F (14 °C). Temperature extremes have been measured from −52 °F (−47 °C) to 85 °F (29 °C). Snowfall averages 40 inches (1,016 mm), with total precipitation of 9 inches (229 mm) per year. Kotzebue Sound is ice-free from early July until early October.

The towns of Kotzebue, Kiwalik and Deering are on the shores of Kotzebue Sound. Kotzebue Sound was explored and named in 1816 by Baltic German Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue while searching for the Northeast Passage in the service of Russia.

Naukan people

The Naukan, also known as the Naukanski, are a Siberian Yupik people and an indigenous people of Siberia. They live in the Chukotka Autonomous Region of eastern Russia.

Noatak River

The Noatak River is a stream in the northwestern part of the U.S. state of Alaska.

Nome Census Area, Alaska

Nome Census Area is a census area located in the U.S. state of Alaska, mostly overlapping with the Seward Peninsula. As of the 2010 census, the population was 9,492. It is part of the unorganized borough and therefore has no borough seat. Its largest community by far is the city of Nome.

North Slope Borough, Alaska

North Slope Borough, established in 1972, is an Alaskan borough bounded on the south by the Brooks Range and located largely in the North Slope region of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is the northernmost formal community on the North American continent. As of the 2010 census, the population was 9,430. The borough seat is Utqiagvik. The mayor is Harry K. Brower, Jr., first elected in a special election in July 2016 after recall of the previous mayor by an April 2016 election.

Northwest Arctic Borough, Alaska

Northwest Arctic Borough is a borough located in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,523. The borough seat is Kotzebue. The borough was formed on June 2, 1986.

Taymyr (1909 icebreaker)

The Taymyr was an icebreaking steamer of 1200 tons built for the Russian Imperial Navy at St. Petersburg in 1909. It was named after the Taymyr Peninsula.

Taymyr and her sister ship Vaygach were built for the purpose of thoroughly exploring the uncharted areas of the Northern Sea Route. This venture became known as the Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition.

The blob (Chukchi Sea algae)

The blob was the name given to a large black algae bloom that was first spotted floating in the Chukchi Sea between the Alaskan cities of Wainwright and Utqiaġvik in July 2009.

Vaygach (1909 icebreaker)

Icebreaker Vaygach (Russian: Вайгач) was an icebreaking steamer of moderate size built for the Russian Imperial Navy at St. Petersburg in 1909. She was named after Vaygach Island in the Russian Arctic.

Vaygach and her sister ship Taymyr were built for the purpose of thoroughly exploring the uncharted areas of the Northern Sea Route. This venture became known as the Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition.

The first of a series of surveys began in the autumn of 1910, when Vaygach and Taymyr left Vladivostok. They entered the Chukchi Sea with scientists on board and began their exploration. For the next five years, these icebreakers went on sounding and carrying on vital surveys during the thaw. Before every winter, when ice conditions became too bad, they returned to Vladivostok and waited for the spring. In 1911 the scientists and crew aboard Vaygach and Taymyr made the first Russian landing on Wrangel Island.

In 1914, led by Colonel I. Sergeev, Vaygach sailed together with Taymyr, whose captain was Boris Vilkitsky. Together, they tried to force the whole Northern Passage in order to reach Archangelsk. Severe weather and ice conditions, however, did not allow them to cross the Kara Sea and they were forced to winter at Bukhta Dika, close to the Firnley Islands. Thus they were able to complete the passage only in 1915.

Some of the biggest successes of the expedition were the accurate charting of the Northern Sea Route and the discovery of Severnaya Zemlya in 1913. Taymyr and Vaygach were considered the best icebreakers in the world at the time.

Vladimir Voronin (captain)

Vladimir Ivanovich Voronin (Russian: Владимир Иванович Воронин; October 17, 1890 – October 18, 1952)

was a Soviet Navy captain, born in Sumsky Posad, in the present Republic of Karelia, Russia. In 1932 he commanded the expedition of the Soviet icebreaker Alexander Sibiryakov which made the first successful crossing of the Northern Sea Route in a single navigation without wintering. This voyage was organized by the All-Union Arctic Institute (presently known as the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute).

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