The East Siberian Sea (Russian: Восто́чно-Сиби́рское мо́ре, tr. Vostochno-Sibirskoye more) is a marginal sea in the Arctic Ocean. It is located between the Arctic Cape to the north, the coast of Siberia to the south, the New Siberian Islands to the west and Cape Billings, close to Chukotka, and Wrangel Island to the east. This sea borders on the Laptev Sea to the west and the Chukchi Sea to the east.
This sea is one of the least studied in the Arctic area. It is characterized by severe climate, low water salinity, and a scarcity of flora, fauna and human population, as well as shallow depths (mostly less than 50 m), slow sea currents, low tides (below 25 cm), frequent fogs, especially in summer, and an abundance of ice fields which fully melt only in August–September. The sea shores were inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous tribes of Yukaghirs, Chukchi and then Evens and Evenks, which were engaged in fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry. They were then absorbed by Yakuts and later by Russians.
Major industrial activities in the area are mining and navigation within the Northern Sea Route; commercial fishing is poorly developed. The largest city and port is Pevek, the northernmost city of mainland Russia.
|East Siberian Sea|
|Surface area||987,000 km2 (381,000 sq mi)|
|Average depth||58 m (190 ft)|
|Max. depth||155 m (509 ft)|
|Water volume||57,000 km3 (4.6×1010 acre⋅ft)|
|Frozen||Most of the year|
The present name was assigned to the sea on 27 June 1935 by Decree of the Soviet Government. Before that, the sea had no distinct name was intermixedly called in Russia as "Indigirskoe", "Kolymskoe", "Severnoe" (Northern), "Sibirskoe" or "Ledovitoe".
On the West. The Eastern limit of Laptev Sea [From the Northern extremity of Kotelni Island – through Kotelni Island to Cape Madvejyi. Then through Malyi Island, to Cape Vaguin on Great Liakhov Island. Thence to Cape Sviaroy Noss on the main land].
On the North. A line from the Northernmost point of Wrangel Island (179°30'W) to the Northern sides of the De Long Islands (including Henrietta and Jeannette Islands) and Bennett Island, thence to the Northern extremity of Kotelni Island.
On the East. From the Northernmost point of Wrangel Island through this island to Cape Blossom thence to Cape Yakan on the main land (176°40'E).
Because it is open towards the Arctic Ocean in the north, the main gulfs of the East Siberian Sea, like the Kolyma Bay, the Kolyma Gulf and the Chaunskaya Bay, are all located in its southern limits. There are no islands in the middle of the East Siberian Sea, but there are a few islands and island groups in its coastal waters, like Ayon Island and the Medvyezhi island group. The total area of the islands is only 80 km2. Some islands mostly consist of sand and ice and gradually erode.
The total catchment area is 1,342,000 km2. Among the rivers flowing into the East Siberian Sea, the Indigirka, Alazeya, Uyandina, Chukochya, Kolyma, Rauchua, Chaun, and Pegtymel are the most important. Only a few rivers are navigable. The coastline of the sea is 3,016 km long. It makes large bends, sometimes stretching deep into the land, and has a rather different topography in the eastern and western parts. Fine bends are rare and occur only in the river deltas. The coastal section between the New Siberian Islands and the mouth of the Kolyma River is uniform, with low and slowly varying slopes. It extends landwards to the marshy tundra filled with numerous small lakes. In contrast, the coast to the east of the Kolyma River is mountainous, with steep cliffs.
The underwater topography of the shelf that forms the seabed is a plain, sloping from southwest to northeast, covered in a mixture of silt, sand and stones and lacking significant depressions and elevations. About 70% of the sea is shallower than 50 m, with predominant depths of 20–25 m. North-east to the mouth of the Kolyma and Indigirka rivers, there are deep trenches on the seabed, which are attributed to the ancient river valleys, now submerged by the sea. The region of small depths in the western part forms the Novosibirsk shoal. The greatest depths of about 150 m are found in the north-eastern part of the sea.
The climate is polar and is influenced by the continent and Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In winter, it is mostly affected by the continent. South-westerly and southerly winds having the speeds of 6–7 m/s (15 mph, 25 km/h) bring cold air from Siberia, so the average temperature in January is approximately −30 °C. The weather is calm, clear and stable with occasional intrusions by cyclones. Atlantic cyclones increase the wind speed and air temperature whereas Pacific ones bring clouds, storms and blizzards.
The winds blow from the north in summer; they are weak in June, strengthen to 6–7 m/s (15 mph, 25 km/h) in July and reach 10–15 m/s (33 mph, 50 km/h) in August, making the western part of the sea one of the most violent areas on the northern Russian coast. The southeastern part is however much calmer. Northerly winds result in the low average temperatures of 0–1 °C in the open sea and 2–3 °C on the coast in July. Skies are usually cloudy, with frequent drizzling rains or wet snow. Along the coasts, fogs occur 90–100 days per year, mostly in summer (68–75 days). Precipitation is low at 100–200 mm per year, but it is still larger than the evaporation volume.
The continental runoff into the East Siberian Sea is relatively small at about 250 km3/year that makes only 10% of the total runoff in all the Arctic seas of Russia. The largest contribution is from the Kolyma River at 132 km3, followed by the Indigirka River at 59 km3. Most runoff (90%) occurs in summer; it is concentrated near the coast, owing to the weak river currents, and therefore does not significantly affect the sea hydrology. The water exchange between the neighboring seas is as follows. The annual outflow to the Laptev Sea, Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean is 3,240, 6,600 and 11,430 km3, respectively; while the respective inflow values are 3,240, 8,800 and 9,230 km3.
The surface water temperature decreases from south to north. In winter it varies between −0.2 and 0.6 °C at the river deltas and from −1.7 to −1.8 °C in the northern sea part. In summer, it warms to 7–8 °C in the bays and inlets and to 2–3 °C in the ice-free sea zones.
Surface water salinity increases from southwest to northeast. In winter and spring, it is 4–5‰ (parts per thousand) near the deltas of the Kolyma and Indigirka rivers. It increases to 28–30‰ in the sea centre, reaching 31–32‰ at its northern outskirts. Salinity decreases in summer by some 5‰ due to the snow melting. It also decreases by some 5–7‰ from the sea bottom to the surface.
There are constant currents at the sea surface directed from west to east. They are weak and thus can temporarily change direction due to the wind. The tides are semidiurnal (rising twice a day) with the amplitude between 5 and 25 cm. The tidal wave weakens toward the coast due to shallow waters. The sea level is maximal in summer, due to the river runoff, and in autumn due to the winds. It is the lowest in March–April, with the total annual fluctuations within about 70 cm. Winds bring storms with waves reaching 3–5 m in the western part whereas the eastern regions are relatively calm. The storms typically last 1–2 days in summer; they are more frequent in winter and may extend up to 3–5 days.
The sea freezes over between October–November and June–July. The ice is continuous and stationary near the coast, reaching the thickness of 2 m by the end of winter; The thickness decreases from west to east. Further into the sea, the ice cover transforms into drifting ice having the thickness of 2–3 m. The southern winter winds shift this ice northwards, making polynyas near the sea centre. There are no icebergs in the sea. Ice melting typically starts around May, first around the delta of the major Kolyma River.
In absence of industry, sea water is rather clean. Minor contaminations are found near the Novosibirsk and Wrangel islands (up to 80 µg/L), due to occasional oil spills, and in Chaunskaya Bay due to the local thermal power station and activities at the major port Pevek.
Flora and fauna are relatively scarce due to the harsh climate. The summer plankton bloom is short but intense, producing 5 million tonnes of plankton in August and September, whereas the annual production is 7 million tonnes. The nutrients in water are mostly provided by river discharges and coastal erosion. The plankton species are dominated by the Pacific species of copepods.
The sea shores and icefields host ringed seals (Phoca hispida), bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) and walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) along with their predator, polar bear (Ursus maritimus). Birds include seagulls, uria and cormorants. Sea waters are often visited by bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) and narwhal (Monodon monoceros). Major fish species are grayling and Coregonus (whitefishes), such as muksun (Coregonus muksun), broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus) and omul (Coregonus autumnalis). Also common are polar smelt, saffron cod, polar cod, flounder and Arctic char.
The coast of the East Siberian Sea was inhabited for ages by the native peoples of northern Siberia such as Yukaghirs and Chukchi (eastern areas). Those tribes were engaged in fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry, as reindeer sleds were essential for transportation and hunting. They were joined and absorbed by Evens and Evenks around the 2nd century and later, between 9th and 15th centuries, by much more numerous Yakuts. All those tribes moved north from the Baikal Lake area avoiding confrontations with Mongols. Whereas they all practised shamanism, they spoke different languages.
The sea was navigated by Russian sea-farers, moving from one river mouth to another in their kochs as early as the 17th century. In 1648, Semyon Dezhnev and Fedot Alekseev sailed the coast of the East Siberian Sea from the Kolyma to river Anadyr in the Bering Sea. Systematic exploration and mapping of the sea and its coasts was carried out by a series of expeditions in 1735–42, 1820–24, 1822, 1909 and 1911–14.
In the 1930s, the coastal settlement of Ambarchik, located at the delta of the Kolyma River, was used as a transient labor camp from which prisoners were transported to other northern camps of the Gulag system. While stationed at Ambarchik, prisoners were employed to build most of the port infrastructure and to unload the incoming ships. Later, due to shallow waters, the shipping was gradually transferred to Chersky in the lower reaches of the Kolyma, in order to accommodate larger vessels. As a result of this transfer, the port and settlement have been abandoned. Nowadays, Ambarchik only hosts a meteorological station operated by a few staff members.
Another two labour camps of the Gulag system were later opened near Pevek, namely Chaunlag (1951–1953) and Chaunchukotlag (1949–1957). Both contained about 10,000 inmates used in the mine and construction works.
The southern coast of the sea is shared by the Sakha Republic on the west and Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of Russia on the east. The coastal settlements are few and small, with the typical population below 100. The only city is Pevek (population 5,206), which is the northernmost city in Russia. There are gold mines near Leningradsky and Pevek, but many mines have been closed recently, for example, tin mines at Pevek in the 1990s, that resulted in outflow of population. So, the Logashkino settlement, which used to be a notable East Siberian Sea port, was abolished in 1998.
The sea is used mostly for transportation of goods across the northern coast of Russia during August–September. The navigation is hindered even in summer by the remaining floating ice which is also brought down to the southern shores by occasional winds. Fishery and hunting of marine animals is still practised as traditional activities, but has only local importance. Fishery mostly targets salmon, halibut and crab. Data exist on fish production, which in 2005 was distributed, in thousand tonnes as follows: sardine (1.6), Arctic cisco (1.8), Bering cisco (2.2), broad whitefish (2.7), Muksun (2.8) and others (3.6).
The principal port is Pevek (in the Chaunskaya Bay) After the breakup of the Soviet Union, commercial navigation in the Arctic went into decline. Nowadays more or less regular shipping occurs only between Pevek and Vladivostok. Ports in the northern Siberian coast located between Dudinka and Pevek see next to no shipping at all.
Since 1944, most electricity for the region is provided by the 30 MW thermal power station of Pevek. It is ageing and consumes much oil which has to be brought from far away. Therefore, there was a project to replace the station by a floating 70 MW atomic power station by 2015. (failed) 
The 70th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 70 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane, in the Arctic. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Asia and North America, and passes through some of the southern seas of the Arctic Ocean.
At this latitude the sun is visible for 24 hours, 0 minutes during the summer solstice and Civil Twilight during the winter solstice.75th parallel north
The 75th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 75 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane, in the Arctic. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Asia, the Arctic Ocean and North America.Anzhu Islands
The Anzhu Islands or Anjou Islands (Russian: острова Анжу, Yakut: Анжу арыылара) are an archipelago and geographical subgroup of the New Siberian Islands archipelago. They are located between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea in the Russian Arctic Ocean.Ayon Island
Ayon Island is an island in the coast of Chukotka in the East Siberian Sea. The island itself consists mainly of low-lying tundra, and is primarily populated by the Chukchi people, who use the tundra as pasture for their reindeer herds.Chaunskaya Bay
The Chaunskaya Bay or Chaun Bay (Russian: Чаунская губа) is an Arctic bay in the East Siberian Sea, in the Chaunsky District of Chukotka, northeast Siberia. There is a port at Pevek.Eduard von Toll
Eduard Gustav Freiherr von Toll (14 March [O.S. 2 March] 1858 – 1902), often referred to as Baron von Toll, was a Baltic German geologist and Arctic explorer. He was most notable for the leading Russian polar expedition of 1900–1902 of the legendary Sannikov Land. He was known as Eduárd Vasílʹevich Tollʹ in Russia (Russian: Эдуа́рд Васи́льевич Толль).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.Henrietta Island
Henrietta Island (Yakut: Хенриетта арыыта, Xenriyetta Aryyta, Russian: Остров Генриетты, Ostrov Genriyetty) is the northernmost island of the De Long archipelago in the East Siberian Sea. Administratively it belongs to the Sakha Republic of the Russian Federation.Indigirka River
The Indigirka River (Russian: Индиги́рка; Yakut: Индигиир) is a river in the Sakha Republic in Russia between the Yana River and the Kolyma River. It is 1,726 kilometres (1,072 mi) long. The area of its basin is 360,000 square kilometres (140,000 sq mi). The river flows into the Kolyma Bay, East Siberian Sea.
It freezes up in October and stays under the ice until May–June.Jeannette Island
Jeannette Island (Russian: Остров Жанне́тты, Ostrov Zhannetty) is the easternmost island of the De Long Islands archipelago in the East Siberian Sea. Administratively it belongs to the Sakha Republic of the Russian Federation.Kolyma River
The Kolyma River (Russian: Колыма́, IPA: [kəlɨˈma]) is a river in northeastern Siberia, whose basin covers parts of the Sakha Republic, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, and Magadan Oblast of Russia. It begins at the confluence of the Kulu River and the Ayan Yuryakh River and empties into the Kolyma Gulf (Kolymskiy Zaliv) of the East Siberian Sea, a division of the Arctic Ocean, at 69°30′N 161°30′E. The Kolyma is 2,129 kilometres (1,323 mi) long. The area of its basin is 644,000 square kilometres (249,000 sq mi).
The Kolyma is frozen to depths of several metres for about 250 days each year, becoming free of ice only in early June, until October. The average discharge at Kolymskoye is 3,254 m3/s (114,900 cu ft/s), with a high of 26,201 m3/s (925,300 cu ft/s) reported in June 1985, and a low of 30.6 m3/s (1,080 cu ft/s) in April 1979.Lyakhovsky Islands
The Lyakhovsky Islands (Russian: Ляховские острова, tr. Lyakhovskiye ostrova; Yakut: Ляхов арыылара) are the southernmost group of the New Siberian Islands in the arctic seas of eastern Russia.
The islands are named in honour of Ivan Lyakhov, who explored them in 1773.Medvezhyi Islands
The Medvezhyi Islands, or Bear Islands (Russian: Медве́жьи острова́; Yakut: Эhэлээх арыылар, Eheleex Arıılar) is an uninhabited group of islands at the western end of the Kolyma Gulf of the East Siberian Sea.New Siberian Islands
The New Siberian Islands (Russian: Новосиби́рские острова, tr. Novosibirskiye Ostrova; Yakut: Саҥа Сибиир арыылара, romanized: Sanga Sibiir aryylara) are an archipelago in the Extreme North of Russia, to the North of the East Siberian coast between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea north of the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic.Northern Sea Route
The Northern Sea Route (Russian: Се́верный морско́й путь, Severnyy morskoy put, shortened to Севморпуть, Sevmorput) is a shipping route officially defined by Russian legislation as lying east of Novaya Zemlya and specifically running along the Russian Arctic coast from the Kara Sea, along Siberia, to the Bering Strait. The entire route lies in Arctic waters and within Russia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Parts are free of ice for only two months per year. The overall route on Russia's side of the Arctic between North Cape and the Bering Strait has been called the Northeast Passage, analogous to the Northwest Passage on the Canada side.
While the Northeast Passage includes all the East Arctic seas and connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Northern Sea Route does not include the Barents Sea, and it therefore does not reach the Atlantic.Melting Arctic ice caps are likely to increase traffic in and the commercial viability of the Northern Sea Route. One study, for instance, projects "remarkable shifts in trade flows between Asia and Europe, diversion of trade within Europe, heavy shipping traffic in the Arctic and a substantial drop in Suez traffic. Projected shifts in trade also imply substantial pressure on an already threatened Arctic ecosystem."Vilkitsky Island (East Siberian Sea)
Vilkitsky Island (Russian: Остров Вильки́цкого; Ostrov Vilkitskogo) is the southernmost island of the De Long group in the northern part of the East Siberian Sea. Administratively Vilkitsky Island belongs to the Sakha Republic administrative division of the Russian Federation.The island is named after Russian hydrographer Boris Vilkitsky.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).Yakov Permyakov
Yakov Permyakov (Russian: Пермяков, Яков) (died 1712) was a Russian seafarer, explorer, merchant, and Cossack.
In 1710, while sailing from the Lena River to the Kolyma River, Permyakov observed the silhouette of two unknown island groups in the sea. Those islands would later be called Bolshoy Lyakhovsky and the Medvyezhi Islands.
In 1712, Permyakov and his companion Merkury Vagin crossed the Yana Bay from the mouth of the Yana to Bolshoy Lyakhovsky over the ice and explored the then unknown island.
Permyakov and Vagin were murdered on the way back from their exploration by mutineering expedition members. The cossacks took Permyakov's dead body down to the ice and set it on fire. No one knows what the rebellious cossacks did with the ashes, but Yakov Permyakov's remains were never found.