Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kamchatka Peninsula

Okay, so this is more about the volcanos located ON the peninsula than the actual peninsula, but can you blame me?


"The 1,200 kilometer (km) - long Kamchatka peninsula is almost an island running north-south between the north Pacific and the Sea of Okhotsk. Its southern half is formed mainly by two parallel mountain ranges The western, Sredinniy range in the west center of the island, is of dormant shield and strato-volcanoes of which Ichinskiy (still active) is by far the highest. The eastern Vostochniy range which parallels the sea with nearly 30 young volcanoes, has the greatest concentration of active vulcanism in Eurasia. Between the ranges is the wide Kamchatka river valley out of which, to the north of the eastern range, rises the highest group, the Klyuchevskaya range.

This 700 km-long volcanic belt is the surface expression of the northwesterly subduction by 8-10 centimeters (cm) a year of the Pacific Ocean plate under the Eurasian plate and shows a complete range of the vulcanism characteristic of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Since 1690 some 200 eruptions have been recorded. The peninsula has some 300 volcanoes of which 33 are currently active, most of explosive character and many of perfect pyramidal form. 34 of these and the 13 most active volcanoes on Kamchatka occur in the heritage areas. Most of them are basaltic composite stratocones and andesite stratovolcanoes; some are shield volcanoes. There are also calderas, scoriae cones, lava streams, cinder fields, over 160 thermal and mineral springs, geysers, solfataras, mud pots and many other volcanic features.

The Klyuchevskaya range has three of the highest and most active peaks. Klyuchevskoy itself is Eurasia's highest and most active volcano after Etna, and still growing: its 1988 height was 4,750 m; in 2002 it was 4,835 m. It has erupted 25 times in the last 50 years and still erupts regularly, creating a wilderness of ash and lava. Its magma flow of about 60 million tonnes per year is half of all that produced by the intensely active Kuriliy-Kamchatka region. It has a variety of features: several lateral craters, shield volcanoes, scoriae and lava cones, extrusive domes and huge detached rocks. Despite this, the Klyuchevskaya group is the largest center of glaciation in Kamchatka, with 47 glaciers covering 269 square kilometers (km2), the largest being the Erman glacier which continues to advance at 30-50 m per year. Two glaciation periods during the Pleistocene influenced much of its landscape, creating cirques, hanging valleys, u-shaped valleys, moraines and glacial till and almost all the types of ice formation common in volcanic areas. The drainage network of the Reserve consists of many dry-rivers, typical of volcanic regions, which are formed by the low water-holding capacity of the substrate. These only fully flow in the spring and after catastrophic snowmelt during eruptions.

Bystrinskiy Zakaznik in the Sredinniy range has quaternary volcanic formations in various states of conservation. Kronotskiy National Reserve is a rugged landscape with 12 active volcanoes and some 800 lakes, which also extends over 5 km of coastal waters. The Uzon caldera within it is an enormous bowl 10 km across with sides rising to 900 m and constant hydrothermal activity on its floor. The nearby spectacular Valley of the Geysers has 20 large geysers, over 100 hot springs, some with thermophilic algae, pulsating water funnels, mud cauldrons, poisonous miasmas, fumaroles, cascades, turquoise lakes and multicolored algae fields. Nalychevo Zakaznik lies in a volcanic complex; on the upper reaches of the Nalychevo River is a 40 square kilometer depression with a great number of hot and cold mineral springs. The Southern Kamchatka Zakazniks include lava tableland formed during eruptions and volcanic cones, ten of Kamchatka's most active volcanoes with a wide range of geothermal activity and coastal habitats. Volcanic rocks throughout the protected areas are formed of basalts, andesite-basalts, andesites and andesite-dacites. Other features are eroded accumulations of volcanic ash, foothills, piedmont plains and coastal lowlands, Below the ash-covered slopes, soils are tundra gley, forest-tundra and brown forest types, podzols and peat. River valleys are thickly covered with fertile volcanic alluvium.

But the volcanic area is also one of the most pristine parts of the peninsula. The Klyuchevskaya group is beautiful as well as dangerous. Most of Bystrinskiy Zakaznik in the Sredinniy range is a mosaic of different mountain landscapes. Kronotskiy National Reserve, near the north end of the eastern range, is famous for its scenery. Lake Kronotskiy and Lake Kurilskoe (in the far south), are both very scenic and important fish spawning habitats. Nalychevo Zakaznik just north of the capital city has vigorous glaciers and good hunting and fish spawning grounds. The uninhabited Southwest Tundra Zakaznik is covered with lakes, pools and peat very attractive to migrant waterfowl. The South Kamchatka and South Kamchatka State Zakazniks encompass active glaciation, wild unpolluted rivers and a spectacular coastline with several islands, deltas and wide swampy estuaries."

How amazing would it be to visit this place?

No comments: