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Kamchatka Peninsula: Volcanoes, Valley of Geysers and Valley of Death
September 15, 2009 10:47

To begin with, a little geography. Kamchatka, one of the most outstanding volcanic regions in the world, is a peninsula in the north-east of the Eurasia. It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west. The spine of the peninsula is the Kamchatka or Central Range. Along the southeast cost is the Vostochny or Eastern Range. Between these is the central valley. The Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands, and Karaginsky Island as well are parts of the Kamchatka Territory. Kamchatka is famous with its Volcanoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 12% active volcanoes in the world are situated on the Kamchatka peninsula. The second thing, drawing the interest to this place, is the Valley of Geysers, equal in beauties to geysers of Island and ones of Yellowstone Park and New Zealand as well. Moreover, a strange and grim Valley of Death is also situated there.

Volcanoes of Kamchatka are a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Although many volcanoes are active, their eruptions usually are not destructive. A considerable part of them is situated mainly along the Kamchatka River. The large volcanic belts flanking the valley, surrounding the river, include 160 volcanoes, and 29 of them are the active ones. Total amount of the volcanoes, which are situated on the Kamchatka Territory, reaches 300. Volcanoes leave an unforgettable impression on everybody, they are unbelievably beautiful, but the most effective are tree ones: Kluchevskoy, Koryaksky and Kronotsky volcanoes, the absolute heights of them are 4,750 m, 3,456 m and 3,528 m respectively). Each of them could pretend to be a symbol of all the Kamchatka volcanoes.

Kluchevskoy is the biggest active volcano in Eurasia - 4,750m over the sea level. It has a perfect, incredibly beautiful cone. It forms the Kluchevskaya group of volcanoes together with Kamen (Stone), Bezymyanny (Unnamed), Plosky (Flat) Tolbachik. Kluchevskoy is about 8,000 years old. The first registered eruption took place in 1697. In average, the eruptions took place every five years, at certain time periods they happened annually, and sometimes there were continuos eruptions lasting for a number of years. However, they have never imposed a severe danger upon the inhabitants of Kluchi, which is situated in 30 km from it. Koryak is stratospheric volcano with perfect rib cone. Its height is 3456 m above the sea level. The cone is covered with glaciers. The steam vents lie near the top, and the rocks at those places are changed to colored clay with abundant deposit of sulphur, gyps, ammonia etc.

Kronotsky volcano looks maybe the most effective, glassing in the largest lake of Kamchatka. Except these ones, the Uzon Caldera is worth to see. The Uzon Caldera (a ring-like hollow) developed 40 thousand years ago on the place of a huge volcano, which was destroyed by a set of bursting eruptions. The last cataclysm inside the caldera (8,500 years ago) left its trace as a blasting crater about one kilometer in diameter. The following centuries of intensive hydro-thermal activity have developed a unique symbiosis of volcanoes and wildlife in Uzon. Being a part of the Kronotsky nature reserve, it is registered as a natural site specially cared for.

The Uzon Caldera is about 10 km in diameter, and inside it, behind steep walls, a complete "museum" collection of everything that Kamchatka is famous for is situated: hot sources and cold rivers, poisonous mud cauldrons and pure lakes full of fish, a berry tundra and a birch forest, mountains and bogs, animals and birds.

The Valley of Geysers is a part of the Kronotsky nature reserve, a world miracle, detected by chance. The valley is difficult to reach, with helicopters providing the only feasible means of transport. The Valley of Geysers is the only geyser field in Eurasia (apart from the Mutnovsky geyser field on the same peninsula) and the second largest concentration of geysers in the world. This 6 km long basin with approximately ninety geysers and many hot springs is situated on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East, predominantly on the left bank of the ever-deepening Geysernaya River. The "pulsating" geysers of Kamchatka were discovered by a local scientist, Tatiana Ustinova, in 1941. She published her findings fourteen years later, but there was little exploration of the area until 1972. A systematic survey was undertaken in the mid-1970s, and an automatic monitoring system was introduced in 1990. Over thirty geysers were given names; among these was the geyser Velikan (Giant), it can produce a jet of water reaching up to 40 meters. Some geysers function every 10-12 minutes, others erupt once in 4-5 hours. The wreathes of steam, fountains of boiling water, incredible colors of slopes, hot water streaming along them and profuse greenery of grasses and trees create an enchanting spectacle. The traveler should, however keep in mind, that this place is not safe. The most dangerous spots in the Valley of geysers are covered with grass looking harmless. A burning hot slush can be under this grass. The acid can attack your trousers, when you sit down on the stone. But the places, where wormwood grows, are usually safe. A massive mudflow on the June 3, 2007 swept away two thirds of the valley, now only some of the geysers are active.

The Valley of Death is a small place in the upper reaches of the Geysernaya River. The toxic gases and volatile substances are killing the animals, birds and even the people, coming there by accident.



Yulia Buzykina

Tags: Kamchatka     

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