Chukchi Sea

Chukchi Sea

Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean N of the Bering Strait, between Siberia and Alaska, Wrangell Island lies to the west and the Beaufort Sea lies to the east. The sea has an approximate area of 200,000 sq mi (518,000 sq km) and is only navigable about four months of the year.
Chukchi Sea (Чуко́тское мо́ре) is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the De 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.

The International Date Line crosses the Chukchi Sea from NW to SE. It is displaced eastwards to avoid Wrangel Island as well as the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug on the Russian mainland.


The sea has an approximate area of 595,000 km² (230,000 mi²) and is only navigable about four months of the year. The main geological feature of the Chukchi Sea bottom is the 700 km long Hope Basin, which is bound to the northeast by the Herald Arch. Depths less than 50 m (164 ft) occupy 56% of the total area.

The sea is named after the Chukchi people, who reside on its shores and on the Chukotka Peninsula. The Chukchi traditionally engaged in fishing, whaling and the hunting of walrus in this cold sea.

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. Concerning the rivers that flow into the Chukchi Sea on its Siberian side, the Amguyema, Ioniveyem and the Chegitun are the most important.

The Chukchi sea has very few islands compared to other seas of the Arctic. There are no islands in its midst and only a small number of islands lie along the Siberian coast.


On September 28th 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 the members of the expedition and the crew were aware that 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, the 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 15th 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 that 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 people 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.

Oil and gas resources

The Chukchi shelf is believed to hold oil and gas reserves as high as . Several oil companies have competed for leases on the area, and on February 6, 2008, the U.S. government announced that the successful bidders would pay $2.6 billion for extraction rights. The auction has drawn some criticism from environmentalists.


Further reading

  • Polyak, Leonid, Dennis A Darby, Jens F Bischof, and Martin Jakobsson. 2007. "Stratigraphic Constraints on Late Pleistocene Glacial Erosion and Deglaciation of the Chukchi Margin, Arctic Ocean". Quaternary Research. 67, no. 2: 234.
  • Albert Hastings Markham. Arctic Exploration, 1895
  • Armstrong, T., The Russians in the Arctic, London, 1958.
  • William Barr, Discovery of the wreck of the Soviet steamer Chelyuskin on the bed of the Chukchi Sea
  • Early Soviet Exploration:
  • History of Russian Arctic Exploration:
  • Niven, J., The Ice Master, The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk.
  • Polynyas in the Chukchi Sea:
  • Polar bear protection in the Chukchi Sea: Polar bears shared by US, Russia to be managed jointly

See also

External links

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