Franz Josef Land
, Franz Joseph Land
, or Francis Joseph's Land
(Russ. Земля Франца-Иосифа
, Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa
) is an archipelago
located in the far north of Russia
. It is found in the Arctic Ocean
north of Novaya Zemlya
and east of Svalbard
, and is administered by Arkhangelsk Oblast
. Franz Josef Land consists of 191 ice-covered islands with an area of 16,134 km² and is largely uninhabited.
At latitudes between 80.0° and 81.9° north, it is the most northerly group of islands associated with Eurasia. The extreme northernmost point is Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island. The archipelago is only 900 to 1110 km (560 to 690 statute miles) from the North Pole, closer than all land masses except for Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland.
The archipelago was possibly first discovered by the Norwegian sealers Nils Fredrik Rønnbeck and Aidijärvi aboard the schooner "Spidsbergen" in 1865 who, according to scarce reports, sailed eastward from Svalbard until they reached a new land, denoted Nordøst-Spitsbergen (Spitsbergen was the contemporary name of Svalbard). It is not known if they went ashore, and the new islands were soon forgotten.
The officially recognized discovery took place in 1873 by the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition led by polar explorers Payer and Weyprecht. They named the archipelago in honour of the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph I. Since the expedition was only privately sponsored and not official, these islands have never been part of Austria.
In 1926 the islands were taken over by the Soviet Union, and a few persons were settled for research and military purposes. Access by ships is possible only for a few summer weeks and requires a special permit.
The archipelago is volcanic, composed of tertiary
and jurassic basalts
, and though covered mostly by ice it does have outcroppings covered with moss
. The northeastern part of the archipelago is locked in pack ice all year round, however the ice sometimes retreats past the southern islands in the late summer.
The northernmost point in the archipelago, and in the entirety of Asia, is Mys Fligely (Fligely Point), on Ostrov Rudol'fa (Rudolf Island), which reaches as far north as 81°52'N. The largest island is Zemlya Georga (George Land) which measures 69 miles (110 km) from end to end. The highest point in the archipelago is on Ostrov Viner-Neyshtadt (Wiener Neustadt Island) which reaches 2,035 ft (620 m) MSL.
The basalts of the Franz Josef Islands are part of the High Arctic Large Igneous Province.
The central cluster of large islands in the midst of the archipelago forms a compact whole, known as Zichy Land, where islands are separated from each other by very narrow sounds that are frozen most of the year.
In January the normal daily low is −15 °C (5 °F) and the high is −10.5 °C (13 °F). In July the normal daily low is 0 °C (32 °F) and daily high 2.2 °C (36 °F). The annual mean temperature is −12.8 °C (9 °F). In a 30-year period, the highest temperature recorded has been 13 °C (55.4 °F) and lowest −54 °C (-64.2 °F). Precipitation is common year round, but is most common during the transition seasons of late spring and autumn. Fog is very common in the late summer. From data for Nagurskoye and SevMeteo
Native wildlife consists mostly of walrus
, Arctic foxes
, and polar bears
. Common birds include kittiwakes
, and gulls
whales are often spotted in the waters. Reindeer
antlers have been found on Hooker Island, suggesting that herds reached here up to about 1,300 years ago during a warmer climate.
The following list describes some important islands in Franz Josef Land and their significance. The Russian name is quoted first.
- Zemlya Aleksandry (Alexandra Land). Is the westernmost island in the archipelago. It has an area of approximately 411 square miles. MillsNagurskoye base, named after Jan Nagórski, has served as one of the most important meteorological stations in the archipelago during the Cold War. It has a 1,500 m (4,900 ft) snow runway. An Antonov An-72 cargo aircraft crashed while landing at Nagurskoye on 1996-12-23.
- Ostrov Rudol'fa (Prince Rudolf Island) is the northernmost island. Teplitz Bay is a camp site that served as a staging point for numerous polar expeditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Due to the steep terrain, the only airfield access is a small snow strip 300 m (1000 ft) up a glacier at (81°47'N 58°45'E).
- Ostrov Kheysa / G.M.O.Imyenya Z.T.Krenkel'a. (Heiss Island) Krenkel is the site of a meteorological station.
- Ostrov Greem-Bell (Graham Bell Island). This large island is home to a Cold War outpost and to the airfield Greem-Bell the largest airfield in the archipelago. It has a runway 2,100 m (7,000 ft) long. Russian cargo and fighter aircraft have regularly landed here since the 1950s.
- Ostrov Gukera (Hooker Island). Tikhaya Bay was the site of a major base for polar expeditions, and the location of a meteorological station from 1929 to 1963. It was visited by the Graf Zeppelin airship in July 1931 during a landmark aerial survey. Staff were marooned here from 1941 to 1945 during World War II. A graveyard and two modern buildings exist. A large seabird colony exists near Tikhaya Bay at Skala Rubini (Rubini Rock, ).
- Ostrov Nortbruk (Northbrook Island). This island is the most accessible location in the island group and formed the main base for polar expeditions in the late 19th and early 20th century. The camp at Cape Flora is historically significant. A chance encounter between explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Frederick George Jackson took place here in 1896. In 1904 coal was mined about 150 m (500 ft) up the slopes by explorers wintering over after their ship sank at Rudolf Island.
- Ostrov Dzheksona (Jackson Island). Cape Norway was where Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen wintered in 1895-96 after failing to reach the North Pole. A hut and a wooden post still remain.
- Ostrov Mak-Klintoka (McClintock Island)
- Ostrov Aldzher (Alger Island). The wintering site of the failed American Evelyn Baldwin expedition of 1901.
- Ostrov Nansena (Nansen Island). This island is located in the center of a cluster of islands of similar size separated from each other by narrow sounds.
- Zemlya Vilcheka (Wilczek Land ). Cape Geller was the wintering site for two members of the 1899 Welle expedition waiting for the team's return from the pole.
- Ostrov Gallya (Hall Island) was on August 30, 1873, the first of the Franz Josef Islands to be discovered. A small camp was built at Mys Tegetkhof (Cape Tegethoff, ) by the Walter Wellman expedition in 1898-99 and contains a marker honoring the discovery of the archipelago.
- Zemlya Georga (Prince George Land ) This is the largest island of the group measuring 69 miles (110 km) from end to end.
- Ostrov Viner-Neyshtadt (Wiener Neustadt Island). The highest point in the archipelago reaching above Sea Level (620 m) is on this island.
- Ostrov Yeva-Liv ( Eva Island) This island is the largest of the Belaya Zemlya subgroup.
The main geographic subgroups in Franz Joseph Land are:
- Zemlya Zichy, (Zichy Land) a large and compact island cluster located in the middle of the archipelago containing ten large islands.
- Belaya Zemlya, a group of three islands in the northeast named Hvidtenland ("White Land") by Fridtjof Nansen.
- Ostrov Viktoriya (Victoria Island), an island which is not part of Franz Josef Land geographically, but administratively. Lying quite detached, and closer to Svalbard, this island is the westernmost of all Russian Arctic islands.
Names of the islands
Very few of the islands in Franz Josef Land have Russian names. Most bear names of German, British, American, Italian and, in one case, Norwegian origin.
- Most of the islands were named by the 1874 Weyprecht and Payer Expedition, who used names in honor of Austro-Hungarian royalty and aristocratic dynasties, as well as the names of noblemen who had contributed to finance their venture. For some reason, unlike in the rest of Russia where geographic features named after the nobility were renamed, the aristocratic names of the Franz Josef Archipelago were preserved during the Soviet era.
- The Norwegian name "Hvidtenland" (Russian: Belaya Zemlya) was coined by the 1893 Fridtjof Nansen’s Expedition. Later it became apparent that it was a group of three islands.
- The 1895 Fredrick G. Jackson Expedition named some islands after British Arctic explorers and also after personalities of the Royal Geographical Society, the sponsors of the expedition.
- The 1901 Baldwin-Ziegler North Pole Expedition named certain islands after American scientists and explorers, sometimes renaming islands that had already been previously named, like La Ronciere Island, which they renamed "Whitney Island".
- Finally there are a few islands that were named by the 1905 Luigi Amadeo Duke of the Abruzzi Italian Polar Expedition, like the Pontremoli Islands.
The first recognized exploration of the archipelago was done in 1873 by Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition
explorers Karl Weyprecht
and Julius von Payer
, while their ship was locked in ice trying to find a northeast passage
. After exploration of its southern islands, the name was bestowed in honor of Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria
. The Norwegians Fridtjof Nansen
and Hjalmar Johansen
passed through the islands in 1895/96 after an aborted attempt to reach the pole. By sheer coincidence, they met British explorer Frederick George Jackson
at Northbrook Island in 1896.
In 1914, Russian navigator Valerian Albanov and one crewman, Alexander Konrad, sole survivors of the ill-fated Brusilov expedition made it to Cape Flora in Northbrook Island, where they knew that Fridtjof Nansen had left provisions and had built a hut in a previous Arctic expedition. Albanov and Konrad were timely rescued by Georgy Sedov's ship Saint Foka, while they were preparing for the winter. Their plight was chronicled in Albanov's published diary, "In the Land of White Death."
With the introduction of larger steam-powered vessels, a number of sealing expeditions were made to the islands from the last decade of the 19th century, with more than 80% of these coming from Norway. In the late 1920s, both the Soviet Union and Norway claimed the islands. Norwegians called the islands "Fridtjof Nansen Land". The Soviet Union claimed a sector in the Arctic region that included Franz Josef Land and the nearby Victoria Island by a decree of 15 April 1926. Norway was notified on 6 May and officially protested on 19 December, contesting the Soviet claim.
In the following years, Norwegian authorities put much effort into reclaiming Victoria Island and Franz Josef Land. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not wish to take any measures to lay official claims, but had no objection to private initiatives. In 1929, consul Lars Christensen of Sandefjord, a whaling tycoon whose expeditions had annexed Bouvet Island and Peter I Island in Antarctica, funded an expedition of two vessels, S/S Torsnes and M/C Hvalrossen. Upon departure from Tromsø, the crew were given detailed instructions to erect a manned wireless station and leave a wintering crew on Franz Josef Land, and also to claim Victoria Island on behalf of Christensen. The objective was to obtain legal footing in part of the archipelago before the Soviets did. The expedition never reached Franz Josef Land due to severe ice conditions, and while waiting for better conditions they were surpassed by the Soviet icebreaker Georgij Sedov.
On 29 July 1929 professor Schmidt of the Sedov Expedition raised the Soviet flag at Tikaya Bay, Hooker Island, and declared that Franz Josef Land was a part of the Soviet Union. Norway did not officially contest the Soviet annexation of Franz Josef Land itself, but continued their efforts regarding Victoria Island. The dispute over Victoria Island was ended when the Soviets annexed the island in September 1932.
In July 1931, a German airship marked a milestone in Russian polar exploration. The Graf Zeppelin travelled from Berlin to Hooker Island, by way of Leningrad (St. Petersburg). It delivered 650 pounds (300 kg) of commemorative mail and met with the icebreaker 'Malygin'. After traveling east along the 81st parallel to Severnaya Zemlya, it returned to Hooker Island and began a groundbreaking aerial survey of the archipelago, flying as far north as Ostrov Rudolfa.
During the Cold War years, the polar regions were a hot buffer zone between the U.S. and Russia, and many points in the Arctic became key strategic locations. The islands were declared as a national security area from the 1930s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and were therefore off-limits to foreigners. An airfield was built at Greem Bell to serve as a staging base for Russian bomber aircraft, and training missions were quite common between Franz Josef Land, the mainland, and Novaya Zemlya. Though the islands were militarily sensitive, a cruise ship visited in 1971.
In 2005, the Austrian geographer Christoph Höbenreich led the Payer-Weyprecht-Memorial expedition to Franz Josef Land. The Austrian-Russian team followed the historic footsteps of explorer Julius Payer by ski and pulkasleds.
The Russian Orthodox denomination plans to build the world's northernmost church in the Franz Joseph Archipelago. It will be named after St. Nicholas. This was announced by Bishop Tikhon of Arkhangelsk and Kholmogory in August 2007.
Some maps are found on these sites:
Swedish musician Stina Nordenstam's sound installation Isens Fasor was spoken directly from the journal of Karl Weyprecht, on the voyage he and Payer took to discover the islands, which almost failed when their ship became trapped in Arctic ice and they and their crew were forced to walk to Russia.
- Andreas Umbreit, SPITSBERGEN: Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, Jan Mayen, Bradt Travel Guides, U.K, 2005
- Valerian Albanov. In the Land of White Death.
- Karl Weyprecht, Die Metamorphosen des Polareises. Österr.-Ung. Arktische Expedition 1872-1874 (The Metamorphosis of Polar Ice. The Austro-Hungarian Polar Expedition of 1872-1874)
- Julius von Payer, New Lands within the Arctic Circle (1876)
- Andreas Pöschek, Geheimnis Nordpol. Die Österreichisch-Ungarische Nordpolexpedition 1872-1874. - Wien: 1999 (Available as PDF)
- William Barr, The First Tourist Cruise in the Soviet Arctic.
- I. Gjertz, B. Mørkved, "Norwegian Arctic Expansionism, Victoria Island (Russia) and the Bratvaag Expedition", Arctic, Vol. 51, No. 4 (December 1998), P. 330-335 (Available as PDF)
- H. Straub, Die Entdeckung des Franz-Joseph-Landes (discovery report), Styria-Verlag, Austria 1990.
- Christoph Höbenreich (2007): "EXPEDITION FRANZ JOSEF LAND. In der Spur der Entdecker nach Norden". Expeditionsbook on the Payer-Weyprecht-Memorialexpedition 2005, the Austro-Hungarian Northpolar-Expedition 1872-1874, the journey of the icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn 2006 und an expedition-chronic (publishing house Frederking-Thaler, Munich, ISBN 978-3-89405-499-1.
Throughout history, and even into the modern age, there have been a number of personages that share the name Franz Josef in a variety of spellings. Franz Josef, Franz Joseph, Joseph James Frantz, Josef Franz Heffler are among notable figures that share this name. But the proper spelling will always be Franz Josef Land.