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Sea of Okhotsk, Russia / Japan

Earth's Natural Wonders in Asia

Sea of Okhotsk, Russia / Japan[1]

Deepest point of Sea of Okhotsk: 12,847 feet (3,916 meters)
Average depth of sea: 2,923 feet (891 meters)


The Sea of Okhotsk is a part of the western Pacific Ocean, lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, the island of Hokkaido to the far south, the island of Sakhalin along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast (including the Shantar Islands) along the west and north. It is named after Okhotsk, the first Russian settlement in the Far East.

Sea of Okhotsk covers 611,000 sq.mi. (1,583,000 sq.km.), with a mean depth of 2,818 feet (859 metres). Its maximum depth is 11,063 feet (3,372 metres). It is connected to the Sea of Japan on either side of Sakhalin: on the west through the Sakhalin Gulf and the Gulf of Tartary; on the south, through the La Pérouse Strait.

In winter, navigation on the Sea of Okhotsk becomes difficult, or even impossible, due to the formation of large ice floes, because the large amount of freshwater from the Amur River lowers the salinity and raises the freezing point of the sea. The distribution and thickness of ice floes depends on many factors: the location, the time of year, water currents, and the sea temperatures.

With the exception of Hokkaido, one of the Japanese home islands, the sea is surrounded on all sides by territory administered by the Russian Federation. For this reason, it is generally considered as being under Russian sovereignty.

Some of the Islands limiting the Sea of Okhotsk from the south, like Hokkaido and Sakhalin, are very large. Practically all islands in the Okhotsk Sea are either coastal islands or they belong to the Kuril island chain. Ion Island is the only island in the Sea of Okhotsk that is located in the open sea. The majority of the islands in the Okhotsk Sea are uninhabited, being an ideal breeding ground for seals and seabirds.

The Russian explorers Ivan Moskvitin and Vassili Poyarkov were the first Europeans to visit the Sea of Okhotsk and the island of Sakhalin in the 1640s. The first and foremost Russian settlement on the shore was the port of Okhotsk, which relinquished commercial supremacy to Ayan in the 1840s. The Russian-American Company all but monopolized the commercial navigation of the sea in the first half of the 19th century.

The Second Kamchatka Expedition under Vitus Bering systematically mapped the entire coast of the sea, starting in 1733. Jean-François de La Pérouse and William Robert Broughton were the first non-Russian European navigators known to have passed through these waters. Ivan Krusenstern explored the eastern coast of the Sakhalin in 1805. Mamiya Rinzo and Gennady Nevelskoy determined that the Sakhalin was indeed an island separated from the mainland by a narrow strait. The first detailed summary of the hydrology of the sea was prepared and published by Stepan Makarov in 1894.[2]

With the exception of Ion Island, which is located in the open sea, all other islands in the Okhotsk Sea are either coastal islands or they belong to the Kuril island chain. The main islands are:

Sakhalin Island covers approximately 30,120 square miles (78,010 sq km) and is Russia's largest island. Mountainous and forested, it forms the western border of the Sea of Okhotsk, separating it from the Sea of Japan and the Asian continent.
Hokkaido is Japan's second largest island and the largest, northernmost, and most sparsely populated of its 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. It is 70 percent forested and a tourist attraction due to its natural hot springs.
The Kuril Islands are a volcanic island archipelago that stretches approximately 750 miles (1,300 km) northeast from Hokkaido, to the Kamchatka Peninsula, separating the Sea of Okhotsk on the west from the Pacific Ocean on the east. The chain consists of 22 main islands (most of which are volcanically active) and 36 smaller islets with a total area of 6,000 square miles (15,600 sq km). Administration of these islands are disputed between Russia and Japan.
The Yam Islands is a small island group located near the coast in the northern Sea of Okhotsk, near the shores of the Pyagin Peninsula. Home to the Steller sea lion and a variety of birds, they are a part of the protected bioregion of the Magadan area.
The Shantar Islands are a group of fifteen islands that lie in Uda Bay, in the southwestern zone of the Sea of Okhotsk. They are located close to the shores of the Siberian mainland. They have no permanent population, but they are often visited by commercial fishermen who use them as a base.
Zavyalov Island, formerly Olsky Island, is a relatively large island located in the eastern side of the Gulf of Tauisk. Zavyalov is mountainous and forested, home to the Siberian dwarf Pine (Pinus pumila) and the dwarf birch Betula middendorffii. Its shores are a breeding ground for the steller sea lion.
The Spafaryev Islands is a double island lying east of the southernmost peninsula enclosing the Gulf of Tauisk, or wider bay of Magadan, from its western side. They are composed of two islands joined by a narrow landspit. The northern and largest of the two, Ryabokon Island, is roughly triangular in shape. Spafaryev Island proper, roughly shovel-shaped, is located at the southern end.
Talan Island, a small roundish island 7 miles (11 km) to the north of Spafaryev's northern tip, is home to the world's largest colony of tufted puffins.
The remote and isolated Ion Island, a breeding ground for the steller sea lion, is the only island that is located in the open sea. Administratively, Ion belongs to the Khabarovsk Krai of the Russian Federation.
Tyuleny Island, off the coast of Sakhalin, is known as a breeding ground for some 100,000 Northern Fur Seal. [3]

You Tube video

A short cruise on the Sea of Okhotsk. These cruises operate from Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan for only a short time usually a little either side of February.


April 08, 2008

The World Wonders .Com-visit 1,000 world wonders at www.theworldwonders.com


28 finalists-7 winners will be announced in 2011


1. Wikipedia map-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 6/14/09
2. Wikipedia-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 6/14/09
3. Sea of Okhotsk. (2008, September 29). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:32, June 14, 2009 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sea_of_Okhotsk?oldid=819265.
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