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The Valley of the Geysers, Russia

Earth's Natural Wonders in Asia

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Length of valley: 3.7 miles (6 km)

Area of geyser field: 1.5 square miles (4 sq. m)

The Valley of Geysers is the only geyser field in Eurasia (apart from the Mutnovsky geyser field) 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, into which geothermal waters flow from a relatively young stratovolcano, Kikhpinych. It is part of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, which, in turn, is incorporated into the World Heritage Site "Volcanoes of Kamchatka". The valley is difficult to reach, with helicopters providing the only feasible means of transport.

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 Giant geyser (Velikan), capable of producing a jet of water reaching up to 40 meters. From the 1980s, the area was promoted across the USSR as one of the tourist magnets of Kamchatka and the Russian Far East. Foreign tourists were allowed into the valley in 1991. About 3,000 tourists visited the site annually[1]

Kamchatka's Shumnaya River ("Noisy River") rushes through rocky narrows and meanders across gravel shoals to the steamy world of the Valley of the Geysers. In April 1941, the Russian hydrologist Tatyana Ivanovna Ustinova stumbled across this steamy wilderness with her Itelmen guide, Anisfor Krupenin. Traveling along the riverbed of the Shumnaya, they discovered an intriguing side-stream where they found a bubbling landscape of sulfur springs, boiling mud, and active geysers. This side stream was later called the River Geysernaya.

The valley is a heady paradise, steaming waterfalls cascade down the valley walls; grassy banks breath with life; geysers erupt jets of boiling water; and bubbling mudpots gurgle and pop. Multicolored clays and algae- matted waterslides mark the landscape, and wafting aromas bear witness to sulfur-belching springs.

The Valley of the Geysers is one of the most active geothermal regions on Earth. For approximately 3.7 miles the narrow, winding Geysernaya steams, boils, erupts and smells. This single valley has more than 20 major geysers and dozens of smaller ones concentrated in just 1.5 square miles. In the fall, colorful foliage adds natural beauty to this geological wonderland, but it is in winter that the landscape is truly magical, when all is snow white and when the drifting steam from the valley coats the trees and shrubs with delicate hoarfrost crystals.
The heat generated by the geothermal activity of the area has an unusual effect on the surrounding landscape. Come springtime, trees and plants flower long before they do in any other region, whereas the riverbank is home to warmth-loving plants such as water lillies and forget-me-nots.[2]

Landslide Buries Valley of the Geysers

Landslide Buries Valley of the Geysers [4]

Geysers are a rare natural phenomena found only in a few places, such as New Zealand, Iceland, the United States (Yellowstone National Park), and on Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula. On June 3, 2007, one of these rare geyser fields was severely damaged when a landslide rolled through Russia’s Valley of the Geysers. The landslide—a mix of mud, melting snow, trees, and boulders—tore a scar on the land and buried a number of geysers, thermal pools, and waterfalls in the valley. It also blocked the Geyser River, causing a new thermal lake to pool upstream.
The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured an infrared-enhanced image on June 11, 2007, a week after the slide. The image shows the valley, the landslide, and the new thermal lake. Even in mid-June, just days from the start of summer, the landscape is generally covered in snow, though the geologically heated valley is relatively snow free. The tree-covered hills are red (the color of vegetation in this false-color treatment), providing a strong contrast to the aquamarine water and the gray-brown slide. According to the Russian News and Information Agency (RIA) [English language], the slide left a path roughly a kilometer and a half (one mile) long and 200 meters (600 feet) wide.
Within hours of the landslide, the water in the new lake inundated a number of additional geysers. The geysers directly buried under the landslide now lie under as much as 60 meters (180 feet) of material, according to RIA reports. It is unlikely that the geysers will be able to force a new opening through this thick layer, adds RIA. Among those directly buried is Pervenets (Firstborn), the first geyser found in the valley, in 1941. Other geysers, such as the Bolshoi (Greater) and Maly (Lesser) Geysers, were silenced when buried by water building up behind the new natural dam. According to Vladimir and Andrei Leonov of the Russian Federation Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the new lake appears to be stable and draining gradually through the earthen dam, alleviating fears of a catastrophic flood. Should the new lake drain enough, many of the inundated geysers may restart. Initial reports from the Volcanology and Seismology Institute state this has already happened for some geysers. Geysers outside of the slide region, including the Velikan (Giant) Geyser and a major section of the geyser field known as Vitrazh (Stained Glass) appear to have escaped damage.
In addition to destroying a number of geysers, the landslide may have damaged habitats in the Valley of the Geysers. The thermal waters and heated steam jets made this valley warmer than the surrounding landscape, and the warmth supported a unique ecosystem. The loss of a large part of its heat source may alter the ecosystem, but it is not clear what additional longer-term changes might occur. For example, salmon that spawn in the Geyser River will be confined to the lower reaches of the river, and bears, which depended on salmon, will need to shift feeding grounds correspondingly.[3]

One of the great natural wonders of the world, Russia's Valley of the Geysers is located in Russia's far Eastern Kamchatka region. It's a place where you can watch the heat of the Earth's core bubble through the surface.

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May 22, 2008

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1.WikipediaValley of the Geysers-retrieved 6/15/2009
2.1,001 Natural Wonders You Must See Before You Die 2005-p. 622- Michael Bright-retrieved 6/14/2009
3.NASA--retrieved 6/15/2009
 Leonov, V.L., and Leonov, A.V. (2007, June 10). Valley of the Geysers—what actually happened. Russian Federation Institute of Volcanology and Seismology [Dual Russian/English language]. Accessed June 19, 2007.
Russian News and Information Agency. (2007, June 4). Mudflow destroys unique geyser valley on Kamchatka. Accessed June 19, 2007.
Svobodanews. (2007, June 14). Restoration of the Valley of the Geysers is Impossible, Svobodanews.ru [Russian Language]. Accessed June 19, 2007.
Wikipedia. Valley of the Geysers, Accessed June 19, 2007.
World Wildlife Fund (2007, June 4). Natural Wonder of the World Transformed within Hours, PR Newswire. Accessed June 19, 2007.
4. NASA--retrieved 6/15/2009
Wikipedia  text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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