Budd, Knox, and Sabrina Coasts

East Antarctic Tundra Ecoregion

The Budd, Knox, and Sabrina Coasts of East Antarctica were first reported by the U.S. Exploring Expedition in 1840. They are all part of Wilkes Land, named for the officer in charge of the expedition. From west to east, the Knox Coast extends from Cape Hordern (S66o15’ E100o31’), to the Hatch Islands (S66o32’ E109o16’), the Budd Coast extends from the Hatch Islands to Cape Waldron (S66o34’ E115o33’), and the Sabrina Coast extends from Cape Waldron to Cape Southard (S66o E122o3’). Cape Poinsett (S65o46’ E113o13’), Cape Folger (S66o8’ E110o44’), and Cape Nutt (S66o38’ E108o12’) were first observed by the US Exploring Expedition. With the exception of the Antarctic Peninsula in West Antarctica, Cape Poinsett is the furthest north point of continental Antarctica. Inland of these points, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in Wilkes Land reaches elevations of 6,000 to 9,500 feet above sea level.

Up until recently, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet at Wilkes Land has been assumed to be the most stable part of Antarctica and the least likely to melt with global warming. The glaciers discharging in Wilkes Land were thought to be grounded at bedrock and isolated from warm ocean water currents. Recent research suggests this assumption is wrong.

In this map area, the majority of glaciers with ocean termini retreated between 2000 and 2012. Wilkes Land overlies a large subglacial basin which is connected to the sea. Miles, Stokes, and Jamieson (2016) suggest that the glacial retreat is related to a reduction in sea ice, which increases the incursion of warm deep water toward the glacier terminus. If this is the cause of the retreat, it is likely that ice loss from Wilkes Land would be a major contribution to sea level rise.

Greene et al. (2017) and Rintoul et al. (2016) studied the Totten Glacier (S67o0’ E116o20’) on the Sabrina Coast and found that glacial retreat is due to incursion of warm water to the grounding line of the glacier. This is the point where the glacier transitions to an ice shelf. Rintoul et al. (2016) found that a deep trough is allowing the warm water to reach the glacier under the sea ice. Greene et al. (2017) found another mechanism, increased wind, could also allow warm water to reach the grounding line. Atmospheric carbon dioxide increases will cause surface winds to intensify around Antarctica. Increased wind on the ocean surface would cause warm deep water to upwell, surmount the continental shelf, and melt the ice from below. This appears to be happening to the Totten Glacier and is a cause for concern because the glacier drains a vast basin, most of which is below sea level. Thus, Totten Glacier is believed subject to rapid collapse, potentially causing a sea level rise worldwide of 3.5 m.

The ice cap at Law Dome (S66o44’ E112o50’) on the Budd Coast rises to 1,395 m in elevation and has been the subject of climate research for several decades. Recently, it was determined that when Western Australia suffers a drought, Law Dome experiences heavy snowfall. The pattern is so intense that it is outside the range of natural variation observed for the area in the last 750 years (van Ommen and Morgan, 2010; Berardelli, 2010). Cores from the ice cap have been useful in studying atmospheric carbon dioxide levels because the heavy snowfall allows delineation of individual yearly layers. Data from the ice cores indicates that preindustrial carbon dioxide levels going back to 1006 ACE ranged from 275 to 284 ppm, with lower levels between 1550 and 1800 A.D.  (Etheridge et al., 1998). Studies of methanesulfonic acid as a proxy for biological activity indicate that there has been a 20% decline in sea ice extent in East Antarctica since 1950; before 1950, sea ice was routinely 1 degree of latitude further north in extent (Curran et al., 2003; Wolff, 2003).

Australia’s Casey Station (S66o17’ E110o32’) is located in the Windmill Island area and used for scientific research on bedrock geology and structure of the East Antarctic ice sheet, ocean acidification, Adelie penguins, and moss beds (http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/casey).

On the Budd Coast in the Windmill Islands area are four specially protected areas.

Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) 103: Ardery Island (S66o22’ E110o27’) and Odbert Island (S66o22’ E110o32’) protect breeding colonies of four species of fulmarine petrels, Antarctic petrel, southern fulmar, cape petrel, and snow petrel. These birds typically nest on cliffs. Other breeding bird populations are Wilson’s storm petrel and Antarctic skua. On Odbert Island is a breeding population of Adelie penguins. Vegetation is moss, lichen, and algae. The 244-ha site is an Important Bird Area.

ASPA 135: Northeast Bailey Peninsula (S66o17’ E110o32’) is the most important botanical sites in Antarctica, used for scientific reference studies. The 28-ha site is just to the east of Casey Station. The low rounded ice-free rocky outcrops include three extensive moss fields, lichens, bryophytes, algae, and fungi.

ASPA 136: Clark Peninsula (S66o15’ E110o36’) is 940 ha noted for its extensive floral community and significant breeding populations of Adelie penguins and south polar skuas. Flora includes lichen, moss, bryophyte, algae, and cyanobacteria.

ASPA 160: Frazier Islands include three small islands with a total area of 60 ha. In combination, the three islands provide the largest known breeding colony of the southern giant petrel. Also breeding on Nelly Island (S66o14’ E110o11’) are snow petrel, cape petrel, Antarctic petrel, Wilson’s storm petrel, southern fulmar, and South Polar skua. On Dewart Island (S66o14’ E110o10’), the cape petrel also breeds. Charlton Island (S66o13’ E110o9’) is the smallest of the islands in the protected area.

On the Knox Coast is the Bunger Hills area with two historic sites. The Bunger Hills are generally ice-free. Historic Site and Monument 10: Soviet Oasis Station Observatory (S66o16’ E100o45’) is a magnetic observatory building from 1956. HSM 49: Bungar Hill Pillar (S66o16’ E100o45’) is a concrete monument established by the first Polish Antarctic expedition in 1959, which measured acceleration due to gravity.


Berardelli, Phil. 2010. Australia, Antarctica Linked by Climate. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2010/02/australia-antarctica-linked-climate (accessed January 19, 2019).

Curran, Mark A.J. et al. 2003. Ice Core Evidence for Antarctic Sea ice Decline Since the 1950s. Science 302:1203-1206. (DOI: 10.1126/science.1087888).

Etheridge, D.M. et al. 1998. Historical CO2 records from the Law Dome DE08, DE08-2, and DSS ice cores. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Greene, Chad A. et al. 2017. Wind causes Totten Ice Shelf melt and acceleration. Science Advances 3:e1701681. (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701681).

Management Plan for Antarctic Specially Protected Area 103: Ardery Island and Odbert Island, Budd Coast, Wilkes Land, East Antarctica. Final Report of the Thirty-Sixth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, Volume II, 2015. https://www.ats.aq/devPH/apa/ep_protected_search.aspx?type=2&lang=e (accessed January 18, 2019).

Management Plan for Antarctic Specially Protected Area 135: North-east Bailey Peninsula, Budd Coast, Wilkes Land. Final Report of the Thirty-Sixth Antarctic Treaty Consultative meeting, Volume II, 2015. https://www.ats.aq/devPH/apa/ep_protected_search.aspx?type=2&lang=e (accessed January 18, 2019).

Management Plan for Antarctic Specially Protected Area 136: Clark Peninsula, Budd Coast, Wilkes Land, East Antarctica. Final Report of the Thirty-Sixth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, Volume II, 2015. https://www.ats.aq/devPH/apa/ep_protected_search.aspx?type=2&lang=e (accessed January 18, 2019).

Management Plan for Antarctic Specially Protected Area 160: Frazier Islands, Windmill Islands, Wilkes Land, East Antarctica. Final Report of the Thirty-Sixth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, Volume II, 2015. https://www.ats.aq/devPH/apa/ep_protected_search.aspx?type=2&lang=e (accessed January 18, 2019).

Miles, Bertie W.J., Chris R. Stokes, and Stewart S.R. Jamieson. 2016. Pan-ice-sheet glacier terminus change in East Antarctica reveals sensitivity of Wilkes Land to sea-ice changes. Science Advances 2:e1501350 (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501350).

Rintoul, Stephen Rich et al. 2016. Ocean heat drives rapid basal melt of the Totten Ice Shelf. Science Advances 2:e1601610 (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.161610).

Van Ommen, Tas D. and Vin Morgan. 2010. Snowfall increase in coastal East Antarctica linked with southwest Western Australian drought. Nature Geoscience 3:267-272 (DOI: 10.1038/ngeo761).

Wolff, Eric W. 2003. Whither Antarctic Sea Ice? Science 302:1164 (DOI: 10.1126/science.1090004).


East Siberian Taiga

Central Siberian Plateau: Tunguska, Siberian Traps, and Kraton-3

Location: Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Sakha Republic

This map area is almost completely in the East Siberian Taiga ecoregion, with small areas in the northwest grading into the Taimyr-Central Siberian tundra. The taiga is characterized by larch forests but without large bogs or swamps. On maps this taiga ecoregion occupies the Central Siberian Plateau because of its hillier terrain. It is the most extensive natural forest in the world, but, as seen below, portions have been impacted by natural and man-made activities in the last 100 or so years.

Tunguska Explosion

On June 30, 1908, an explosion over today’s Tunguska Nature Reserve left thousands of trees charred over a 2000-km2 area. The most common explanation for the explosion has been that it was an asteroid or meteorite entry into the atmosphere. However, there is no crater or meteorite debris. One possibility is a natural gas explosion from the abundant resources in the area (Anonymous, 2002) If it was a meteorite, it is possible that heat from an exploding meteorite burned up all the meteorite fragments (2). The explosion coordinates (N60⁰55’ E101⁰57’*), are north of Vanavara and the Stony Tunguska River.

A meteorite would have been about 6 km high and 50-60 m in diameter when it exploded. Underneath the blast, the trees were incinerated but left standing. At 5 to 15 km, trees were blown over with the tops pointing away from the blast. Witnesses in the towns of Kirensk (400 km away) and Vanavara (40 km south) saw a fireball. A hot wind was reported blowing from the north. Russian researchers later found tiny stony particles embedded in trees (Anonymous, 1996; Hartmann, 2018).

A meteorite fall of this size would have injected up to 30 million tons of nitric oxide (NO) into the stratosphere and mesosphere. This would have affected the ozone layer. Turco et al. (1981) found evidence from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Records that ozone was recovering between 1909 and 1911 from a low in 1908. Ganapathy (1983) found evidence that metallic spheres in the Tunguska area were enriched in iridium, an extraterrestrial signature of impacts.

Lake Cheko (N60o58’ E101o52’) has been investigated as a possible impact crater and found to be potentially caused by an impact (University of Bologna, 2018), but recent studies of the sediment age in the lake suggest it is older than 1908, according to Sputnik News (2017). Also, other fragments should be nearby, and rocks in the area would show trauma if there had been an impact (MacMillan 2008).

The site of the Tunguska Explosion is protected as the Tunguska Nature Reserve (Zapovednik), a 296,000-ha area surrounding the affected site (N60o44’ E101o58’).

Siberian Traps and Devonian-Permian Extinctions

The Central Siberian Plateau landform is made up of volcanic material known as flood basalt. When large-scale volcanic eruptions took place to create these basalts, they created what are known as large igneous provinces (LIPs) or traps. The Central Siberian Plateau is made up of two LIPs, one in the Sakha Republic area and one in the Krasnoyarsk Krai area. The Yukutsk-Vilyuy LIP was formed at the end of the Devonian Period (359 million years ago) (Ivanov et al., 2015). This date is associated with an end-Devonian mass extinction of sea life, where up to 87 % of species went extinct. However, the Devonian is also the time when land plants evolved vascular features and seeds. During this time, the first forests spread across the land. It is possible that this vegetation of the earth could also have led to the mass extinctions in the sea because as the plants colonized new habitats, more nutrients could have been released from the soil and the water could have been muddied. Vast algal blooms would live off the additional nutrients and cause anoxia in the oceans and cooling worldwide as levels of carbon dioxide were reduced. The end-Devonian mass extinction was a re-setting of life on Earth, allowing new animal types to evolve in the following periods, the Carboniferous and Permian. The Yukutsk-Vilyuy LIP is associated with a chain of kimberlite fields (diamond mines) that stretches nearly 1,000 km in a southwest to northeast direction across this part of Siberia (Kravchinsky et al., 2002).

The second LIP is associated with the end of the Permian Period, approximately 250 million years ago (Campbell et al., 1992). This is called the Siberian traps and is the largest known LIP. The date of the Siberian traps coincides with the Earth’s most catastrophic mass extinction at the end of the Permian period (Reichow et al., 2004). At this time, volcanism released large masses of sulfate aerosols, chlorine, fluorine, and carbon dioxide in a short period, as little as 60,000 years, triggering warming. The chlorine and fluorine would have damaged the ozone layer. It is believed that curtailment of photosynthesis from global dimming led to rapid carbon dioxide buildup, warming, and shallow water anoxia (Saunders and Reichow, 2009). The extra carbon dioxide from the Siberian traps dissolved in the oceans, harming creatures that create calcium carbonate shells. On land, there was a collapse of land plants. The collapse was so severe that there are virtually no coal deposits known from the early Triassic period. The end-Permian extinction could have been a cascading series of events that affected the entire biosphere (Sutherland, 2016). Initially, the volcanic eruptions released enough carbon dioxide to cause a 10o to 15oC tropical warming. This resulted in unbearably hot temperatures on land; organisms were also likely affected by ultraviolet radiation from a collapsed ozone shield. The marine extinction was most severe at high latitudes and its severe effects were likely due to hypoxia, or deoxygenation of the oceans. Organisms at tropical latitudes were preadapted to tolerate low oxygen and high temperatures, and thus were better able to survive the global warming (Kump, 2018; Penn et al., 2018).

‘Peaceful’ Nuclear Explosions

Between 1974 and 1987, 11 underground nuclear tests were conducted in the Vilyuy region. Two of the 11 had above-ground fallout (Crate, 1996). At least 7 explosions were conducted in the Neva area (N61o30’ E113o0’) southwest of Mirnyy between 1976 and 1987. These explosions were aimed at stimulating oil production from the bedrock of the area and were considered successful (Nordyke, 2000). The Krystall explosion near Udachnyy (N66o25’ E112o22’) in 1974 was aimed at creating a dam for the tailings pond at the diamond mine near the Daldyn River. Radiation leaked from this explosion and today levels of radiation are 5 times natural background levels (Yakovleva, Alabaster,and Petrova, 2000). The Kratom-3 explosion (N65o56’ E112o20’), which took place on August 24, 1978, was adjacent to the Markha River east of Aykhal (Artamonova, Kozhevnikov, and Antonov, 2018). It was part of a deep seismic testing program to study the crustal structure of the earth. The explosion resulted in a radioactive release during a drizzling rain. The radionuclides contaminated the soil and the larch forest exposed to the cloud was killed. Rehabilitation operations were conducted three years after the explosion and in 2007. The site remains contaminated with strontium-90, cesium-137, and plutonium 238-240, which are present in plants, forest cover, and soil. About 200 m away from ground zero, the plutonium concentration is higher than at Chernobyl (Goryachenkova et al., 2017; Ramzaev, 2009). A long-term effect of this activity has been permafrost degradation, perhaps through flow of heat through the rocks over time (Artamonova, Kozhevnikov, and Antonov, 2013).

Birds and Diamonds

Murukta Depression (N67o43’ E102o20’) is a 315,105-ha Important Bird Area in Evenkiysky District of Krasnoyarsk. The area contains numerous small lakes and marshes adjacent to the Kotuy River. Nearby Lake Yessey (N68o25’ E102o25’) is known for an endangered species (IUCN Red List) of char which is endemic to four lakes in the Taymyr area (Devi and Boguskaya, 2009).

Vilyuy Dam (N63o2’ E112o28) is located on the Vilyuy River and creates a 280-mile-long lake. It supplies electricity to diamond mines at Mir (N62o32’ E114o0’), Aykhal (N65o56’ E111o30’), and Udachny (N66o26’ E112o19’). A diamond mine is also at Nyurba (N63o17’ E118o20’). These mines include large open-pit areas and may include underground components. Unintended environmental consequences have included pollution of many of the rivers in the area with heavy metals, and the hydrologic dam has disrupted river flows (Crate, 1996; Yakovleva, Alabaster,and Petrova, 2000).

Lensk (N60o44’ E114o35’), on the Lena River, is near a cave with an 82’ waterfall and underground lake.

Although transportation is limited in summer months, winter ice roads connect Lensk, Mirny, and Udachny in the Sakha Republic and Tura in Krasnoyarsk Krai.

* All coordinates are approximate.



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Anonymous. 1996. Tunguska: Burn the Evidence. Science, October 24, 1996, online. http://sciencemag.org/news/1996/10/Tunguska-burn-evidence

Artamonova, S. Yu., N.O. Kozhevnikov, and E. Yu. Antonov. 2013. Permafrost and groundwater settings at the site of “Kraton-3” peaceful underground nuclear explosion. Russian Geology and Geophysics 54:555-565.

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Crate, Susie. 1996. Silent Spring in Siberia: The Plight of the Vilyuy Sakha. Cultural Survival Quarterly, December.

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Kravchinsky, Vadim A. et al. 2002. Paleomagnetism of East Siberian traps and kimberlites: two new poles and palaeographic reconstructions at about 360 and 250 Ma. Geophysical Journal International 148:1-33.

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Mawson Coast and Prydz Bay

Mawson Coast and Prydz Bay

Emperor Penguins, with Indian Affinities

I. Map Boundaries: 60 to 70 degrees South, 60 to 80 degrees East

II. Country: Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (Stations operated by Australia, China, and Russia; India plans to open a research station in the Larsemann Hills by 2012)

III. Overview

Prydz Bay and the Amery Ice Shelf are one of the most prominent bays or indentations in the solid wall of icy land and mountains that is East Antarctica. Prydz Bay is in a rift valley, which matches another rift valley in present-day eastern India, and an indication of the long journey of India since the breakup of Gondwana. The rift valley in India that is matched is either Godavari or Mahanadi. The National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research in India thinks it is the Mahanadi Rift. Prydz Bay formed in the Late Paleozoic Era during early Gondwana rifting and was adjacent to either the Godavari or Mahanadi rift of northeastern India. India started moving away from Antarctica in the early Cretaceous Period. Sediments under the bay contain coal, which formed when the area was covered with southern conifer rainforest from the late Cretaceous to the Late Eocene. In the Oligocene, the area went underwater and transitioned to a glacial environment in the Late Eocene. By the Middle Miocene, a polar ice sheet was established. Continue reading

Koukdjuak and the Crystal Eye of Nunavik

A false gold mine from the 1500s and a nesting waterfowl haven

I. Map boundaries: 60 to 70 degrees North; 60 to 80 degrees West

II. Country: Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador; Nunavut-part of Qikiqtaaluk Region; Quebec including Katavik Regional Government or Nunavik)

III. Overview

In 1576, a voyage from England under the leadership of Martin Frobisher sought to find the Northwest Passage, a straight that would lead to China. He sailed into Frobisher Bay and was ambushed by natives. However, he was able to collect rock specimens. He returned to England, carrying a black stone that assayers pronounced was high grade gold ore. Two more expeditions were funded to explore the gold, and a settlement was made on Kodlunarn (White Man’s) Island to mine the gold. Ships returned to England two times with ore, but when the second shipment of ore arrived in England, they learned that the first shipment of ore had been determined to be worthless. Today the island is preserved as a national historic site. Continue reading

Graham Land and Palmer Archipelago

The greenest part of Antarctica; volcanoes, penguins, and a melting ice shelf

Map boundaries: 60 to 70 degrees South; 60 to 80 degrees West

Countries: Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (stations operated by Argentina, Chile, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States)


The Antarctic Peninsula sticks out into the flow of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and causes upwellings, creating a highly productive marine ecosystem, noted for penguins and marine mammals. East of the peninsula, the Larsen Ice Shelf is breaking up on the edges. The Wordie Ice Shelf, formerly in southeastern Marguerite Bay, had melted by 2009. In the South Shetland Islands, Deception Island volcano and Livingston Island harbor Antarctic flora and fauna while providing spectacular volcanic scenery. Much of the scientific research is situated around Anvers Island, where Palmer Station is located. Vascular plants are found as far south as Lagotellerie Island, near 68 degrees South. Continue reading

Ob River and Urengoy Gas Field

Baby Mammoths, Waterfowl, and Gas Fields–world’s largest estuary and second largest gas field

Map boundaries: 60 to 70 degrees North; 60 to 80 degrees East

Country: Russia (Archangel: Nenetsia Autonomous Region, Komi Republic, Krasnoyarsk, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk, Tyumen: Khanti Mantsia and Yamilia Autonomous Regions)


This map area marks the transition from boreal forest to tundra and contains the northern extension of the Ural Mountains, which is the Yamal Peninsula. East of the Urals is the low-lying West Siberian Plain. It is the site of the world’s second largest gas field, the Urengoy field, in Yamalia; and the home of most of percent of Russia’s oil production, in Khantia-Mantsia. The Samotlor Oil Field is Russia’s largest. The Urengoy and Nadym gas fields extend southward from the Gulf of Ob and Gulf of Taz. To the north of the Taz River, the Yamburg Gas field is under development as the world’s third largest gas field. The oil fields are north and east of Surgut and around Nizhnevartovsk. One of Russia’s first oil fields is located in the southwest of the map area around the Konda River (Shaimskoye Oil Field). To complete the fossil energy picture, the northeastern Komi Republic is a major coal mining area, especially around the city of Vorkuta. Continue reading