Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Valley of the Geysers, Russia

If you could travel to the Kronotsky Nature Preserve on the volcanically active Kamchatka Peninsula, you would find a spectacular sight known as the Valley of the Geysers. It is one of the few geyser fields in the world, and the only one in Eurasia. Travel to this area is difficult. It is only accessible through an expensive helicopter trip, and there is no guarantee that the weather will be cooperative. Most of us will have to settle for a virtual trip via the internet.

The Kamchatka Peninsula in far eastern Russia is full of volcanoes. About 160 volcanoes are located on the peninsula, with 29 active ones, including the most recently active Tobalchik volcano. The 12 km long Geysernaya River flows from the Kikhpinych stratovolcano through the nature preserve on the eastern side of the peninsula. The geysers and hot springs are located along a 6 km stretch of the river, where extremely hot water heated by hot rocks and magma below the surface bursts upward through vents in the ground. Although the area was discovered in 1941, little research was done until after 1972. Forty of the larger geysers were named, and the area became a tourist attraction.

An unfortunate massive mudslide on June 3, 2007 buried about two-thirds of the river valley and many of the geysers. Although the area experienced significant damage, many of the geysers, including the largest Velican (Giant) Geyser remain active. In 2008, the Valley of the Geysers was still voted as one of seven wonders of Russia. A project is currently underway to catalogue and map what remains of the geyser field. If you want to take a virtual trip to this amazing place, complete with photos, videos and a three-dimensional model, check out this link to the project.




Photo of the Valley of the Geysers, taken in 2006, credit Robert Nunn

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