New Siberian Islands
An archipelago in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia, between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea
The archipelago called the New Siberian Islands is not new, having existed for eons and containing fossils from the Late Pleistocene (over 100,000 years ago) and probably earlier. Bedrock on the islands is significantly older. The archipelago is comprised of three groups of islands. The New Siberian Islands proper consist of a number of islands, including the largest and highest – Kotelny Island. South of those are the Lyakhovskiye Islands, comprised of four islands near the Asian mainland. To the north are the five small islands of the De Long group, inadvertently discovered by the ill-fate Jeannette Expedition in 1881. During the Late Pleistocene, the islands formed major hills within the Great Arctic Plain portion of Beringia that extended through what is now Siberia and Alaska. The first documented landing occurred in 1712, when a Cossack unit led by M. Vagin reached Great Lyakhovsky Island. In 1809-1810, a cartographic expedition charted the New Siberian Islands proper. The islands were visited again in 1886 and 1892, but then largely forgotten. As the Northern Sea Route developed in the 1930’s, these islands gained some significance, at least as something to be avoided. During the Cold War, the Soviet armed forces established a military facility on Kotelny Island, largely to represent Soviet sovereignty in the region. The facility was abandoned in 1993 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2012, the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet conducted the first-ever amphibious landing exercise in the New Siberian Islands. In 2014, the Russian Air Force and Navy reactivated the military facility on Kotelny Island. Scientific and meteorological capabilities have been added, along with the capability to monitor air, surface, and subsurface activities. These developments appear to be part of a long-term plan for expanded Russian physical presence in the Arctic.