The SEA OF OKHOTSK (Russian : Охо́тское мо́ре, tr.
Okhotskoye More; IPA: ; Japanese : オホーツク海, translit.
Ohōtsuku-kai) is a marginal sea of the western
Pacific Ocean , lying
Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the
Kuril Islands on the
southeast, the island of
Hokkaido to the south, the island of Sakhalin
along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast (the
Sea ) along the west and north. The northeast corner is the
Shelikhov Gulf . The sea is named after
Okhotsk , the first Russian
settlement in the Far East .
* 1 Geography
* 1.1 Extent
* 2 Islands
* 3 History
* 3.1 Pre-modern
* 3.2 Exploration and settlement
* 3.3 Whaling
* 3.4 Modern
* 4 Oil and gas exploration
* 5 Notable seaports
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 External links
Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park on the
Okhotsk coast of Hokkaido
Okhotsk covers an area of 1,583,000 square kilometres
(611,000 sq mi), with a mean depth of 859 metres (2,818 ft) and a
maximum depth of 3,372 metres (11,063 ft). It is connected to the Sea
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
In winter, navigation on the
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
which results in raising 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
International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the
Okhotsk as follows: On the Southwest. The Northeastern and
Northern limits on the
Sea . On the Southeast. A line
running from Nosyappu Saki (Cape Noshap, 43°23'N) in the
Hokusyû (Yezo) through the Kuril or Tisima Islands to Cape Lopatka
(South point of
Kamchatka ) in such a way that all the narrow waters
between Hokusyû and
Kamchatka are included in the
Sea of Okhotsk.
Some of the
Sea of Okhotsk's islands are quite large, including
Japan's second largest island, Hokkaido, as well as Russia's largest
island, Sakhalin. Practically all of the sea's islands are either in
coastal waters or belong to the various islands making up the Kuril
Islands chain. These fall either under undisputed Japanese or Russian
ownership or disputed ownership between
Japan and Russia. Iony Island
is the only island located in open waters and belongs to the
Khabarovsk Krai of the
Russian Federation . The majority of the sea's
islands are uninhabited making them ideal breeding grounds for seals ,
sea lions , seabirds , and other sea island fauna. Large colonies,
with over a million individuals, of crested auklets use the
Okhotsk as a nesting site.
Most of the
Sea of Okhotsk, with the exception of the Sakhalin
Island, had been well mapped by 1792
Okhotsk culture is an archaeological coastal fishing and
hunter-gatherer culture of the lands surrounding the
Sea of Okhotsk
(600–1000 CE in Hokkaido, until 1500 or 1600 CE in the Kurils).
Some believe that
Mishihase was living in the area.
EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
Ivan Moskvitin and
Vassili Poyarkov were the first
Europeans to visit the
Okhotsk (and, probably, the island of
Sakhalin ) in the 1640s. The Dutch captain
Maarten Gerritsz Vries in
the Breskens entered the
Okhotsk from the south-east in 1643,
and charted parts of the
Sakhalin coast and Kurile Islands, but failed
to realize that either
Hokkaido are islands.
The first and foremost Russian settlement on the shore was the port
Okhotsk , which relinquished commercial supremacy to Ayan in the
Russian-American Company all but monopolized the commercial
navigation of the sea in the first half of the 19th century.
Second Kamchatka Expedition
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 other
than Maarten Gerritsz Vries.
Ivan Krusenstern explored the eastern
Sakhalin in 1805.
Mamiya Rinzō 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
Okhotsk sea was prepared and published by Stepan
Makarov in 1894.
American and French whaleships , as well as a few German , Russian ,
and British , hunted whales in the
Okhotsk between 1845 and
1909. They primarily caught right whales and bowhead whales , the
former in the southern half of the sea and the latter in the northern
half. Bowheads were first caught in 1847, and dominated the catch
between 1849 and the late 1860s. Beginning in the mid-1850s they
caught the occasional gray whale , and made attempts to catch
humpback , fin , blue and killer whales as well but were rarely
successful. Beluga whales were also taken opportunistically. Between
1850 and 1853 the majority of the fleet went to the Bering Strait
region to hunt bowheads, but intense competition, poor ice conditions,
and declining catches forced the fleet back to the
Sea of Okhotsk.
From 1854 to 1856, an average of nearly 150 vessels cruised in the sea
each year. As catches declined between 1858 and 1860 the fleet
shifted back to the
Bering Strait region; by the mid-1860s few ships
cruised in the sea. Despite this, at the same time the Russians
established a couple whaling stations in
Tugur Bay , which operated
until the mid-1870s. American and French ships, meanwhile, had
abandoned the sea in the early 1870s. Several vessels returned in
1874 but the bowhead catch was so poor that season that they again
deserted the area for the rest of the decade. When they returned in
the 1880s and 1890s they mainly caught right whales, rarely
venturing north to search for bowheads.
Ships usually arrived in April or May. They first made their way to
the northeastern part of the sea to hunt bowheads along the pack ice,
then worked through the ice either to the northeast to NORTHEAST GULF
Shelikhov Gulf ), north to TAUSK BAY (
Taui Bay ), or west to JONAS
Island ). After spending a few weeks cruising around
Jonas Island, many followed the retreating ice to the south and
converged on the bays to the south and west of the
Shantar Islands ,
including SHANTAR BAY (Tugur Bay), MERCURY BAY (
Ulban Bay ), and
SOUTHWEST BAY (
Uda Gulf ). On 28 July 1854, the New Bedford ship
Isabella reported as many as 94 ships in sight from her deck in
Shantar Bay alone. As the ice usually left the bays and gulfs in July
or August, bowheads were left with nowhere to seek refuge, resulting
in what has been called a "hunter's paradise". Whaling in these
confined conditions and the sheer number of ships and boats cruising
about also led to the recovery of numbers of "stinkers", dead whales
that had been lost by other vessels; right whales, on the other hand,
were caught in "open, often rough water", so when they sank they were
lost in these deeper waters.
The ships would anchor in one of these bays and send out whaleboats
to cruise for whales for days or even weeks. They searched for whales
during the long daylight hours and camped on the beach at night.
Once they found a whale, they typically sailed up to it, fastened to
it with hand-held harpoons, and killed it either with hand-held lances
or (beginning in the late 1850s) fired bomb lances into them from
shoulder guns. Whales were usually towed to the ship, but adverse
tides, distance, and ice sometimes forced the men to tow whales ashore
at high water, flense them at low water, and raft the blubber to the
ship. Boat crews were often lost in the dense fogs prevalent in these
waters. Fortunately, most were picked up by other vessels and safely
returned to their ships. In September the fleet would rendezvous at
the anchorage south of
Feklistova , where they could obtain wood and
water and repair any damage to their vessels. They usually left in
October due to persistent stormy weather. Between 1851 and 1867, over
twenty ships were lost in these storms, were run ashore and wrecked
during a dense fog, or were stove by the ice and abandoned. Most of
the crews were rescued by nearby vessels, but some perished, either
drowning in their attempt to reach shore or dying of cold, hunger, or
In late May 1865, the Confederate States Navy steamer Shenandoah
sailed into the
Okhotsk to hunt Union whaling ships. The ship
spent more than three weeks there, but because of the dangerous ice,
only destroyed one Union whaleship. It then moved on to the Bering
Strait where it burned or bonded a number of the American whaleships,
capturing 24 ships.
Cold War , the
Okhotsk was the scene of several
successful U.S. Navy operations (including
Operation Ivy Bells ) to
Soviet Navy undersea communications cables. These operations were
documented in the book Blind Man\'s Bluff: The Untold Story of
American Submarine Espionage . The sea (and surrounding area) were
also the scene of the Soviet PVO Strany attack on Korean Air Flight
007 in 1983. The
Soviet Pacific Fleet used the
Sea as a ballistic
missile submarine bastion , a strategy that
Japanese language , the sea has no traditional Japanese name
despite its close location to the Japanese territories and is called
Ohōtsuku-kai (オホーツク海), which is a transcription of the
Russian name. Additionally,
Okhotsk Subprefecture ,
faces the sea, also known as
Okhotsk region (オホーツク地方,
Ohōtsuku-chihō), is named after the sea.
OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION
29 zones of possible oil and gas accumulation have been identified on
Okhotsk shelf, which runs along the coast. Total reserves
are estimated at 3.5 billion tons of equivalent fuel, including 1.2
billion tons of oil and 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas.
On 18 December 2011 the Russian oil drilling rig Kolskaya capsized
and sank in a storm in the
Sea of Okhotsk, some 124 km from Sakhalin
Island, where it was being towed from
Kamchatka . Reportedly its pumps
failed, causing it to take on water and sink. The platform carried 67
people, of which 14 were initially rescued by the icebreaker Magadan
and the tugboat Natftogaz-55. The platform was subcontracted to a
company working for the Russian energy giant
Nagayevo Bay near
Magadan , Magadan,
Russia - population: 95,000
Palana , Kamchatka,
Russia - population: 3,000
Abashiri , Hokkaido,
Japan - population: 38,000
* Monbetsu , Hokkaido,
Japan - population: 25,000
Wakkanai , Hokkaido,
Japan - population: 38,000
* 100 Soundscapes of
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* ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International
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* ^ Stephan, John J. (1971), Sakhalin: a history, Clarendon Press,
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* ^ Charles W. Morgan, of New Bedford, Aug. 23-Sep. 30, 1902,
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* ^ San Francisco Call (Vol. 106, No. 163, November 10, 1909).
* ^ Rousseau, of New Bedford, June 22, 1855, Old Dartmouth
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* ^ Good Return, of New Bedford, Aug. 17, 1849, ODHS.
* ^ Ocmulgee, of Holmes Hole, Sep. 9, 1848, ODHS.
* ^ Josephine, of New Bedford, June 5, 1861, Kendall Whaling Museum
Sea Breeze, of New Bedford, July 28, 1867, ODHS.
* ^ Lexington, of Nantucket, June 21, 1855, Nantucket Historical
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* ^ Whalemen's Shipping List and Merchants' Transcript (Vol. XXII,
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* ^ A B Lindholm, O. V., Haes, T. A., & Tyrtoff, D. N. (2008).
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* ^ Whalemen's Shipping List & Merchants' Transcript (Vol. 32, No.
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California (Vol. 39, No. 13017, November 3, 1885).
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Charles W. Morgan, of New Bedford, Aug. 9-Sep. 26, 1897, GWBL.
* ^ Mary and Helen II, of San Francisco, April 29-Aug. 23, 1885,
* ^ Mary Frazier, of New Bedford, Apr. 11, 1859, Nicholson Whaling
Collection (NWC); Alice Frazier, of New Bedford, May 6, 1854, ODHS.
* ^ Mary and Susan, of Stonington, July 18-Aug. 8, 1849, NWC.
* ^ Florida, of New Bedford, June 15-Sep. 27, 1852, ODHS.
* ^ Cicero, of New Bedford, June 18, 1861, KWM.
* ^ Frances Henrietta, of New Bedford, July 13–26, 1857, NWC.
* ^ Good Return, of New Bedford, Aug. 12-Sep. 13, 1854, ODHS.
* ^ Louisa, of New Bedford, July 12-Aug. 28, 1858, NWC.
* ^ Isabella, of New Bedford, July 28, 1854, NWC.
* ^ Mary Frazier, of New Bedford, July 15, 1859, NWC.
* ^ Navy, of New Bedford, Aug. 18, 1861, KWM.
* ^ Daniel Wood, of New Bedford, Sep. 16, 1853, NWC; Josephine, of
New Bedford, June 26, 1864, KWM.
* ^ Scammon, C. M.; Agassiz, L.; Dall, W. H. (1874). The marine
mammals of the north-western coast of North America: described and
illustrated; together with an account of the American whale-fishery.
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* ^ Williams, H. (1964). One whaling family. Boston: Houghton
* ^ Frances Henrietta, of New Bedford, Aug. 24, 1856, NWC.
* ^ Hudson, of Fairhaven, July 5–8, 1857, KWM.
* ^ Daniel Wood, of New Bedford, Sep. 6, 1853, NWC.
* ^ Josephine, of New Bedford, Sep. 18–25, 1864, Sept. 29–30,
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Honolulu, Black color:#555">(Subscription required (help)).
* ^ "
Kommersant , Russia's Daily Online. Retrieved
January 22, 2007.
* ^ Technical details of the rig can be found here :
http://www.rigzone.com/data/rig_detail.asp?rig_id=521 and here:
* ^ "Russian oil rig sinks, leaving many missing".
CNN . December
18, 2011. Retrieved December 18, 2011.
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* ^ "Blog Archive » Rig Kolskaya Lost". Shipwreck Log. December
18, 2011. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
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