In the second part of the series about Kamchatka, we will analyze the geothermal wonders of this amazing territory, Uzon Caldera and the Valley of the Geysers.
Uzon is the biggest geothermal field in Kamchatka, 9×12 km in size and formed around 40.000 years ago. In this magical place we can find mud pools and cauldrons, thermal lakes and around 1.000 hot springs, mixed with the beautiful colors of the tundra, specially beautiful in the early autumn.
This is also a fantastic place to analyze the extremophiles, micro-organisms living in extreme conditions due to the high temperatures and the acidity. Geologists, botanists, geochemists, microbiologists, zoologists and volcanologists find here a great laboratory where to investigate. One of the most unique characteristics of Uzon is the variety of minerals and different components (65 have been found so far), even a mineral called “Uzonite” not found anywhere on earth except here. The wildlife flourishes at Uzon, and several species call this place home.
Some species of birds nest here alongside with the red foxes, deers, mooses and of course the majestic Kamchatka’s brown bears. The caldera belongs to the protected territory called Kronotsky Reserve, including the Valley of the Geysers and also the Kuril Lake in the southern part of the Peninsula.
The easiest way to reach both places is by helicopter, allowing you to enjoy amazing aerial views of the volcanoes on the way to Kronotsky Reserve. One of the most beautiful and active volcanoes of Kamchatka is Karymsky, and its clearly visible young lava flows on the slopes. The eruptions of Karymsky usually consist of strombolian or vulcanian activity with lava flows from the summit crater with ash and gas emisions.
Close to Karymsky volcano there is another volcanic caldera, Akademia Nauk, containing one of the biggest lakes in Kamchatka, the Karymsky Lake. This caldera, formed around 30.000 years ago, had its first recorded eruption in 1996, when a strange basaltic event occured in the northwestern part of the lake.
And of course, Maly Semiachik and its beautiful crater lake characterized by the light blue colour. This lake was formed around 400 years ago after the eruption at Toitsky crater and the last recorded activity occured in 1952 with several explosive eruptions.
The so-called Valley of Geysers, discovered in April 1941 by the crimean geologist Tatyana I. Ustinova is a natural wonder and one of the few places in the world with active geysers. This place has some special a different features: It’s the most compact geyser field in the world, covering only 4 square kilometres and unlike the other geyser areas in the world, it’s not a plateau but a beautiful canyon with several geysers on the slopes of the mountains.
In 2007 a large landslide destroyed part of the area burying several thermal pools and geysers with mud, melting snow, trees, and boulders. It also blocked the Geyser River, causing a new thermal lake to pool upstream. The largest geysers in the Valley are “Grot” (Grotto) and “Velikan” (Giant), emitting up to 60 tons of boiling water.
Despite this natural catastrophe, the Valley hasn’t lost its attraction and it’s still one of the most beautiful and unique places in Kamchatka.
Sources: Kronoki, Smithsonian, Nasa Observatory
In the last article of the series about Kamchatka we will talk about the volcanoes of the southern plateau, including Gorely, Khodutka, Opala and the impressive Mutnovsky volcano.
I’m organizing a trip to Kamchatka from 4th to 19th august 2017, visiting several volcanic areas focused on the most active volcanoes: Klyuchevskoy, Shiveluch, Mutnovsky, Gorely and also including a helicopter flight to the Kuril Lake. with a stop at Ksudach caldera. It will be a small group (max.10 people) and there are still 6 places available. Here you can find the itinerary of the trip.