The Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve comprises a group of two islands north of the Arctic Circle with a remarkable high diversity of plants and animals.
Wrangel Island and Herald Island lie in the High Arctic Tundra ecoregion, with a very dry and cold climate. They have a mountainous landscape, with valleys, lakes and rivers. Vegetation consists of tundra and steppe underlain with permafrost. The surrounding waters are also part of the designated area.
The islands were not glaciated during the last Ice Age, and subsequently served as a refuge for Pleistocene species that have not survived elseweher. Wrangel also is on the intersection of two major continental systems – Asia and North America -and has species from both.
Notable features include:
• northernmost Migratory bird destination
• northernmost marine mammal location (gray whales and dolphins)
• breeding habitat of Asia’s only Snow goose population
• the largest population of Pacific walrus with up to 100,000 animals congregating
• a breeding ground for polar bears (having the highest density of dens in the world),
• woolly mammoths survived on Wrangel Island until 1650 BC, the most recent survival of all known mammoth populations.
• remains of a palaeoeskimo site as well as several small deserted reindeer herder’s settlements
Herald Island is uninhabited, and Wrangel is home to a handful of rangers and scientists.
Map of Wrangel Island
- ●● Natural
One small step for man and one giant step for mankind is what danced in my head as I set foot on the Wrangel Island tundra and the earth beneath me moved. It was like walking on a sponge, soft and light; almost delicate feeling. However the tundra was anything but delicate. I had just set foot on an island that only a few hundred people have ever seen or walked on. A visit to Wrangel Island is truly a unique once in a lifetime experience.
In fact getting there is the hard part! This is the hard part. You need a special permit to be able to visit the island granted by the Russian authorities. This is not an easy process unless you know someone. However Heritage Expeditions run 3 cruises a summer (in August) to Wrangel Island on their polar vessel, the Spirit of Enderby.
While we visited, 3 Russian rangers came on board our Heritage Expeditions ship and stayed for 4 nights while we made our way around the island. They accompanied us on landings both for educational purposes and for safety purposes. They also showed us images of what life was like for them in the winter which was fascinating. Polar Bears get quite curious in the winter and many visited the ranger buildings quite often. I felt weird when we left them knowing that they had a long cold winter ahead.
Read more from Sherry Ott here.
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Full name: Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve
Unesco ID: 1023
Criteria: 9 10
- 2004 - Inscribed
- 2003 - Requested by State Party to not be examined
- 2001 - Requested by State Party to not be examined At Bureau Session
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