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Mys Shmidta

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Title: Mys Shmidta  
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Subject: Chukchi Sea, Pevek, Administrative divisions of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Mys Shmidta Airport, Long Range Aviation, Billings, Russia, Chaunsky District
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Mys Shmidta

Mys Shmidta (Russian: Мыс Шми́дта, lit. Cape Schmidt) is an urban locality (a work settlement)[1] in Iultinsky District of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, located about 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) southeast of the cape of the same name. The cape, but not the settlement, was formerly known as North Cape or Cape North. Cape Billings is located to the west of it and Cape Vankarem is located to the east. Population: 705 (2002 Census);[11] 4,587 (1989 Census).[12]

The settlement was founded in 1931[8] as a part of the Soviet Union's development of its Arctic air defenses. Changes in the manner in which national defenses are constructed in recent decades has led to a decline in Mys Shmidta's importance, though the settlement remains one of the main northern sea ports for Chukotka after Pevek.


The settlement is located on the shore of the Chukchi Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean), south of Wrangel Island and about 650 kilometers (400 mi) from Anadyr, the administrative center of the autonomous okrug. The settlement itself is positioned on a spit which separates the Akatan Lagoon from the open sea and protects the airport from the full effects of the Arctic Ocean. A little distance to the north-west of the settlement is the cape from which the settlement gets its name and just beyond this lies the Chukchi village of Ryrkaypiy.


Cape North, as Cape Schmidt was then called,[13] was first reached by James Cook in 1778 when he sailed through the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea, demonstrating to people in Europe and North America that Russia and Alaska were separated.[14]

The modern settlement was founded in 1931[8] as part of the Soviet Union's attempts to develop the extreme north-east of the country. The settlement itself, its airport, and the nearby cape were all named after Otto Schmidt, with Mys Shmidta forming the central base for the enterprises involved in the mining of tin and gold. The surrounding area from Tiksi and Pevek to Nordvik and Maria Pronchishcheva Bay experienced a comparative boom as the first icebreakers began carrying goods and people along the Northern Sea Route.

In 1954, the airfield was developed as part of the Soviet Air Force's plan to create a ring of air bases around the arctic for the use of its strategic bomber fleet during the Cold War. During the Cold War, this airfield formed a network of forward staging bases inside the Arctic Circle. The use of strategic bomber forward staging bases was dictated by geography and weather. The northern parts of the Soviet Union closest to the United States are in the Arctic, with hostile weather conditions. Consequently, Soviet strategic bombers were normally stationed at bases in more temperate parts of the Soviet Union, flying training missions from these forward staging bases.[15]

In 1962, the settlement was granted urban-type settlement status.[8]

However, the focus on intercontinental ballistic missiles as opposed to bombers meant that the airfield became less important and eventually closed for military use in the early 1990s. Around the same time, mining on an industrial scale also ceased. These two events caused a major outflow of people, leaving only around 15% of the 1990 population still in the settlement in 2008, as illustrated in the table below.

Demographic Evolution
1970 1979 1989 2002 2010
1,818[16] 3,307[17] 4,587 [12] 705 [11] 492[5]

Administrative and municipal status

Until July 2008, Mys Shmidta was a part of both Shmidtovsky Municipal and Shmidtovsky Administrative District and served as the administrative center of both. In May 2008, Shmidtovsky Municipal District was merged into Iultinsky Municipal District[18] (the administrative center of which is Egvekinot); however, this change did not affect the borders of Shmidtovsky Administrative District. Mys Shmidta continued to serve as the administrative center of the latter until June 2011, when Shmidtovsky Administrative District was merged into Iultinsky Administrative District and ceased to exist.

Within the framework of municipal divisions, Mys Shmidta is incorporated as Mys Shmidta Urban Settlement.[3]


The overall climate of Shmidtovsky District is more severe than in neighboring Alaska and varies significantly throughout the year. By the very nature of the position of the settlement, it is at the mercy of Arctic conditions, that leave it stranded throughout the winter and can pose a danger to shipping during the brief summer as supply ships try to make their delivery. The importance attached to the summer months from a logistical standpoint was well illustrated in 1983, when winter set in earlier than predicted and resulted in Mys Shmidta and a number of other coastal ports in the Russian Far East to shut early due to ice, leaving Pevek as the only open port in the region and leaving dozens of ships stuck in the ice of the Chukchi Sea.[19] Although unloading was delayed due to ice for a fortnight, the first supply ship convoy to Mys Shmidta arrived as planned.[20] However, a severe drop in temperature through August, much earlier than usual, caused a significantly greater concentration of ice in the De Long Strait and strong northerly winds forcing the semi-permanent Ayon ice sheet onto the northern coast of Chukotka.[19]

By October, the ice had thickened to such a degree that a convoy of ships, including the freighter Nina Sagaydak, Kamensk-Uralsky, together with the nuclear icebreakers Kapitan Sorokin and Vladivostok, was held fast by October in sea ice about half way between Mys Shmidta and Vankarem.[20] This proved chaotic with several ships drifting freely in the ice, hulls grinding against one another. Although the ships eventually separated, the damage cause to the Nina Sagaydak proved too severe and she sank; the first ship to be sunk by ice in Soviet waters since the Vitimles in 1963.[19] The remaining ships were freed by icebreakers and towed to the edge of the sea ice.

This extreme weather, even for this area forced the closure of all Arctic ports except Pevek. This situation placed great strain on the town's resources as it struggled to deal with such a large amount of shipping and the associated problem of how to store a much larger than usual quantity of cargo, much of which was not intended to be frozen, while authorities readied the winter snow roads.[19] These events highlight how dangerous the climate in Mys Shmidta and the surrounding area can be, particularly if winter closes in earlier than expected, creating additional danger for the settlement and any shipping in the vicinity, as well as placing considerable additional pressure on Pevek's already decaying infrastructure.

Climate data for Mys Shmidta
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 9.8
Average high °C (°F) −22.6
Daily mean °C (°F) −25.6
Average low °C (°F) −29.1
Record low °C (°F) −45.7
Precipitation mm (inches) 14
Avg. rainy days 0 0.1 0.1 0.4 4 11 16 18 14 3 1 0.2 67.8
Avg. snowy days 16 15 14 16 15 4 1 1 8 20 20 17 147
 % humidity 84 83 83 85 88 87 87 89 88 85 86 85 85.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 4 55 173 254 208 256 233 133 83 55 9 0 1,463
Source #1:[21]
Source #2: NOAA (sun only, 1961-1990)[22]

Culture and sights

Mys Shmidta is the starting point for any tourist wishing to explore the Wrangel Island UNESCO World Heritage Site. The nature reserve's headquarters are based in Mys Shmidta.[23]

Unlike the majority of other inhabited localities in Chukotka, Mys Shmidta is one of the few settlements without a local cultural museum.



The port at Mys Shmidta is generally open between July and September, although the waters surrounding the port are shallow which limits the type of ships that can serve the area. The port is operated by the Russian firm Almazzoloto.[24]

Though it has shrunk since the days of the Cold War, Mys Shmidta is still the main northern sea port in Chukotka along with Pevek.[24] Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, imports all but ceased in the early to mid-1990s, although in 1991 Mys Shmidta, importing nearly 30,000 tons of mainly American fuel, dealt with significantly more cargo than ports such as Pevek. For comparison, a port such as Mys Shmidta was handling several hundred thousand tons of cargo a year during the 1980s.[24] The decline in the overall volume of cargo passing through Mys Shmidta continued throughout the 1990s, with less than 50,000 tons being handled in 1997 and just over 1,000 tons the following year,[24] This is in part due to the declining economy of the region, which has caused a fall in investment in the port infrastructure. This in turn limits the maximum potential turnover of the port.

It is difficult to see where future cargo exports would come from. While gold is mined in Bilibino with lower-level mining at Iultin and Polyarny, these concerns do not produce significant cargo volumes for the northern sea route, and nor does the extraction of any other minerals in the area, from which Mys Shmidta could benefit.[24] Although part of the Northern Sea Route's series of ports, Mys Shmidta, as a port, will be dominated by imports of food and coal for the settlement and the surrounding villages.

A federal government decision in 1997 led to the establishment of an emergency radio station in Mys Shmidta as well as other northern Sea route ports to specifically monitor distress and salvage frequencies.[25]

Other infrastructure

The settlement is populated now mostly by indigenous people, whose economy is driven mainly by reindeer herding and low level gold mining. However, there is little mining done in the vicinity of Mys Shmidta, with the three main prospecting teams in the region: Polyarnaya, Arktikaand, and Shakhtar being based in Leningradsky.[10]

There remains a meteorological station in the settlement.[26]


Mys Shmidta is not connected to any other part of Chukotka by permanent road. Transport must either be by air or along unpaved roads.

Air transport

Immediately to the south-west of the settlement is Mys Shmidta Airport. The airport is now employed solely for civilian usage providing flights to Anadyr. Flights are provided by Chukotavia.


As with all areas of Siberia and the Russian Far East, there is very limited road transport. There is an unpaved road, however, linking Mys Shmidta with Egvekinot.[10] There is also a 435-kilometer (270 mi) unpaved road between Mys Shmidta and Komsomolsky, of which 235 kilometers (146 mi) is unpaved road and the remaining 199 kilometers (124 mi) is a snow road.[10]

In addition to the roads linking Mys Shmidta with the outside world, there is also a small network of roads within the settlement including:[9]

See also




  • Дума Чукотского автономного округа. Закон №33-ОЗ от 30 июня 1998 г. «Об административно-территориальном устройстве Чукотского автономного округа», в ред. Закона №55-ОЗ от 9 июня 2012 г. «О внесении изменений в Закон Чукотского автономного округа "Об административно-территориальном устройстве Чукотского автономного округа"». Вступил в силу по истечении десяти дней со дня его официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Ведомости", №7 (28), 14 мая 1999 г. (Duma of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Law #33-OZ of June 30, 1998 On the Administrative-Territorial Structure of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, as amended by the Law #55-OZ of June 9, 2012 On Amending the Law of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug "On the Administrative-Territorial Structure of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug". Effective as of after ten days from the day of the official publication.).
  • Правительство Чукотского автономного округа. Распоряжение №517-рп от 30 декабря 2008 г. «Об утверждении реестра административно-территориальных и территориальных образований Чукотского автономного округа», в ред. Распоряжения №323-рп от 27 июня 2011 г. «О внесении изменений в Распоряжение Правительства Чукотского автономного округа от 30 декабря 2008 года №517-рп». Опубликован: База данных "Консультант-плюс". (Government of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Directive #517-rp of December 30, 2008 On the Adoption of the Registry of the Administrative-Territorial and Territorial Formations of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, as amended by the Directive #323-rp of June 27, 2011 On Amending the Government of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Directive No. 517-rp of December 30, 2008. ).
  • Дума Чукотского автономного округа. Закон №40-ОЗ от 30 мая 2008 г. «On the Transformation of the Municipal Formations of Iultinsky Municipal District and Shmidtovsky Municipal District an on Amending Certain Legislative Acts of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, as amended by the Law #79-OZ of June 25, 2009 On Amending the Law of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug "On the Transformation of the Municipal Formations of Iultinsky Municipal District and Shmidtovsky Municipal District an on Amending Certain Legislative Acts of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug". Effective as of the day ten days after the official publication date.).
  • Petit Fute. Chukotka.
  • Дума Чукотского автономного округа. Закон №149-ОЗ от 24 ноября 2008 г. «On the Status, Borders, and Administrative Centers of the Municipal Formations on the Territory of Iultinsky Municipal District of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, as amended by the Law #85-OZ of October 20, 2010 On the Abolition of Nutepelmen Rural Settlement of Iultinsky Municipal District of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and on Amending Several Legislative Acts of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Effective as of the day ten days after the official publication date.).

External links

  • Mys Shmidta photo gallery
  • Panorama of Mys Shmidta
  • More photos of Mys Shmidta

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