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Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa / Franz Josef Land Zakaznik (Federal)

Çåìëÿ Ôðàíöà-Èîñèôà, Russian Federation


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Franz Josef Land, Franz Joseph Land, or Francis Joseph's Land (Russian: Земля Франца-Иосифа, Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa) is an archipelago located in the far north of Russia. It lies in the Arctic Ocean north of Novaya Zemlya and east of Svalbard, and is administered by Arkhangelsk Oblast. Franz Josef Land consists of 191 ice-covered islands with a total area of 16,134 km2 (6,229 sq mi). It is currently uninhabited.

At latitudes between 80.0° and 81.9° north, it is the most northerly group of islands associated with Eurasia. The extreme northernmost point is Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island. The archipelago is only 900 to 1,110 km (560 to 690 miles) from the North Pole, and the northernmost islands are closer to the Pole than any other land except for Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland.

The archipelago was possibly first discovered by the Norwegian sealers Nils Fredrik Rønnbeck and Johan Petter Aidijärvi aboard the schooner Spidsbergen in 1865 who, according to scarce reports, sailed eastward from Svalbard until they reached a new land, denoted Nordøst-Spitsbergen (Spitsbergen was the contemporary name of Svalbard). It is not known if they went ashore, and the new islands were soon forgotten.

The officially recognized discovery took place in 1873 by the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition led by polar explorers Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht. They named the archipelago in honour of the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph I. Since the expedition was privately sponsored and not official, these islands have not been part of Austria.

In 1926 the islands were taken over by the Soviet Union, and a few people were settled for research and military purposes. Access by ships is possible only for a few summer weeks and a special permit is required to visit the islands.

The first recognized exploration of the archipelago was done in 1873 by Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition explorers Karl Weyprecht and Julius von Payer, while their ship was locked in ice trying to find a northeast passage. After exploration of its southern islands, the name was bestowed in honor of Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. The Norwegians Fridtjof Nansen and Hjalmar Johansen passed through the islands in 1895–96 after an aborted attempt to reach the pole. By sheer coincidence, they met British explorer Frederick George Jackson at Northbrook Island in 1896.

In 1914, Russian navigator Valerian Albanov and one crewman, Alexander Konrad, sole survivors of the ill-fated Brusilov expedition, made it to Cape Flora on Northbrook Island, where they knew that Frederick George Jackson had left provisions and had built a hut in a previous Arctic expedition. Albanov and Konrad were timely rescued by Georgy Sedov's ship Saint Foka, while they were preparing for the winter. Their plight was chronicled in Albanov's published diary, In the Land of White Death.

With the introduction of larger steam-powered vessels, a number of sealing expeditions were made to the islands from the last decade of the 19th century, with more than 80% of these coming from Norway. In the late 1920s, both the Soviet Union and Norway claimed the islands. Norwegians called the islands "Fridtjof Nansen Land". The Soviet Union claimed a sector in the Arctic region that included Franz Josef Land and the nearby Victoria Island by a decree of 15 April 1926. Norway was notified on 6 May and officially protested on 19 December, contesting the Soviet claim.

In the following years, Norwegian authorities put much effort into reclaiming Victoria Island and Franz Josef Land. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not wish to take any measures to lay official claims, but had no objection to private initiatives. In 1929, consul Lars Christensen of Sandefjord, a whaling tycoon whose expeditions had annexed Bouvet Island and Peter I Island in Antarctica, funded an expedition of two vessels, S/S Torsnes and M/C Hvalrossen. Upon departure from Tromsø, the crew were given detailed instructions to erect a manned wireless station and leave a wintering crew on Franz Josef Land, and also to claim Victoria Island on behalf of Christensen. The objective was to obtain legal footing in part of the archipelago before the Soviets did. The expedition never reached Franz Josef Land due to severe ice conditions, and while waiting for better conditions they were surpassed by the Soviet icebreaker Georgij Sedov.

On 29 July 1929, Professor Schmidt of the Sedov Expedition raised the Soviet flag at Tikaya Bay, Hooker Island, and declared that Franz Josef Land was a part of the Soviet Union. Norway did not officially contest the Soviet annexation of Franz Josef Land itself, but continued their efforts regarding Victoria Island. The dispute over Victoria Island was ended when the Soviets annexed the island in September 1932.

In July 1931, a German airship marked a milestone in Russian polar exploration. The Graf Zeppelin travelled from Berlin to Hooker Island, by way of Leningrad (St. Petersburg). It delivered 300 kg (650 lbs) of commemorative mail and met with the icebreaker Malygin. After traveling east along the 81st parallel to Severnaya Zemlya, it returned to Hooker Island and began a groundbreaking aerial survey of the archipelago, flying as far north as Rudolf island.

During the Cold War years, the polar regions were a hot buffer zone between the USA and Soviet Union, and many points in the Arctic became key strategic locations. The islands were declared as a national security area from the 1930s until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and were therefore off-limits to foreigners. An airfield was built at Greem Bell to serve as a staging base for Russian bomber aircraft, and training missions were quite common between Franz Josef Land, the mainland, and Novaya Zemlya. Though the islands were militarily sensitive, a cruise ship visited in 1971.

In 2005, the Austrian geographer Christoph Höbenreich led the Payer-Weyprecht-Memorial expedition to Franz Josef Land. The Austrian-Russian team followed the historic footsteps of explorer Julius Payer by ski and pulkasleds.

From 15 June 2009 the archipelago became part of the newly established Russian Arctic National Park.

Because of their remoteness the islands are considered to be a separate DXCC "entity" for amateur radio purposes. Occasional DX-peditions have visited them. The current ITU prefix that Russia uses for the area has callsigns that start with "RI1F".

The archipelago is volcanic, composed of Tertiary and Jurassic basalts, and though covered mostly by ice it does have outcrops covered with moss. The northeastern part of the archipelago is locked in pack ice most of the year round; however the ice sometimes retreats north past the islands in summer (September). The northernmost point in the archipelago, and in the entirety of Europe, is Mys Fligely (Fligely Point), on Ostrov Rudol'fa (Rudolf Island), which reaches as far north as 81°52'N. The largest island is Zemlya Georga (George Land) which measures 110 km (68 mi) from end to end. The highest point in the archipelago is on Ostrov Viner-Neyshtadt (Wiener Neustadt Island) which reaches 620 m (2,034 ft) above sea level. The basalts of the Franz Josef Islands are part of the High Arctic Large Igneous Province. The central cluster of large islands in the midst of the archipelago forms a compact whole, known as Zichy Land, where islands are separated from each other by very narrow sounds that are frozen most of the year.

The main geographic subgroups in Franz Joseph Land are:

In January the normal daily low is −26.2 °C (−15 °F) and the high is −19.2 °C (−2.6 °F). In July the normal daily low is −0.3 °C (31.5 °F) and daily high is 2.1 °C (36 °F). The annual mean temperature is −12.4 °C (9.7 °F). The highest temperature recorded has been 10.3 °C (50.5 °F) and lowest −44.4 °C (−47.9 °F). Precipitation is common year round, but is most common during the transition seasons of late spring and autumn. Fog is very common in the late summer.

The ecology of Franz Josef Land is influenced by its harsh cold climate, but the region nevertheless supports a diversity of biota. Native wildlife consists mostly of walrus, Arctic Foxes, polar bears and seals. Historic accounts from the late 19th century indicate the presence of polar bears and seals. The polar bear population in this region, as the case with other Arctic sub-regions, is genetically distinct from other polar bear sub-populations. Common birds include kittiwakes, fulmars, and gulls.Beluga whales are often spotted in the waters. Reindeer antlers have been found on Hooker Island, suggesting that herds reached here up to about 1,300 years ago during a warmer climate.

Vegetation cover is limited to 5% of the total area of the land and consists mainly of many species of moss and lichen. During the summer season many Arctic flowers also bloom. Some of the known species are the Arctic poppy, saxifrage, and sulphur buttercup. Vegetation, though limited, still accounts for 60 species of flowering plants (includes 16 grass species) and 50 species of moss (includes terrestrial algae).

The faunal species reported in the Josef Land are the terrestrial Polar bear and walrus. The aqua fauna contains Harp seal, Arctic seal, plus humpback, bowhead, beluga, narwhal, and the white whale; and these are described as part of “the archipelago’s monochrome landscapes”. Polar foxes are reported in the southern islands near areas below the bird rookeries. In the land which is free of ice and snow, sea birds are found nesting. The bird rookeries are scattered all over the islands but mostly found in the southern and western islands. The archipelago has an annual nesting record of 5 million sea birds; the thick-billed guillemots count about 1 million. The Rubini Rock, the largest rookery of the land, has 55,000 birds comprising thick-billed guillemots, kittiwakes, Little Auks, glaucous gulls, and Black Guillemots.

In 1994, the archipelago was declared a nature sanctuary. Franz Josef Land Wildlife Refuge is a marine and terrestrial wildlife refuge (zakaznik) with plan, in 2012, for it to merge with the Russkaya Arktika National Park, which itself was established in 2009. In 2013, it was reported that Franz Josef Land is polluted with nearly 100,000 metric tons of pollutants. In order to clean the environment, Russia has approved a total grant of 1377 million rubles to complete the cleaning process during 2013 and 2014.

The following list describes some important islands in Franz Josef Land and their significance. The Russian name is quoted first.

Very few of the islands in Franz Josef Land have Russian names. Most bear names of German, British, American, Italian and, in one case, Norwegian origin.


Description provided through Wikipedia. Is it incorrect? .

Points of interest in Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa / Franz Josef Land

Latest activity in this protected area

  • 54b60831cce64518724facfcc0b2dc8c

    Protected Area updated by WCMC WCMC, facilitated by UNEP-WCMC

    about 3 years ago

    Modified see details >
  • 54b60831cce64518724facfcc0b2dc8c

    Protected Area updated by WCMC WCMC, facilitated by UNEP-WCMC

    about 3 years ago

    Modified Reported Marine Area km2 see details >

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Official Record

  • WDPA ID61502
  • NameZemlya Frantsa-Iosifa / Franz Josef Land
  • Original NameÇåìëÿ Ôðàíöà-Èîñèôà
  • Country / TerritoryRUS
  • Sub locationRU-ARK
  • IUCN CategoryIVWhat is this?
  • English DesignationZakaznik (Federal)
  • Designation TypeNational
  • StatusDesignated
  • Status Year1994
  • Reported Area km242000.0
  • Marinetrue
  • Reported Marine Area km226000.0
  • No TakeNot Reported
  • No Take Area km20.0
  • Governance TypeFederal or national ministry or agency
  • International CriteriaNot Applicable
  • Management AuthorityNot Reported
  • Management Plan URLNot Reported




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Official Data Provider

FSI ‘VNIIprirody’ Minprirody of the Russian Federation, Protected Areas Laboratory, Usad'ba Znamenskoe-Sadki, Moscow, Russian Federation (2000)

Digital Map of Protected Areas of the Russian Federation. © FSI ‘VNIIprirody’ Minprirody of the Russian Federation, Protected Areas Laboratory, 1999-2001. www.RINPRO.RU
Commercial use or redistribution to commercial enterprises is prohibited.

The boundaries and names shown, and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.


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