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Discovered and first charted in 1739 as part of Russias Great Northern Expedition, the Kurils are a chain of 56 variously sized islands, arced like stepping-stones between Kamchatka and the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
 

Blistering winter winds, fog-smothered summers, chronic storms, volcanic eruptions, bubbling fields of sulfur, earthquakes, tidal waves, noxious seaweed-scented air, and blood-sucking swarms of mosquitoes the Kurils is the home of all these natural womders.
 

The combination of great distances between the Kurils and the mainland, deep channels between islands, and strong ocean currents created major barriers to plant and animal dispersal, so that species evolved distinctly in their place of origin. Thus each island has its own unique geological and biological history, allowing scientific glimpses into a rare, spectacular spectrum of biodiversity. The Kuril Islands today are one of the last biologically unknown places in the world. The Kuril Islands form part of the Pacific 'Ring of Fire'. There are about twenty major islands, all of which are the summits of volcanoes that rise from the seabed starting at depths of about 3000 m. The arc is quite active, with eruptions nearly every year, and most of the peaks are quite youthful and symmetrical in form. The climate is cold and wet, with snowfall in winter and rainfall year round, and only the northernmost and highest peak, Alaid, bears a few small glaciers. Only a few of the Kurils are inhabited, and access is quite difficult to all except the southernmost island, Kunashir (home to the strikingly beautiful volcano of Tyatya). There is irregular ferry service to the other inhabited islands and no air service, so any trips there would probably require a private boat or floatplane for access.

  • Air
    About the only way to reach the Kurils is to take a plane from Yzhno-Sakhalinsk (a flight of about an hour). Though in theory, flights are operated daily, they are often delayed because of thick fogs often wreathing the Islands.
  • Boat
    Its possible to get to the Kuril Islands by sea. Once or twice a month a ship departs from Korsakov, Sakhalins southern port, taking a day to reach the Kurils.
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