Our Beautiful World


Part 10: Northern Pacific and Russian Arctic

Animals on this page:

Steller's sea lion,
Eumetopias jubatus
California Sea Xlion, Zalophus californianus
Californian Sea Otter,
Enhydra lutris nereis
Harbor seal, Phoca vitulina
Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus
Spotted Seal, Phoca largha
Beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas
Ribbon Seal, Phoca fasciata,
more whales and seals

From a rearranged translation of Vladimir Dinets original pages to norwegian, with supplements.

Klikk på flagg for norsk versjon


Steller's sea lions,
Eumetopias jubatus,
Sea Lion Caves, Oregon.

The coast between California and Alaska is spectacular, but marine mammals are less diverse.

The best site is Sea Lion Caves - a colossal sea grotto with a large rookery of Steller's Sea Lions, Eumetopias jubatus,and
California Sea Lions, Zalophus californianus..
Fjords further north are a good place to look for porpoises and
resident killer whales.

Killer whale from a
resident, fish-eating pod,
off Vancouver I, Canada.

The Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus, also known as the northern sea lion, is a threatened species of sea lion in the northern
Pacific. It is the sole member of the genus Eumetopias and the largest of the eared seals (Otariidae). Among pinnipeds, it is inferior
in size only to the walrus and the two elephant seals. The species is named for the naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who first
described them in 1741. The Steller sea lion has attracted considerable attention in recent decades due to significant, unexplained
declines in their numbers over a large portion of their range in Alaska.

The California sea lion, Zalophus californianus, is a coastal sea lion of western North America. Their numbers are abundant
(188,000 U.S. stock, 1995 estimate), and the population continues to expand about 5% annually. They are quite intelligent
and can adapt to man-made environments. Because of this, California sea lions are commonly found in public displays in zoos
and marine parks and trained by the US Navy for certain military operations.
This is the classic circus "seal", though it is not a true seal.

Sea Lion Caves, Oregon.

Steller's sea lions in the Caves.

Humpbacks in Glacier Bay, Alaska.

In the fjords of Alaska, you can see all of them plus minke whales, humpbacks and Northern sea otters, Enhydra lutris lutris.

Sea otters, Glacier Bay.

Originally, the waters off Japan were probably even better than California, but centuries of slaughter have lead to extinction of some
species and severe decline of others. Now only the most remote island groups have large populations of marine mammals. Kuril
Islands (taken by Russia in 1945) are one of the best places - most species, except for those wintering in Japanese waters, have
completely recovered.


Harbor seals, Phoca vitulina,
End of the World Cape,
Shikotan, Kuril Islands.


Baby harborseal,
Phoca vitulina,
Matua, Kuril Islands.


Bearded seal,
Erignathus barbatus nauticus
Spotted seals, Phoca. largha, Magadan, Russia.

The Harbor Seal, Phoca vitulina, (or harbour seal) also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. They are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as those of the Baltic and North Seas, making them the most widely distributed of the pinnipeds (walruses, eared seals, and true seals).

The Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, also called the square flipper seal, is a medium-sized pinniped that is found in and
near to the Arctic Ocean. It gets its generic name from two Greek words (eri and gnathos) that refer to its heavy jaw.
The other part of its Linnaean name means bearded and refers to its most characteristic feature, the conspicuous and very
abundant whiskers. When dry, these whiskers curl very elegantly, giving the bearded seal a raffish look.

The Spotted Seal, Phoca largha, also known as the larga or largha seal, is a member of the family Phocidae, and is considered
a "true seal". It inhabits ice floes and waters of the north Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas. It is primarily found along the
continental shelf of the Beaufort, Chukchi, Bering and Okhotsk Seas and south to the northern Yellow Sea and it migrates
south as far as northern Huanghai and the western Sea of Japan. It is also found in Alaska from the southeastern Bristol Bay
to Demarcation Point during the ice-free seasons of summer and autumn when spotted seals mate and have pups

Spotted seal following a
fishing boat, Severo-
Kurilsk, Kuril Is.

Unlike in America, Asian harbor seals, Phoca vitulina stejnegeri, are usually
difficult to approach, because they are often joined by wary spotted seals, their close
relatives. Unlike Pacific harbor seals, spotted seals mostly breed on ice floes, but in summer they haul out on beaches and rocks, especially in the southern parts of their range. In the Sea of Okhotsk, they are sometimes joined by bearded seals, normally seldom seen far from ice floes.
Southern sea otter
Enhydra lutris australis, Matua, Kurillene


Iona Island in central Sea of Okhotsk - site of the World's largest Steller's sea lion colony.
Eumetopias jubatus

Cold and beautiful, the Sea of Okhotsk has resident populations of some other Arctic animals, such as
beluga whale Delphinapterus leucas, as well as whales,
dolphins and pinnipedes typical for temperate seas.


Steller's sea lions,
Eumetopias jubatus,
often haul out on steep rocks.
Iona Island, Sea of Okhotsk.

Coastal form of
Dall' porpoise
(Ph. d.var. truei),
off Iturup, Kuril Is.

The sea of Okhotsk is also the best place to see the last North Pacific right whales, Eubalaena japonica. Some difficult-to-see species, such as
ribbon seal, Phoca fasciata, and bowhead whale, Eubalaena mysticetus,
also occur here.
But don't expect to find whalewatching tour operators in the area!
Male Steller's sea lion,
Shantar Islands,
Sea of Okhotsk.

Ribbon Seal, Phoca fasciata, in Northern Bering Sea
Photo: Labunski, Liz

The Ribbon Seal, Histriophoca fasciata, is a medium-sized pinniped from the true seal family, Phocidae. A seasonally ice-
bound species, it is found in the Arctic and Subarctic regions of the North Pacific Ocean, notably in the Bering Sea and Sea
of Okhotsk. It is distinguished by its striking coloration, with two wide white strips and two circles against dark brown or
black fur. It is the only species in the genus Histriophoca.

Hunting for the Ribbon Seal is more or less limited, and to day the population is estimated from 100 000 to 200 000 specimen.

Ribbon seal
(Phoca fasciata,
Shelikhov Bay,
Sea of Okhotsk.

Northern right whale,
Kuril Islands.

North Pacific right whale,
Kuril Islands.

Ringed seal,
Phoca hispida ochotensis,
Shelikhov Bay,
Sea of Okhotsk.

Bones of Steller's sea cow,
Hydrodamalis gigas
are still easy to find on local beaches. Bering I.

Commander Islands
, the Russian part of Aleutian chain, are one of the most remote island groups in the North Pacific. They had no native population, so the giant Steller's sea cow survived here until the 18th century.
Rookery of Northern fur seals, Callorhinus ursinus),
Bering Island, Commander Is.

Northern fur seals only haul out on islands with no bears present, such as the Central Kirils, Commander Is., and the Pribilofs.
Northern fur seals, Bering Island, Commander Is.
Northern fur seals and
Steller's sea lions,
Bering Island.

In addition to giant fur seal rookeries, the Commander Islands
are a good place to see many other marine mammals,
including some beaked whales.

Stejneger's beaked whale, Mesoplodon stejnegeri,
off Mednyi (Copper) Island, Commander Is.
Cuvier's beaked whale, Ziphius cavirostris,
off Kamchatka.

Summer view of Bering Sea from Cape Kriguigun,
Wedged between Bering and Chukchi Seas, Chukotka (Chukchi Peninsula) is one of the most interesting places in
the North.

Ringed Seals, Phoca hispida hispida,
and bearded seals, off Chukotka.

It has the highest biodiversity in the Arctic, both on land
and in the sea. Some marine mammals occur in huge
numbers here.
Walruses at Cape Dezhnyov,
Bering Strait, Chukotka.

Juvenile ringed seals, Russkaya Koshka Spit, Chukotka.

Polar bear summering
on a mountaintop,
Egvenkinot, Chukotka.
The star attraction is
Pacific walrus
, Odobenus rosmarus divergens
Unlike two other walrus subspecies, which are largely confined to ice floes, Pacific walruses haul out on certain beaches in great numbers.

Walrus colonies exist in summer in many parts of Chukotka and at a few remote locations in Alaska; in winter they can
be seen in Eastern Kamchatka and Commander Islands.
Polar bears, Ursus maritimus, are common on the
mainland in winter, but very rare in summer.
Polar bear summering
on a mountaintop,


Beluga whales, Anadyr Airport ferry pier, Chukotka.

whale Beluga whale, Anadyr.
Every summer, great numbers of whales, walrus and seals migrate from
Pacific to Arctic Ocean and back through Bering Strait. The most
common cetaceans are gray and beluga whales. Anadyr Airport pier
is the best place in the World to swim with belugas (July-September).
whale Beluga whale, Anadyr.

Juvenile belugas, Anadyr Airport ferry pier, Chukotka.
Spotted seal, Anadyr.
Spotted seal is very common in southern Chukotka.
Spotted seal, Anadyr.


Spotted seal playing with a juvenile beluga, Anadyr Airport ferry pier, Chukotka.

Spotted seal, Anadyr.
It prefers protected bays and river mouths.
Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutrostrata), Belyaka Spit.


Spotted seal playing with a juvenile beluga, Anadyr Airport ferry pier, Chukotka.

Walrus, Vrangel Island.
Vrangel Island north from Chukotka has the largest walrus haulout of all. More than 1/2 of World's polar bears are born here and on adjacent Herald Island. Ringed and bearded seals are abundant year-round, while spotted and sometimes ribbon seals show up in summer.
Author and polar bear cub, Vrangel I.

Chukchi Sea off Vrangel Island.
The area around the island is a good place to look for bowhead whales from late June to early September.
Bowhead whale, off Vrangel Island.
Eastern coast of Vrangel Island, July.

Laptev Sea walruses
O. r. laptevi,
Bennet I., De Long Islands.

Baby harp seal (Ph. groenlandica), White Sea.

Other seas and islands of Russian Arctic are also very interesting, but, unfortunately, it is extremely difficult and/or expensive to get there.
Summer in White Sea off
Solovki Islands, Russia.

whales Narwals,
(Monodon monoceros,
in freezing sea,
between Severnaya
Zemlya and the North Pole.
The most common mammals here are beluga, ringed seal, Phoca h. hispida, and bearded seals and polar bear, but many other species occur, especially in
nonfreezing areas near the mouths of large rivers, and in relatively
warm Barents Sea. Here some Atlantic mammals show up in summer,
following the Gulf Stream.
seals Hooded seals,
Cystophora cristata,
are very rare in
Russian Arctic.
Victoria Island, Barents Sea.

Gray seal,
Phoca. gryphus, Barents Sea
off Iokanga.
Fjord-ridden Western coast of Novaya Zemlya is probably the most interesting part of Russian Arctic, but other island groups are also worth visit.

New Siberian Islands in winter
Atlantic harbor seal
(Ph. v. vitulina),
Novaya Zemlya.

And that brings us to the end of this trip to the RFE - Russian Far East.
We do hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Comments welcome. E-mail address at bottom of page.

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All pictures, unless otherwise stated, Copyright © Vladimir Dinets


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