Russia's Arctic: Taimyr Peninsula

Reindeer in sea off Taimyr Peninsula, 21 Aug 13
Image caption Reindeer on Taimyr Peninsula: One of Russia's remotest regions is a haven for wildlife

The Taimyr Peninsula is the most northerly piece of land in the world that is still attached to a continent, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports.

Only a few Arctic islands and parts of Greenland are further north.

The Taimyr divides the Russian section of the Arctic Ocean.

In the centre of the peninsula there are the Byranga mountains and the huge Lake Taimyr. But much of it is made up of low-lying Arctic tundra, with permafrost just beneath the surface.

The Taimyr is a breeding ground for huge numbers of geese and waders, which fly thousands of kilometres north to feed in its beautiful isolation every summer.

It is an extraordinary meeting ground for waders, which migrate here from both Europe and Asia, and even from Africa and Australia.

Image caption Musk oxen were reintroduced to Taimyr from American populations in the 1970s

Musk ox

At some point the musk ox became extinct on the Taimyr, but was reintroduced from populations in Alaska and Canada in the 1970s. There are also millions of wild reindeer, and large populations of Arctic fox, and snowy owl.

Walruses have historically always come ashore on the Taimyr, but as the sea ice retreats further north each summer they appear to be "hauling out" in even larger numbers.

From what scientists have observed on this expedition there are clearly substantial numbers of polar bears. But very little is known about them. In fact very little science has been done in Taimyr at all, so there are huge holes in biologists' knowledge.

Image caption There is concern that drilling could spoil this pristine landscape and harm wildlife

Oil search

Two potential areas of massive oil and gas exploration border the Taimyr - the Kara Sea to the west and the Laptev Sea to the east.

As shipping through the Russian Arctic increases, the biggest bottleneck is at the northern tip of the Taimyr at Cape Chelyuskin. Near the cape the sea ice lingers the longest into late summer and early autumn.

Most of the research of the 2013 Laptev Expedition has been done in Maria Pronchishcheva Bay, half-way down the eastern coast of the Taimyr.