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Commander Islands - The Land of Wind and Fog

Written by 56th Parallel

The Commander Islands, located in the Bering Sea, 175 kilometres to the east of Kamchatka are renowned for beautiful tundra landscapes and rich sea polar fauna.

Commander Islands map

The Commander Islands, belonging to the Aleutian District in the Kamchatka Territory, will celebrate the 270th anniversary of their discovery by Vitus Bering on September 17.

Commander Islands

©Photo by Russell Scott

Commander Islands Wildlife

©Photo by Russell Scott

These unique islands were discovered by Commander Vitus Bering who had voyaged for five months in the Pacific between the Kamchatka Peninsula and Alaska and was seeking to replenish water supplies.

The long voyage with limited supplies caused scurvy among most of the sailors, including Vitus Bering. Hard conditions were taking their toll on the crew and the ship which eventually wrecked on the shore. The island was later named after Commander Bering who died ten days later. Those who survived until the spring built a small ship from the wreckage and returned to Kamchatka having discovered the Commander Islands.

Commander Islands Wildlife

©Photo by Russell Scott

The Commander Islands form the westernmost part of the Aleutian Islands and are the only islands in the chain that belongs to Russia. The chain can be considered as a connecting link between Asia and North America. Of the 15 islands, the largest are Bering Island and Medny Island.

In 2002, the Commander Islands were included in the UNESCO MAB World Network of Biosphere Reserves for their rare tundra landscapes and diversity of polar fauna.

Commander Islands Lifestyle

©Photo by Russell Scott

The coastal waters of the Commander Islands are home to 21 whale and cetacean species and 300,000 fur seals and sea lions. Half-million rare northern birds roam the skies and nest on these isolated islands and the coastal waters are teeming with fish. There are no other examples of such dense concentration of mammals and birds of different species on such a small coastal area within the limits of Russia.

Commander Islands Seals

©Photo by Russell Scott

Commander Islands Birds

©Photo by Russell Scott

The majestic sea cliffs, expanses of the plain tundra and narrow valleys divided by forging rivers and streams which form dozens of picturesque waterfalls are shrouded by the ever frequent fogs and create the constantly changing marine sceneries unique to these islands alone.

Commander Islands Nature

©Photo by Russell Scott

Commander Islands nature

©Photo by Russell Scott

To protect the islands and their diverse flora and fauna all types of economic activities including commercial harvesting of fish and other marine organisms are prohibited within the 30-mile protection zone around the Commander Islands.

Despite the extremely fortuitous geographic position of the land of wind and fog, the Commander Islands are located on many cruise ships routes. To discover all the natural wonders of the Bering Sea take a cruise in early summer. This is the best time to observe migrating whales, nesting seabirds, land mammals and wildflowers.

Check out our cruises and more incredible Russian tours.

For cruises itinerary, departure dates and pricing, please contact us:


All photos from this blog post made by Russell Scott. You can see more of his work on his website

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56th Parallel is a travel company specialising in providing packaged tours and travel services in Russia.

Our goal is to redefine travel to Russia, focusing on creating the most rewarding experiences, which help travellers unfolds the soul of this exciting destination.

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