Death Valley, Kamchatka, Russia
There is the so-called Death Valley in Kamchatka, and this name was not given by accident. It lies in the upper Geyzernaya river at the foot of Kikhpinych volcano on the territory of the famous Kronotsky Reserve. This small area, being no longer than 2 kilometres and no wider than 100-500 meters, regularly kills animals and birds.
The Reserve was created in 1934, but some parts stayed unexplored for quite a long time. So was the discovery of the Valley, which turned out to be exceptionally unusual: a popular tourist route laid nearby, and the local geysers were regularly researched by geologists at that time. But the anomaly was detected only in 1975.
Since then the exploration of the Valley has begun. During the first several years biologists collected more than 200 bodies of different fauna representatives: 12 mammals species, 15 birds species, and a lot of insects species. The majority of the victims were small rodents and sparrow birds, but bears, foxes, wolverines, ravens and Steller's sea eagles were among them, as well. Nowadays the golden eagle, lynx and dog have also entered this list.
It was identified that all the deaths occurred from May till October - the period when this part of the reserve is not covered by snow. The scientists themselves felt a headache, fever at the nape, vertigo and weakness during the research. Hopefully, people had enough time to go higher to a ventilated uphill and felt better.
Volcanic experts finally managed to explain this phenomenon: the Valley is located on the way of the concentrated gas emission that fills the basin with hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, carbon sulphur and other poisonous fumes. The area is full of thick layers of sulphur and that's why the bodies of animals do not decay for so long: even the bacterial activity is suppressed due to the poisonous atmosphere.
The death of the local living beings occurs in a certain order. With the coming of spring, small animals and birds begin to expand the territory of their habitation, and when their path lies through the Death Valley they start suffocating. Their bodies attract bigger animals, such as foxes or golden eagles, which, in their turn, become an alluring prey for bears and wolverines.
Biologists have found out that the interference in this food chain in the very beginning by taking away the first victims lessens the final number of dead animals.
Despite such a tragic story, the Death Valley is as exceptionally beautiful as any other part of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve. Look at and admire the place reigned by nature which has its own laws of survival.
AirPano team would like to express our gratitude to the admistration of the Kronotsky Biosphere Reserve for perfect organization of the photo shoot, and warm welcome.
Photos by Sergey Semenov and Stas Sedov
13 June 2018