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    Geology of Novaya Zemlya

    Encyclopedia Arctica Volume 1: Geology and Allied Subjects

    001      |      Vol_I-0549                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. (N. V. Pinegin)


            Geologically and structurally, Novaya Zemlya is extremely complex.

    Investigations by Russian and Norwegian geologists show that the early

    Paleozoic era was inaugurated by broad, shallow epeiric seas which extended

    over the region where Novaya Zemlya now lies. This is proved by the fact

    that Cambrian fossil remains, consisting of brachiopods and trilobites,

    are found in the strata deposited in those seas. The earliest known up–

    lift of Novaya Zemlya, according to O. Holtedahl, took place in the middle

    Silurian period, since marine deposits of this age have not been found there.

    The area was reinundated by the sea in the late Silurian period, and remained

    under water until the middle of the Devonian period when volcanic activity

    and orogenic movements began to develop. There are some indications that

    the newly uplifted part of the land formed a portion of a large Devonian

    (Old Red) continent. The location of the present Arkhangelskaia Bay was on

    its margin, but at that time, a large lagoon or inland sea lay on the site

    of this inlet. That there were volcanoes nearby is attested by recurrent

    beds of ash and sub-marine lava flows in the lagoonal deposits. Among the

    fossil remains found on Novaya Zemlya, there is considerable material which

    shows that late Devonian deposits were laid down in a basin of stagnant water.

    In the ensuing epochs (the lower and middle as well as the early part of the

    002      |      Vol_I-0550                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Pinegin: Geology of Novaya Zemlya

    upper Carboniferous period), the ancient continent on the site of Novaya

    Zemlya was covered by a warm, shallow, but open sea, for thick strata of

    limestone have been left. Subsequently a slight elevation occurred, and

    the land was exposed; but somewhat later, in the pre-Artinsk period, the

    continent once more was submerged — and this time for a long time.

            The time of the final uplift of Novaya Zemlya has not yet been estab–

    lished with complete precision. It is known only that in the Permian period

    Novaya Zemlya was still under water, but no fossils of marine animals belong–

    ing to this time have been found up to the present. Probably an orogeny took

    place simultaneously with the formation of the huge mountain folds which

    separated Europe from Asia. The complicated folds of the Novaya Zemlya moun–

    tains are relies of this major orogenic period. During these diastrophic

    movements, masses of volcanic rock were extruded through fissures which had

    formed and were poured out over the older sedimentary rocks, altering them

    by their pressure and heat.

            Geological observations tend to show that Novaya Zemlya was probably

    elevated above sea level during the entire Mesozoic period, since fossili–

    ferrous marine sediments are lacking except for some late Jurassic and

    Cretaceous forms derived from erratics from an unknown source. It is still

    possible, of course, that this island was partially submerged, but this

    question has not been settled with full clarity.

            The surface features of Novaya Zemlya, with its characteristic long,

    narrow, transverse trenches or intermontane valleys, were developed by stream

    erosion during the Tertiary period. During the Pleistocene epoch these valleys

    were overdeepened by ice and the rough mountain features partly smoothed down.

    The cumulative effect of all these processes resulted in the present orographic

    003      |      Vol_I-0551                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Pinegin: Geology of Novaya Zemlya

    configuration of Novaya Zemlya.

            It is the opinion of the Norwegian geologist Grönlie that glacial ice

    completely covered Novaya Zemlya, including the tops of the highest mountains

    during the Pleistocene epoch. Under the weight of this icecap, Novaya Zemlya

    was depressed and former shore lines stood at least 350 meters higher than at

    present. When the ice cover began to melt away, the land began to rise in

    response to isostatic readjustments, but the recovery of levels did not pro–

    ceed altogether uniformly and stillstands are indicated by the numerous

    shore terraces which are clearly seen on the coastal heights. This uplift

    has been in progress throughout all of the post-Pleistocene and Recent epochs,

    and down to the present time. However, there are indications that such move–

    ments have now slackened somewhat. This seems to be substantiated by the

    status of the modern shore line, which is more maturely developed than those

    at higher elevation. But it must be noted that historical records show that

    the strand lines of the island have been rising considerably within the past

    few centuries.


    N. V. Pinegin, Novaya Zemlya, Arkhangelsk ,

    1935, p.59 ff. Translated by

    Ordway Southard

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