Gulf of Ob Bay in the Kara Sea: detailed information

Where is the Gulf of Ob on the map of Russia?

The Gulf of Ob is one of the world’s greatest marine bays and the largest formed by the mouth of the Ob, which flows into the Kara Sea.

The Gulf of Ob is the largest bay of the Kara Sea, formed by the mouth of the Ob River and located between the Yamal and Gydan Peninsulas. By its structure, the Gulf of Ob is an estuary – a single-arm estuary extending towards the sea and characterized by an active mixing of salty and fresh water.

Despite its gigantic size (the area, according to various estimates, is from 40 to 50 thousand square kilometers), the bay is not deep – no more than 25 meters. The width of the Gulf of Ob is from 30 to 80 kilometers, and its length reaches 800 kilometers, which is 1/8 of the length of Ob itself.

On the coast of the Gulf of Ob, there are several permanent settlements:

  • Sabetta rotational settlement on the Yamal Peninsula with a temporary population of 33,000 people (currently the largest settlement in the region, the permanent population of the settlement does not exceed a few dozen people);
  • Novy Port village and Mys Kamenny settlement on the Yamal Peninsula;
  • a closed camp for shift workers, Yamburg, on the Tazovsky Peninsula;
  • Antipayuta village on the Gydan Peninsula, located within the Taz Bay.

How to get to the bay

To feel the scale of the Gulf of Ob, you must get there by water. In the short summer navigation period a ship “Mekhanik Kalashnikov” runs along the route Salekhard – Novy Port – Antipayuta along the estuary of Ob and the Gulf of Ob. It takes 22 hours to reach Novy Port and 40 hours to the terminal point of the route. The cost of tickets is from 1300 RUR to 4700 RUR for adults and from 652 RUR to 2350 RUR for children depending on the cabin class. To get from Salekhard to Antipayuta, one will have to pay the price of 2046 RUR to 7364 RUR for an adult ticket and 1023 RUR to 3682 RUR for a child ticket respectively.

In winter the only way to reach the Gulf of Ob is by air. The region’s airports are located in the following settlements: Yamburg, Kamenny Cape, Sabetta and Novy Port, receiving both planes and helicopters. Flights to these air ports are performed from airports of Novy Urengoy, Salekhard, Tyumen and Moscow. You can also get to Yamburg by bus from Novy Urengoy. Yamburg is also connected to Novy Urengoy by railroad, but since 2015 there has been no passenger service on this road.

Weather and climate

Ob Guba can rightfully be called the true north, as almost the entire territory of the bay is above the Arctic Circle. The southern part of the Gulf of Ob belongs to the subarctic climate zone, while the northern part – to the sea polar climate zone. Winters longer than 6 months with extremely low temperatures and short, cold summers are characteristic of the entire Gulf of Ob. The southern part of the bay becomes ice-free only in June, the northern part a month later. Winter comes here as early as October.

The average annual temperature in the localities of the Gulf of Ob ranges from -9.1°C in Novy Port to -10.1°C in Sabetta. The coldest month of the year is February (average temperature -27°C in Kamenny Cape, -26.1°C in Antipayuta and Novy Port, -25.1 in Sabetta). The range of average temperatures of the warmest month of the year is quite large: from +10.1 °C in Novy Port to just +7 °C in Sabetta. At any time of the year, the Gulf of Ob is characterized by strong winds, making the climate even more uncomfortable. To complete the picture, the polar night lasts 40 days here.

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When is the season and is it better to go

The best time to visit the Gulf of Ob is in the short summer period in July and August when the bay is free of ice and the temperatures are more or less comfortable. Summer navigation continues in September, but in this month frosts occur regularly.

Nature of the region

The coast of the Gulf of Ob is a tundra, turning into an arctic desert. The animal life is represented by lemmings, Arctic foxes, and polar bears. Vegetation is lichens, mosses, in the southern part – grass and bushes (Ledum, Calamagrostis).

The animal world of the water column is quite rich and diverse. The Gulf of Ob is characterized by cohabitation of freshwater and marine fish species. It is home to many valuable commercial fish species: sturgeon, sterlet, salmon (muksun, whitefish, pelagin, bogun, Pollack), vendace. Also inhabit other species: burbot, perch, spruce, etc.

History of discovery

The study of the Gulf of Ob was started at the very beginning of the 17th century, when an expedition of V. Masalsky and S. Pushkin to the mouth of the river Taz. Later the shores of the Gulf of Ob were explored by the inhabitants of Mangazei, the first Russian polar city, located on the river Taz, which has now disappeared.

A new stage of research of the Gulf of Ob came in the course of the Great Northern Expedition in the 1830s. In 1734 the dubel boat under the leadership of hydrographer D. Ovtsin entered the waters of the Gulf of Ob, in 1736 it reached latitude 70°, and in 1738 it passed the entire gulf and reached the open sea. During the same years, A. Skuratov twice crossed the Gulf, first entering it from the Kara Sea and reaching the mouth of the Ob River, and then making a return trip.


The settlements of the Gulf of Ob cannot boast any special sights. The exception is the village of Novy Port, where in the mid-20th century was built a unique natural fish store – a freezer built in the permafrost. The Novy Port permafrost is the largest in the world, with the capacity to store 1,700 tons of fish. The permafrost fish storehouse consists of ice corridors with total length of over 1,300 meters; its temperature remains constant at -12°C in any season of the year. It is used only from April to June, and the rest of the time it is open to tourists. There is no permanent guide, tours are given by the chief engineer of the permafrost site. It is possible to arrange for a pass with the director of the Novoportovsky fish factory.

Of the other attractions of the region, you can only note the burning torches of gas fields and the nature of the north itself.

Tips for the tourist

Since Yamburg and Sabetta are closed rotational settlements, to get here you need to get a pass from Gazprom (working or guest pass). And the ports of the Gulf of Ob, such as Novy Port, Antipayuta and Kamenny Cape, are within a 10-kilometer coastal border zone, so visiting these settlements will require permission from the Russian Border Service. It is necessary to obtain permission in advance in Tyumen, Salekhard or Novy Urengoy.

It is strictly prohibited to bring alcoholic beverages into most of the settlements in the Gulf of Ob, such as Yamburg or Sabetta. This ban applies not only to workers arriving here, but also to guests, and violating the ban may result in being kicked off the flight. It is also impossible to find alcohol in the stores of the settlements.

Gulf of Ob is one of the toughest regions of Russia in terms of climate, attracting tourists with the beauty of northern nature and opportunities for first-class fishing. Tourist flow here is small, but the relaxation of rules for visiting the border area, which took place in 2015, has already significantly increased it.

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Islands of the Gulf of Ob in the Kara Sea

Islands of the Gulf of Ob in the Kara Sea, a wetland area

A.V. Molochaev (Central Research Laboratory of the Hunting Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Russian Federation. 129347, Moscow, Losinoostrovskaya lesnaya dacha, sq. 18).

L.K.Kamenev (Committee on Environmental Protection of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. 626608, Salekhard, Yamalskaya str. 12).

Name of the site
Geographical coordinates
Geographical location of the site

The site is located in the lower reaches of the Ob River north of the polar circle, 15 km south of the district center of Yar-Sale. The site includes all of Narechi Island and a large part of Ermak Island. There are no settlements on the territory of the site.

Description of the boundaries of the site: north – down the right bank of the Khamanelskaya Ob, from the beginning of the Khudobinskaya Ob to the Layskaya Ob and downstream to the Gulf of Ob; east – from the mouth of the Layskaya Ob to the south, including all coastal islands and shoals (Varna and Golye); further westward along the left bank of the Khamanelskaya Ob, with all the adjacent banks and islands.

Type of wetland

Under the Ramsar classification F.

Russian classification:

Ramsar Criteria

1c, 1d, 2a, 2c, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b. The most important criterion is 3a; the site is one of the largest breeding and moulting areas of waterfowl in the northern hemisphere.

Brief characteristics of the site.

“The Ob’ estuary is represented by large flat islands (up to 30 km in diameter) dissected by a dense network of channels. The landscape is dominated by sedge and cotton grass meadows on floodplain sod soils and willow thickets on riverbanks. Mass nesting places of waterfowl – river and diving ducks, swans. Large concentrations of ducks during moulting. Powerful flyway of waterfowl passes through the site. Species listed in the Red Book of the RSFSR and Appendix II of the CITES Convention – red-breasted goose and Bewick’s swan – are not uncommon on their flight, in summer the Siberian white crane occurs. In the mouth of the Ob River is the spawning and feeding ground of valuable fish species, whitefish predominate.


The geological development of the West Siberian Plain, dominated by negative tectonic movements in the modern era, has determined the formation of an extensive floodplain and a very large delta in the lower Ob. Significant thickness of alluvial deposits indicates the duration of this process. The slow flow of the river, associated with very low surface gradients, contributes to the intensive accumulation of alluvium and the predominance of lateral erosion.

The Ob channel here is divided into a number of arms-currents of various widths. The main watercourse, the Ob, being the southern boundary of the site, gradually turns into the Nadym Ob, up to 15-20 km wide. Ducts of various orders cut the Ob delta in all directions, dividing it into floodplain massifs of various sizes. The marginal part of these massifs is usually elevated, while the inner part is lowered and flattened.


The climate is harsh, continental. Winter lasts 6-6.5 months, with an average temperature of -20-24°C in January. Spring is usually short (30 days), cold, with abrupt weather changes, with frequent cold returns and frosts. The duration of the growing season is 110 days. The average temperature of the warmest month is +12-14°C. Autumn is short, with a maximum unstable baric gradient, abrupt temperature changes, and frequent early frosts (Alisov, 1969). The mouth of the Ob River is located in a zone of excessive moisture. The average annual precipitation is 400 mm. Summer precipitation is twice as high as winter precipitation.


The delta of the Ob is characterized by a very prolonged spring and summer flooding, when the water rises by almost two meters. The most high-water years are repeated in 18-20 years. Different elements of floodplain relief are flooded during floods for different periods. The highest areas are covered by hollow water for an average of 20 days. The lowered elements of the Ob estuary relief are affected by floods for a very long time. The period of their flooding reaches 90 days.

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In the development of the soil-forming process of the floodplain, the main role is played by pothole and alluvial activity of the river. Intensive accumulation of alluvium in some areas periodically causes a break in the development of the process, which determines the layering of soils and the weak expression of genetic horizons (Rodnyanskaya, 1973). In areas of high hypsometric level, sod soil formation process develops, and in floodplains of middle level, meadow process prevails. In the vast areas of central floodplain depressions, the soil-formation process is characterized by the most initial stage of development.

The reason of this phenomenon is severe climate, duration of spring-summer floods, weak vegetation development and slow activity of microorganisms. Swamp soil formation process is not widespread and is confined to areas of overgrown oxbow lakes.

Ecological conditions

The area is a complex complex of channels dividing the land into a number of islands and lake-like reservoirs. The area of the islands varies from 0.6 to 163 km2. The most important feature of the islands is the presence in their center of temporary reservoirs – “ponds”, which occupy 40% of the total area. Floodplain meadows of arctophila and sedges are widely represented.

Closer to the Ob delta there are huge soras, almost devoid of vegetation, with isolated spots of sparse groups of sor grasses and cereals (Arctophila fulva, Eleocharis acicularis, E.palustris, Beckmannia eruciformis) (Ilyina, 1985).

From the position of vertical division, the floodplain and the mouth of the Ob are classified according to ecological levels or altitudinal belts, depending on the relief and flooding regime (Shennikov, 1941). Based on this principle, areas of three floodplain levels – low, medium, and high – are distinguished for the area (Ilyina, 1985). The low floodplain is the most widely represented within the site. The relative height of the land in the low water does not exceed 1.5-1.8 m. The area of the middle ecological level is elevated above the surface of the “low” floodplain by 0.5-1 m.

The high floodplain (3-4 m in low water) is developed in the western part of the site, but does not form large massifs anywhere. The high floodplain is flooded only in the most high-water years. The medium-level area is flooded in years with average floods, while the low-level floodplain is flooded annually and for a long period (from late May to early September). Differences in the duration and timing of floods cause a clear differentiation of vegetation cover.

On the territory of the estuary with a low ecological level, along with soras, lowland bogs and sorrel bog meadows are widely represented. Vegetation of meadows is dominated by herb-grass-grass communities with the participation of small-reedy bogs. Bogs are heavily watered and boggy, with peat layer 30-50 cm thick. The potholes are formed by sedges – water sedge (Sagex aquatilis) and turf sedge (C.cespitosa). The inter-pit depressions are occupied by herb-hypnum groups of Carex chordorrhiza, Eriophorum polystachyon, Calliergon stramineum. On poorly drained flat areas of the floodplain, fine-reedy bogs transform into waterlogged, strongly mound meadows formed by the same mound sedges (Carex aquatilis, C.cespitosa). Shrubby and tree-shaped park willow forests, dominated by Salix lanata (Baryshnikov, 1961; Ilyina, 1985), are developed along the banks of streams.

Surfaces belonging to the middle and high ecological levels of the Ob delta are occupied by communities of sedge and reedgrass meadows (Carex acuta, Calamagrostis langsdorffii), willow, willow-herb, and willow-olkchnic tundras.

In inner parts of delta islands there are small areas of elevated relief – ridges with smoothed tops, which are remnants of ancient high floodplain. Such land areas are not flooded even during catastrophic floods. Their vegetation composition is close to tundra phytocenosis and is represented by willow-herb and willow-olkhorn tundra communities, as well as thinned grass layer and moss cover.

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Land tenure in the area
Land and water use

Agricultural enterprises of the APO use the territory of the Reserve in summer for haymaking. Shipping company uses B.Narechinskaya Ob during the navigation period for passage of ships.

The main land users are the Yamal Agropromoblenie, the River Port JSC of the Ob-Irtysh Steamship Company and the Yarsalinskiy State Farm.

Threatening and disturbing factors

Oil pollution, as well as pollution by industrial effluents from the upper and middle reaches of the Ob have a negative impact on all parts of the aquatic ecosystems of the region.

High floods are detrimental to nesting waterfowl, but catastrophic levels are not frequent enough to affect overall numbers.

Yarsalinsky State Farm engages in haymaking during the summer, which negatively affects the well-being of nesting waterfowl.

Existing protection

The boundaries of the site coincide with the boundaries of the Nizhneobsk state preserve. There are three inspectors in the protection staff of the reserve. It is proposed to double the protection staff.

Social and cultural value.

Valuable fishing area. A place of migration and feeding of whitefish and sturgeon – the basis of existence of indigenous peoples of the North of Western Siberia, Khanty and Nenets. Convenient testing ground for scientific activities.

The role of the area as a place of bird migration

The area is a migratory site for waterfowl that nest in the Lower Ob, its tributaries, the tundras of the Yamal Peninsula, and the Tazovsky Peninsula and winter in Western Europe, Africa, and West Asia.

In spring the flight is usually transitory, in the northern and eastern directions with short stops. During a prolonged spring with the return of cold weather, the stopover time increases, and sometimes migrations in the opposite direction occur.

Ducks are the most numerous group of waterfowl migrating through the mouth of the Ob River. River ducks (up to 70% of the total number): pintail Anas acuta, wigeon A.penelope, teal A.crecca, moorhen A.clypeata, mallard A.querquedula, mallard A.platyrhynchos. Diving ducks (15%): tufted duck Aythya fuligula, goldeneye Bucephala clangula, Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca, bluegill M. nigra, common duck Outhua marila.

Swans: whooper swan Cygnus cygnus, Bewick’s swan C.bewickii.

Geese: White-fronted goose Anser albifrons, Bean goose A.fabalis, Grey goose A.anser, Lesser white-fronted goose A.erythropus, Red-breasted goose Branta ruficollis. Swans and geese constitute 15% of the total number.

In autumn the species composition of waterfowl is the same as in spring. Migration of moulting male river ducks starts in mid August. Autumn migration is less intensive than in spring, and ends in mid-October. Transit migrations usually take place in case of a sudden weather deterioration.

Role of the area as a nesting and molting area

The mouth of the Ob River is an important nesting area for waterfowl. Many waterfowl concentrate here for molting.

Numbers of nesting birds in the floodplain are inversely related to changes in the average monthly water level in the Ob. The population density of waterfowl in the Ob’ estuary is never constant and varies from 500 to 2000 individuals per 10 km2 (Molochaev, 1990).

Weather conditions are optimum for nesting of waterfowl in years with average water levels (1976, 1980, 1982, 1984), and unfavourable in years with high floods (1978, 1979, 1981, 1983).

Average year-to-year ratios of nesting waterfowl species in the Ob estuary are (%%): Anas asuta, 53.4; A. penelope, 11.0; A. crecca and A. querquedula, 16.9; Aythya fuligula, 5.5; A. marila, 1.0; Melanitta nigra, 6.1; M. fusa, 3.1; Bucephala clangula, 0.4; Clangula hyemalis, 0.1; Mergus spp. 0.1; Anser anser- 0.1; Cygnus cygnus – 1.9 (Molochaev, 1990).

Numbers of moulting waterfowl also fluctuated significantly from year to year. Especially large aggregations of moulting ducks in the mouth of the Ob River are formed in years with high and prolonged floods, which are most negative for birds of the adjacent area – Dvuobye. It is in such situations that ducks from Dvuobye move to the mouth of the Ob for molting. Anas acuta is the most abundant on the moult, with up to 49% of the total number, A.penelope and A.crecca with 16% for each species, and Aythya fuligula with up to 10%.

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The total number of ducks in the Ob estuary after breeding and molting ranges from 0.7 to 1.5 million individuals.

The role of the area as a habitat for rare and endangered birds

Species listed in the Red Books of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Russia:

– White Crane, Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus) A rare, migratory species. – Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a rare breeding species. – White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is a rare breeding species. – Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) – found on passage. – Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus bewickii) – occurs on passage.

Role of the area as a habitat for economically important animals

Common commercial mammal species in the area include the muskrat (Ondatra zibethica), ermine (Mustela erminea), fox (Vulpes vulpes) and, during migration, the Arctic fox (V.lagopus).

The area is the world’s largest center of whitefish abundance and diversity – nelma, vendace, tugun, sprat, schnook, muksun (Stenodus leucichthys, Coregonus sardinella, C.tugun, C.peled, C.nasus, C.lavaretus, C.muksun) live here in huge numbers. In addition, Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baeri), sterlet (A.ruthenus) and Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) inhabit the area.

Scientific survey

Ornithological investigations were spontaneously carried out in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s (Braude 1972; Vengerov 1970). Later on, they were of periodic character (Krivenko et al. 1980; Stopalov, Pokrovskaya, 1983; Molochaev, 1990). There is a fairly complete cycle of hydrological observations (Maksimov, Merzlyakova,1990).

At present time the Committee for the protection and rational use of hunting resources of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug annually conducts aerial surveys of waterfowl.


Committee of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area: 12, Yamalskaya St., Salekhard, Tyumen Oblast, 626600. Tel. 4-52-48.


Administration of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District: 72, Salekhard, Tyumen region, 626600.

Goskomekologiya of Russia: 4/6 Bolshaya Gruzinskaya St., Moscow, 123812.


Baryshnikov M.K. Meadows of the Ob lower reaches, their characteristics and prospects for use. In: Proc. In: Baryshnikov M.K., Grigorievsky RAS, vol.10, Norilsk, 1961.

Braude M.I. Waterfowl hunting in the floodplain of the Lower Ob. Waterfowl resources in the USSR, Vol.2. 1972.

Vengerov M.P. The Gray Goose Population in Tyumen Region. Scientific and Technical Information Institute VNIIOZ, v.43, Kirov, 1974.

Ilyina I.S. Vegetation of river valleys. Vegetation cover of the West Siberian Plain. Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1985.

Krivenko V.G., Ivanov G.K., Azarov V.I., Molochaev A.V., Linkov A.B., Antipov A.M., Debelo P.V. Summer migrations and the number of waterfowl in the Midlands of the USSR. Ecology and protection of game birds. М., 1980. С. 46-64.

Maksimov A.M., Merzlyakova E.P. Characteristics of floods in the Ob River floodplain. Biological resources of the Ob’ floodplain. Novosibirsk, 1972.

Molochaev A.V. Features of waterfowl population dynamics in the lower reaches of the Ob. Biological bases of the account of the number of game animals. М., 1990.

Rodnyanskaya E.Y. Landscapes and fodder resources of the Ob floodplain. Physical and geographical zoning of the Tyumen region. 1973.

Stopalov V.S., Pokrovskaya I.V. Spatial and temporal dynamics of summer population of waterfowl birds of the Lower Ob floodplain. Ecology and rational use of game birds in the RSFSR. М., 1983.

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