There’s almost no tourism here. The brutal beauty of many of these frontier islands is reserved to sporadic military patrols, local fisherman and to the fearless wildlife. This is the extreme east, we're right on the edge of the rim of the Eurasian plate. On the line where this plate is slowly engulfing the Pacific one. A small lost world, where the most remote islands are almost left at the mercy of the elements.
Kuril Islands are about 100 volcanoes (40 still smoking) on 56 islands, which only 7 are inhabited with no more than 20,000 souls. They belong to Russia and you need a special permission to enter each island. Independent travel to some of the beautiful deserted islands is almost impossible, unless you've got a boat or an helicopter (and a large budget).
As many of this incredible landscapes are out of reach for most of us, we took the opportunity to show some images courtesy of Eugene Kaspersky, who organized a private expedition, touring the islands on a boat. You can find more information, photos and entertaining stories here, on his personal blog.
Located in the center of the chain of islands, uninhabited and therefore considerably inaccessible, Ushishir has this fabulous look.
The archipelago forms an arc of volcanoes of more than 800 miles, from Kamchatka to Hokkaido in Japan.
Tempted to roll down croquette style. The old crater has become a photogenic bay ornamented with two small cones, the Pacific Ocean at one side and the Sea of Okhotsk at the other.
The islands have been changing hands in the last centuries. Japan is still claiming some of the southern islands in what is known as the Kuril Islands dispute. The years in red mark the old boundaries between Russia and Japan. Modified infographic from an original of Demis, and the satellite view of Ushishir from Nasa Johnson Space Center
Going south, this is one of the volcanic calderas in the island of Simushir.
Simushir consists of several volcanoes interconnected, and houses the remains of a secret submarine base inside the northern bay. Image by Nasa Johnson Space Center
Mosaic (hiding a secret door?) in the old Soviet Naval Base of Kraternyy.
Image Austronesian Expeditions
A Giant's Causeway at the other side of the world
North Ireland is home to the famous basalt columns that look like an artificial paved trails, near the coast. Something like Cape Stolbchaty (Column Cape) in Kunashir island.
But why this phenomenon occur? Do you really want to know? Then follow this Wikipedia link.
Yes, today I'm lazy... do you know that afterwards it has to be all manually translated into Spanish and Russian? Are you apart of looking at the pics, also reading the captions? Right now I could be explaining jokes about Russians, instead of giving you details about how many sheep are living in Kunashir.
Kunashir is very close to Japan and is one of the most accessible Kurils if you want to travel there.
These white strips in the land, like if huge Wolverine claws had tear it apart, is a field of fumaroles (gases and vapors) viewed from the top of Mendeleyeva volcano. It's something like a ventilation grid of the Center of the Earth.
The lake in the crater of Golovnin volcano, also in Kunashir.
Still in Kunashir, this is Tyatya volcano. In this cone that looks like a freshly baked cake, are hanging the remnants of an Helicopter crashed in 1983. No survivors.
In Onekotan we find an island inside another island, Krenitsyn volcano.
Are you reading? Here is one Russian joke: - Hello dear, what do we have for dinner today? - Nothing - Ah, the same as yesterday? - It's because I made it for two days! Image courtesy from NASA Earth Observatory
Shikotan, also very close to Japan, is known as the Kuril New Zealand, but it has no sheeps. Baaaaaa!
Iturup is another gorgeous island, containing the magnificent Atsonupuri Volcano.
Here goes a fresher (and unfair) joke, harvested in 2014:
A Russian is crossing the border with a neighboring country. The officer asks: - Name? - Vladimr. - Occupation? - No, just visiting.
Seriously, I wish I had (also) a Russian passport. Do you know how expensive and difficult is to get a visa, also to travel to all the -Stan republics in Central Asia? And do you know other Russian themed jokes? I do :]