KAMCHATKA, a peninsula of N.-E. Siberia, stretching from the land of the Chukchis S.S.W. for 750 m., with a width of from 80 to 300 m. (51° to 62° N., and 156° to 163° E.), between the Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea. It forms part of the Russian Maritime Province. Area, 104,260 sq. m.
The isthmus which connects the peninsula with the mainland is a flat tundra, sloping gently both ways. The mountain chain, which Ditmar calls central, seems to be interrupted under 57° N. by a deep indentation corresponding to the valley of the Tighil. There too the hydrographical network, as well as the south-west to north-east strike of the clay-slates and metamorphic schists on Ditmar’s map, seem to indicate the existence of two chains running south-west to north-east, parallel to the volcanic chain of S.E. Kamchatka. Glaciers were not known till the year 1899, when they were discovered on the Byelaya and Ushkinskaya (15,400 ft.) mountains. Thick Tertiary deposits, probably Miocene, overlie the middle portions of the west coast. The southern parts of the central range are composed of granites, syenites, porphyries and crystalline slates, while in the north of Ichinskaya volcano, which is the highest summit of the peninsula (16,920 ft.), the mountains consist chiefly of Tertiary sandstones and old volcanic rocks. Coal-bearing clays containing fresh-water molluscs and dicotyledonous plants, as also conglomerates, alternate with the sandstones in these Tertiary deposits. Amber is found in them. Very extensive layers of melaphyre and andesite, as also of conglomerates and volcanic tuffs, cover the middle portions of the peninsula. The south-eastern portion is occupied by a chain of volcanoes, running along the indented coast, from Cape Lopatka to Cape Kronotskiy (54° 25′ N.), and separated from the rest of the peninsula by the valleys of the Bystraya (an affluent of the Bolstraya, on the west coast) and Kamchatka rivers. Another chain of volcanoes runs from Ichinskaya (which burst into activity several times in the 18th and 19th centuries) to Shiveluch, seemingly parallel to the above but farther north. The two chains contain twelve active and twenty-six extinct volcanoes, from 7000 to more than 15,000 ft. high. The highest volcanoes are grouped under 56° N., and the highest of them, Kluchevskaya (16,990 ft.), is in a state of almost incessant activity (notable outbreaks in 1729, 1737, 1841, 1853–1854, and 1896–1897), a flow of its lava having reached to Kamchatka river in 1853. The active Shiveluch (9900 ft.) is the last volcano of this chain. Several lakes and probably Avacha Bay are old craters. Copper, mercury, and iron ores, as also pure copper, ochre and sulphur, are found in the peninsula. The principal river is the Kamchatka (325 m. long), which flows first north-eastwards in a fertile longitudinal valley, and then, bending suddenly to the east, pierces the above-mentioned volcanic chain. The other rivers are the Tighil (135 m.) and the Bolstraya (120 m.), both flowing into the Sea of Okhotsk; and the Avacha, flowing into the Pacific.
The floating ice which accumulates in the northern parts of the Sea of Okhotsk and the cold current which flows along the east coast of the peninsula render its summers chilly, but the winter is relatively warm, and temperatures below −40° F. are experienced only in the highlands of the interior and on the Okhotsk littoral. The average temperatures at Petropavlovsk (53° N.) are: year 37° F., January 17°, July 58°; while in the valley of the Kamchatka the average temperature of the winter is 16°, and of the summer as high as 58° and 64°. Rain and snow are copious, and dense fogs enshroud the coast in summer; consequently the mountains are well clothed with timber and the meadows with grass, except in the tundras of the north. The natives eat extensively the bulbs of the Martagon lily, and weave cloth out of the fibres of the Kamchatka nettle. Delphinopterus leucus, the sea-lion (Otaria Stelleri), and walrus abound off the coasts. The sea-otter (Enhydris marina) has been destroyed.
The population (5846 in 1870) was 7270 in 1900. The southern part of the peninsula is occupied by Kamchadales, who exhibit many attributes of the Mongolian race, but are more similar to the aborigines of N.E. Asia and N.W. America. Fishing (quantities of salmon enter the rivers) and hunting are their chief occupations. Dog-sledges are principally used as means of communication. The efforts of the government to introduce cattle-breeding have failed. The Kamchadale language cannot be assigned to any known group; its vocabulary is extremely poor. The purity of the tongue is best preserved by the people of the Penzhinsk district on the W. coast. North of 57° N. the peninsula is peopled with Koryaks, settled and nomad, and Lamuts (Tunguses), who came from the W. coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. The principal Russian settlements are: Petropavlovsk, on the E. coast, on Avacha Bay, with an excellent roadstead; Verkhne-Kamchatsk and Nizhne-Kamchatsk in the valley of the Kamchatka river; Bolsheryetsk, on the Bolshaya; and Tighil, on the W. coast.
The Russians made their first settlements in Kamchatka in the end of the 17th century; in 1696 Atlasov founded Verkhne-Kamchatsk, and in 1704 Robelev founded Bolsheryetsk. In 1720 a survey of the peninsula was undertaken; in 1725–1730 it was visited by Bering’s expedition; and in 1733–1745 it was the scene of the labours of the Krasheninnikov and Steller expedition.
See G. A. Erman, Reise um die Erde iii., (Berlin, 1848); C. von Ditmar, Reisen und Aufenthalt in Kamchatka in den Jahren 1851–1855 (1890–1900); G. Kennan, Tent Life in Siberia (1870), and paper in Jour. of American Geog. Soc. (1876); K. Diener, in Petermann’s Mitteilungen (1891, vol. xxxvii.); V. A. Obruchev, in Izvestia of the East Siberian Geographical Society (xxiii. 4, 5; 1892); F. H. H. Guillemard, Cruise of the “Marchesa” (2nd ed., London, 1889); and G. E. H. Barrett-Hamilton in Scott. Geog. Mag. (May, 1899), with bibliography. (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)