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The Valley of the Geysers in Kamchatka: Who? Where? When?

On N. G. Kell's detailed map of Kamchatka, published in 1926, there is an obvious inaccuracy: the source of the Tikhaya River is shown to be in the Uzon volcano caldera. In fact, the Tikhaya River, which is unusual in the Reserve for its placid character, starts in a small forest lake at the foothills of Kikhpinich volcano-that is, in an entirely different place. The Reserve's 1941 research plan asked geologist T. I. Ustinova to discover the exact sources of the rivers Shumnaya and Tikhaya. That incidental request began the journey to the discovery that changed Tatyana Ivanovna's life and made her world famous.

On 14 April 1941, she was exploring the Shumnaya river canyon together with laboratory assistant Anysyfor Pavlovich Krupenin and found a geyser. Later, it was named Pervenetz (First-born). At the time, no one in the Soviet Union suspected the existence of such a miracle. In addition, Tatyana Ustinova completed her expedition’s aim and proved that the Tikhaya and Shumnaya rivers do not begin in the Uzon volcano caldera. Just above the geyser, a huge waterfall breaks off of the Shumnaya. Here, the geologist discovered two small tributaries of the Shumnaya river, including a river of warm water.

But the Valley's discovery was still more than three months away from that moment!

In July 1941, Tatyana Ustinova was sent on another expedition toward the miraculous steam. She deliberately followed the middle stream with its mysterious warm water. She became the first person in history to descend to the Valley of the Geysers on 25 July 1941.

It's noteworthy that this last blank spot is the largest concentrated geyser region in the world discovered as the result of a planned expedition by a professional geologist. (For comparison, the Yellowstone geysers were discovered by a hunter; one of the largest geysers in the western US was discovered by mounted police; the Icelandic geysers in Europe became known from the stories of «travelers and gentlemen» and the New Zealand geysers were first described by a priest.

Therefore the Valley of the Geysers, like a few other unique natural landscapes, was not even known at the time of the Reserve's establishment in 1934. This was a very late discovery, and the efforts of the scientists involved brought knowledge of the area up to modern levels in a very short time.

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The Semyachicksky estuary is counted as one of the most important wetlands as a key ornithological territory, protected by the Ramsar Convention.