Matua Island, Russia

Matua is an uninhabited volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean, 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) across Golovnin Strait from Raikoke. Matua is roughly oval, with a length of 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) with a width of 6.5 kilometres (4.0 miles) and an area of 52 square kilometres (20 sq miles).

The island is a complex stratovolcano with two main peaks. Its name is derived from the Ainu language meaning “hellmouth”...

Sarychev Peak in the northwest of the island is one of the most active volcanoes of the Kuril Islands. The central cone has a 250-meter (820 ft) wide, very steep-walled crater with a jagged rim, rising to a height of 1,496 metres (4,908 ft). Lava flows descending on all sides of the peak forms capes along the coast. Eruptions have been recorded since the 1760s, including 1878–1879, 1923, 1930, 1946, 1960, 1976, 1981, 1987, 1989 and 2009, with the largest in 1946 which produced pyroclastic flows that reached the sea. The 2009 eruption was large enough to affect air traffic between Asia and North America.

The much smaller peak to the south, Tengaizan, has a height of 127 metres (417 ft).

Matua was visited by hunting and fishing parties of the Ainu, but there was no permanent habitation. The island appears on an official map showing the territories of Matsumae Domain, a feudal domain of Edo period Japan dated 1644. It was subsequently claimed by the Empire of Russia but Matua was returned to the Empire of Japan in 1875 along with the rest of the Kuril islands.

During World War II the Imperial Japanese Army had an airfield located on this island. It was intermittently bombed by the US Army Air Force or shelled by ships of the United States Navy. During the Soviet Battle of the Kuril Islands in the last weeks of World War II, the Japanese garrison surrendered without resistance.

After World War II, the island came under the control of the Soviet Union and the former Japanese military facilities were manned by the Soviet Border Troops. Following the withdrawal of Soviet military forces following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the island has been uninhabited. It is now administered as part of the Sakhalin Oblast of the Russian Federation.

Although it is located at the same latitude as Paris or Seattle, Matua has a subarctic climate that is close to a polar climate. However, Matua has very heavy precipitation as rain, snow and fog. It also has much milder winters with August being the mildest month and February the coldest.

Matua Island is a naturalist's delight with abundant flora and fauna of both land and sea.

Cruises are seasonal and are in the northern spring and summer.

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