Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

Heading to Ugolnye Kopi: a journey to non-tourist Chukotka

Settlement with dinosaurs and military personnel

06.12.2023// A settlement located on the shore opposite Anadyr houses around 3 thousand inhabitants. The local economy primarily relies on the region's largest airport and the extraction of brown coal, which not only supplies Anadyr but also other settlements within the district.

Ugolnye Kopi are stretched along the Airport — Shakhtersky settlement highway. Houses here, like in the Chukchi capital, are painted in vibrant colours, roads are made of concrete, and shuttle buses are free of charge. The surroundings of the settlement are quite scenic. In summer, you can enjoy fishing here, gather a harvest of berries and mushrooms, and hunt the abundant hares.

The settlement, locally referred to as simply Ugli, was established in 1929 as a miners' settlement that supplied coal to a fish processing plant and a power station. The largest military group in Chukotka had been based in Ugolnye Kopi since the 1950s. The settlement was well-maintained at the time, but began to deteriorate after the military left.

The most developed part of the settlement, Pervomayka, was constructed for miners in the late 1980s.

In 2014, a monument was erected in the settlement in honour of Timofey Yelkov, a military pilot and Chukotka native who died during the Great Patriotic War. A bronze bust of the pilot, created by sculptor Alexey Ignatov from the Studio of Military Artists, was installed by local residents to commemorate the centenary of his birth. A similar monument once stood in the now-abandoned village of Shakhtersky. In the early 2000s, the inhabitants of Shakhtersky relocated to Ugolnye Kopi and Anadyr, leading to the dissolution of the settlement. Today, its apocalyptic scenes of decaying houses, rusting vehicles, and abandoned personal items draw only bloggers who refer to Shakhtersky as a local Pripyat.

Evidence of ancient flora and fauna is frequently discovered in the Ugli area. The fossilized plant formations are notable for their diverse species and well-preserved plant remains. These fossils can be seen at the Chukotka Heritage Museum in Anadyr. A two-hour walk from Ugolnye Kopi leads to Maria Hill, unmarked on maps, where the Devil's Castle, picturesque weathered stone formations can be found. Climbing the stone piles offers a stunning view of the Anadyr Estuary, Zolotogorye, Nikolay's Spit, and with a closer look or binoculars, Russkaya Koshka Spit and Geka Cape on the opposite side of the estuary.

Ugolnye Kopi is located at the southern tip of Zolotogorye, a ridge that extends along the coast of Anadyr Bay. The mountain range spans 65 km, with its highest point being Mount John (1012 m).

The first gold in Chukotka was discovered on the Zolotoy Ridge in 1905. From 1906 to 1908, the American Gold Mining Company's Discovery Mine extracted gold here. Today, paleontologists uncover fascinating evidence of ancient flora and fauna in the Zolotogorye area.

The first proof of dinosaurs living in Chukotka was found in the Kakanaut River basin in the late 1980s. The Kakanaut dinosaurs, including land and marine species, both predators and herbivores, are considered the world's northernmost dinosaurs. The specimens discovered here date back to the Maastrichtian age, approximately 70 million years ago. The well-preserved Kanaut fossil vegetation provides insights into the living conditions of the Maastrichtian dinosaurs.

Chukchi paleontologist Alexander Grabovsky states that in 2003, he discovered fossil flora in the Zolotoy Ridge area that is 70 million years old. It's 70 million years old! It is now referred to as the Temelian fossil flora. Dense forests used to cover Chukotka during that period. Although the climate was warm and moderate, not tropical, with snowfall in winter. Incredibly, real dinosaurs lived here in the Arctic! In the Zolotogorye area, not only dinosaur bones were found, but also a large skeleton representing the first stage of mosasaurs and cenomanian sediments.

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