NASA Worldview: The Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin Russia, Kamchatka Peninsula, Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea / June & July 2017

Sea of Okhotsk (above) / July 1, 2017      

Sakhalin (Russian: Сахалин, pronounced [səxɐˈlʲin]) is a large Russian island in the North Pacific Ocean, lying between 45°50′ and 54°24′ N. It is Russia’s largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast. Sakhalin, which is similar in shape to and about one third the size of Honshu, is just off the east coast of Russia, and just north of Japan. The population was 497,973 as of the 2010 census, made up of mostly ethnic Russians and a smaller Korean community. The indigenous peoples of the island are the Ainu, Oroks and Nivkhs.[3]

Sakhalin was claimed by both Russia and Japan over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. These disputes sometimes involved military conflict and divisions of the island between the two powers. Russia has held all of the island since seizing the Japanese portion in the final days of World War II in 1945; Japan no longer claims any of Sakhalin, although it does still claim the nearby South Kuril Islands. Most Ainu on Sakhalin moved to Hokkaido, only 43 kilometres (27 mi) to the south, when the Japanese were displaced from the island in 1949.

The Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin (above) / June 30, 2017

The Sea of Okhotsk (above) / June 30, 2017

Russia is always active. My science-guy friend says it’s like they are “banging the bell” with a hammer, aka radio-frequency transmitters (the Woodpecker?), to see what will happen…

The Sea of Okhotsk (above) / June 30, 2017

The Sea of Okhotsk (above) / June 30, 2017

Sakhalin Russia, Kuril Islands (above) / June 29, 2017

Sakhalin was inhabited in the Neolithic Stone Age. Flint implements such as those found in Siberia have been found at Dui and Kusunai in great numbers, as well as polished stone hatchets similar to European examples, primitive pottery with decorations like those of the Olonets, and stone weights used with fishing nets. A later population familiar with bronze left traces in earthen walls and kitchen-middens on Aniva Bay.
Among the indigenous people of Sakhalin are the Ainu in the southern half, the Oroks in the central region, and the Nivkhs in the north.[5] Chinese chronicled the Xianbei and Hezhe tribes,[citation needed] who had a way of life based on fishing.

The Mongol Empire made some efforts to subjugate the native people of Sakhalin starting in about 1264 CE. According to Yuanshi, the official history of the Yuan dynasty, the Mongols militarily subdued the Guwei (骨嵬, Gǔwéi), and by 1308, all inhabitants of Sakhalin had submitted to the Yuan.  The Nivkhs and the Oroks were subjugated earlier, whereas the Ainu people submitted to the Mongols later.[citation needed] Following their subjugation, Gǔwéi elders made tributary visits to Yuan posts located at Wuleihe, Nanghar, and Boluohe until the end of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in China (1368). In the early Ming dynasty (1368–1644), the tributary relationship was re-established. By the middle of the 15th century, following the introduction of Chinese political and commercial institutions in the Amur region, the Sakhalin Ainu were making frequent tributary visits to Chinese-controlled outposts.

Chinese of the Ming dynasty knew the island as Kuyi (苦夷 Kǔyí) or Kuwu (Chinese: 苦兀; pinyin: Kǔwù), and later as Kuye (Chinese: 庫頁; pinyin: Kùyè), as it is known today. There is some evidence that the Ming eunuch Admiral Yishiha reached Sakhalin in 1413 during one of his expeditions to the lower Amur, and granted Ming titles to a local chieftain. Under the Ming dynasty, commerce in Northeast Asia and Sakhalin was placed under the “system for subjugated peoples”, or ximin tizhi. This suggests that the island was at least nominally under the administration of the Nurgan Regional Military Commission, which was established by Yishiha near today’s village of Tyr on the Siberian mainland in 1411, and continued operating until the mid-1430s. A Ming boundary stone still exists on the island.

Sakhalin Island, Hokkaido Japan & Kuril Islands (above) / June 29, 2017

Second World War
See also: Invasion of South Sakhalin
In August 1945, after repudiating the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union invaded southern Sakhalin. The Soviet attack started on August 11, 1945, a few days before the surrender of Japan. The Soviet 56th Rifle Corps, part of the 16th Army, consisting of the 79th Rifle Division, the 2nd Rifle Brigade, the 5th Rifle Brigade and the 214 Armored Brigade, attacked the Japanese 88th Infantry Division. Although the Soviet Red Army outnumbered the Japanese by three to one, they advanced only slowly due to strong Japanese resistance. It was not until the 113th Rifle Brigade and the 365th Independent Naval Infantry Rifle Battalion from Sovetskaya Gavan landed on Tōro, a seashore village of western Karafuto on August 16 that the Soviets broke the Japanese defense line. Japanese resistance grew weaker after this landing. Actual fighting continued until August 21. From August 22 to August 23, most remaining Japanese units agreed to a ceasefire. The Soviets completed the conquest of Karafuto on August 25, 1945 by occupying the capital of Toyohara.

Of the approximately 400,000 people – mostly Japanese and Korean – who lived on South Sakhalin in 1944, about 100,000 were evacuated to Japan during the last days of the war. The remaining 300,000 stayed behind, some for several more years.[19] While the vast majority of Sakhalin Japanese and Koreans were gradually repatriated between 1946 and 1950, tens of thousands of Sakhalin Koreans (and a number of their Japanese spouses) remained in the Soviet Union.

Central part of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. 2009
No final peace treaty has been signed and the status of four neighboring islands remains disputed. Japan renounced its claims of sovereignty over southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in the Treaty of San Francisco (1951), but maintains that the four offshore islands of Hokkaido currently administered by Russia were not subject to this renunciation.[22] Japan has granted mutual exchange visas for Japanese and Ainu families divided by the change in status. Recently, economic and political cooperation has gradually improved between the two nations despite disagreements.

Sakhalin is a classic “primary sector of the economy” relying on oil and gas exports, coal mining, forestry, and fishing. Limited quantities of rye, wheat, oats, barley and vegetables are grown, although the growing season averages less than 100 days.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and economic liberalization, Sakhalin has experienced an oil boom with extensive petroleum exploration and mining by most large oil multinational corporations. The oil and natural gas reserves contain an estimated 14 billion barrels (2.2 km3) of oil and 2,700 km3 (96 trillion cubic feet) of gas and are being developed under production-sharing agreement contracts involving international oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell.

In 1996, two large consortia signed contracts to explore for oil and gas off the northeast coast of the island, Sakhalin-I and Sakhalin-II. The two consortia were estimated to spend a combined US$21 billion on the two projects which almost doubled to $37 billion as of September 2006, triggering Russian governmental opposition. The cost will include an estimated US$1 billion to upgrade the island’s infrastructure: roads, bridges, waste management sites, airports, railways, communications systems, and ports. In addition, Sakhalin-III-through-VI are in various early stages of development.

The Sakhalin I project, managed by Exxon Neftegas Limited (ENL), completed a production-sharing agreement (PSA) between the Sakhalin I consortium, the Russian Federation, and the Sakhalin government. Russia is in the process of building a 220 km (140 mi) pipeline across the Tatar Strait from Sakhalin Island to De-Kastri terminal on the Russian mainland. From De-Kastri, the resource will be loaded onto tankers for transport to East Asian markets, namely Japan, South Korea and China.

The second consortium, Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd (Sakhalin Energy), is managing the Sakhalin II project. It completed the first ever production-sharing agreement (PSA) with the Russian Federation. Sakhalin Energy will build two 800-km pipelines running from the northeast of the island to Prigorodnoye (Prigorodnoe) in Aniva Bay at the southern end. The consortium will also build, at Prigorodnoye, the first ever liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant to be built in Russia. The oil and gas are also bound for East Asian markets.

Sakhalin II has come under fire from environmental groups, namely Sakhalin Environment Watch, for dumping dredging material in Aniva Bay. The groups were also worried about the offshore pipelines interfering with the migration of whales off the island. The consortium has (as of January 2006) re-routed the pipeline to avoid the whale migration. After a doubling in the projected cost, the Russian government threatened to halt the project for environmental reasons. There have been suggestions that the Russian government is using the environmental issues as a pretext for obtaining a greater share of revenues from the project and/or forcing involvement by the state-controlled Gazprom. The cost overruns (at least partly due to Shell’s response to environmental concerns), are reducing the share of profits flowing to the Russian treasury.

In 2000, the oil and gas industry accounted for 57.5% of Sakhalin’s industrial output. By 2006, it is expected to account for 80% of the island’s industrial output. Sakhalin’s economy is growing rapidly thanks to its oil and gas industry. By 2005, the island had become the largest recipient of foreign investment in Russia, followed by Moscow. Unemployment in 2002 was only 2%.[citation needed]
As of 18 April 2007, Gazprom has taken a 50% plus one share interest in Sakhalin II by purchasing 50% of Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi’s shares.

Kuril Islands Russia (above)           

Kurils sepia enhanced (above) / June 29, 2017

Kuril Islands detail / June 29, 2017         

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