1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vaygach

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VAYGACH (variously Waigats, Waigatch, &c.), an island off the Arctic coast of Russia, between it and Novaya Zemlya, bounded S. by the narrow Yugor Strait, and N. by that of Kara. It is roughly oblong in form; its length from S.E. to N.W. is 70 m., and its greatest breadth 28. Its greatest elevation scarcely exceeds 300 ft. For the most part it consists of tundra, with frequent marshes and small lakes. Slight rock ridges run generally along its length, and the coast has low cliffs in places. The island consists in the main of limestone, and its elevation above the sea is geologically recent. Raised beaches are frequently to be traced. The rocks are heavily scored by ice, but this was probably marine ice, not that of glaciers. Grasses, mosses and Arctic flowering plants are abundant, but there are no trees excepting occasional dwarf willows. Foxes and lemmings are met with, but whereas animals are few, birds are very numerous; a variety of ducks, waders, &c., frequent the marshes and lakes. The island is visited periodically by a few Samoyeds; they formerly considered it sacred, and some of their sacrificial piles, consisting of drift-wood, deer’s horns and the skulls of bears and deer, have been observed by travellers. In spite of their conversion to Christianity, the Samoyeds still regard these piles with superstition. The origin of the the name Vaygach is as dubious as its orthography; it has been held to be Dutch (waaien, to blow, and gat, a strait, hence ”windy strait”) or Russian, in which case it is probably a surname.

Comparatively little was known of the interior of the island until Mr F. G. Jackson made the circuit of it on foot in 1893 (see his Great Frozen Land, London, 1895; also H. J. Pearson, Beyond Petsora Eastward, London, 1899).