The Caldera of Uzon Volcano. Although this place is less known, it is not in the least grandeur or amazing. Forceful volcanic processes have formed this giant Caldera – a bowl 9 x 12 kilometers in size - on the site of a huge volcano destroyed by a series of eruptionssome 40,000 years ago.
What used to be volcanic slopes is now chaotically heaped up in the northern and western sides of the Caldera and forms ridges of 700 meters high. Barany or Bighorn Sheep Pike towers 1600 meters above the western ridge. The recent calamity, which occurred there over eight thousand years ago, formed a crater of one kilometer in diameter housing the contemporary LakeDalneye. The following centuries of furious hydrothermal activity developed a distinctive character of the area thanks to the interaction of wildlife and volcanism.
The Caldera abounds in hot springs of various forms and sizes, myriads of gas and steam outlets, puffing mud cauldrons and volcanoes, and steaming lakes. There are even springs of Narzan Mineral Water. The soil rich in minerals is amazingly colorful. The landscape in the Caldera looks extraterrestrial with its numerous blue, red, and lemony-yellow pools. They are seething, boiling, gurgling!
Uzon is a masterpiece of nature. It contains almost everything Kamchatka is famous for. A birch tree forest grows next to plants of tundra and alms, and mountains neighbor fens. Only there one can witness young oil emerging on the surface and volcanoes at their dawn. Dozens of bird and animal species which could adapt to the unusual environment inhabit the Caldera: the sandpiper, the whooper swan, various ducks, and, of course, bears.
The Caldera’s outer slopes rising to 400 meters are cut by narrow valleys. Thick brushwood of the mountain pine and alder stand can be easily traversed only by bears. Severe wind, fogs, and cold rain remain outside the Caldera. Uzon lives its own life, and the climate there is different.
What makes the Caldera distinctive is that young volcanism, the formation of new minerals and thermal lakes as well as rise of the Earth’s youngest oil to the surface can be simultaneously witnessed on one site. Microbiological processes there are matchless. Hot springs with high amount of arsenic, stibium, mercury, and copper provide habitat for algae and bacteria. Streams, dyed white by bacteria, flowing over brown clay look like milky rivers with toffee banks. Unique microorganisms – Archaea, which do not belong to algae or bacteria, are found in Uzon’shot springs. In contrast to other living organisms using oxygen to breathe, the Archaea use sulfur for the same purpose. They also consume hydrogen sulfide to produce energy.
Another greatest attraction is Lake Bannoye with outlets of radon. Covered with water at the depth of 28 meters the Lake has a fake bottom – a reservoir of liquid sulfur shielded with a thick sulfurous crust. The water temperature remains there + 40 °С even in winter.
Never freezing warm Fumarolnoye or Fumaroleand cold Tsentralnoye or Centralarethe largest lakes of Uzon. There are lots of small lakes and swamps in the Caldera. Influenced by underwater activity of fumaroles, these lakes boil on the surface.
In 2008, after a long period of quiet, a geyser, emitting water up to six meters high, awoke. Named Mutny or Turbid, this geyser added zest to the area.
Natives of Kamchatka - the Itelmens, who collected color clay in Uzon to make paints, kept this miraculous place secret. The first stranger was taken to the Caldera by Itelmens in September, 1854. His name was Carl von Ditmar, a geologist. Ditmar, who was in charge of the expedition organized by the RussianAcademy of Sciences, published information about Uzon in 1901 for the first time. He described thermal fields, paying attention to multiple hot water and steam outlets, mentioned mud cauldrons and volcanoes.
In 1996, the Caldera was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Together with the Valley of Geysers the Caldera is the main attraction of the Kronotsky Federal Nature Reserve strongly recommended to be visited.
There is an old legend about the Caldera. The legend says there used to be a high mountain on its place. A kind warrior, whose name was Uzon, lived on its top. He protected people from fiery craters by covering them when they threatened with eruptions. He also tamed wild animals which shook the earth while running. People never saw Uzon as he was hiding from demons being afraid they could destroy his mountain for his help to the people.
Lonely was mighty Uzon, and kind spirits advised him to take a wife in one of the nomad camps nearby. Mighty Uzon looked in many tents, and finally he saw beautiful Nayun. They fell in love with each other. Uzon took Nayun to his mountain where they lived happy life.
But Nayun missed her people. She asked Uzon to let her go to the camp to see her family. Kindhearted Uzon couldn’t turn down her request. He moved the mountains apart with his hands and made a smooth road. Hardly Nayun had left for the camp, when Uzon heard violent noise. The noise was made by curious people walking on the road to look at Nayun’s mountain. The noise attracted demons. They shook the nearby hills. The earth roared and swallowed the mountain. Mighty Uzon turned into a stone. He froze in a mournful posture with the inclined head and helplessly spread arms, which once were strong. Living tears stream down from the petrified eyes of the warrior and are taken away by a full-flowing river to the ocean, to Nayun’s camp, along the road which led her to the people. The demons took Uzon’s hot heart and locked it on the bottom of a cold lake. They settled beneath it in the giant bowl that the heart had formed. Since then, they have been burning sulfur there hoping to destroy all living beings by chokedamp and boiling water. But Uzon’s tears cool the water down turning it into mineral water and proving his loyalty to people even after his death.