General: Graham Bell (not to be mixed up with Bell Island) is the third biggest (ca. 1700 km²) and the easternmost island of the Franz-Josef-Land archipelago. North and south of the island are strikingly different: the northern part is glacier-free gently hilly tundra with elevations up to only 21 m above sea level and lots of ponds, while the south is covered almost completely by the Windy Dome (Windy Icecap) ice cap - probably the thickest of the whole archipelago. Up to about 500 m thick, it reaches up to about 530 m above sea level and contrary to many other glaciers in the archipelago, Windy Dome has gained considerably in thickness during the last decades in its middle, while the rim has retreated slightly.
At the northern end of Graham Bell, there are the remains of the former Soviet airforce base (see history) "Severnaya", often simply called "Greem Bell", which was installed in the 1950s including a 2000 m runway for fighter aircrafts and freight planes, though usable only in the 8 months with sufficiently frozen ground. The base was shut down completely in 1994. Before, it was even used for some touristic helicopter tours around the Russian arctic as a stopover and refuelling base right after this region became accessible. Though unused and falling into ruins since many years, the former base is the reason for Graham Bell being closed for normal visitors.
History: Being far to the east with often difficult ice conditions and off the routes of the pioneer attempts to reach the North Pole, Graham Bell is among the latest discovered and explored islands of Franz-Josef-Land. On the earlier maps (Payer-Weyprecht, Leigh Smith, Jackson, Nansen), it is not even marked as a vague sighting. E. B. Baldwin, second-in-command of the Wellman expedition, mapped the island very vaguely in spring 1899 during a sledge exploration tour. Even though he crossed the island 4 times on different routes, its shape is surprisingly inaccurate on the Wellman expedition map A detailed mapping took place in the Soviet period.
Due to its wide and fairly flat tundra in the northern part, Graham Bell was well suited for installing an air base with a long runway in the 1950s as part of the strategic military build-up, just like the second military base in the archipelago, Nagurskoe on Alexandra Land in the northwest of the archipelago. "Severnaya", also simply called "Greem Bell", had a gravel runway of 2.1 km for transport and fighter aircraft, but was partly not possible to use during a shorter period in summer when the ground surface melted up. It was closed down and evacuated in 1994. For a few years before this, it even served long-distance touristic helicopter tours including Severnaya Zemlya and Novaya Zemlya as one of their refuelling bases.In the liberal phase of the early 1990s, the base served also for refuelling of some touristic long-distance helicopter flights covering Severnaya Zemlya, Novaya Zemlya and Franz-Josef-Land, which found an end with exploding prices and the closure of the Graham Bell base in 1994.
In 1997, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the State University of Ohio cooperated on a drilling project on the Windy Dome ice cap, where ice cores could be recovered, which serve research on climate, atmosphere composition and ecology over the last several thousands of years. The work on site was done by the Russian side, as foreigners were not allowed in.
Name: The name of the island refers to the american inventor and supporter of polar exploration Alexander Graham Bell.