Overview Franz Josef Land
General, landscape: Salisbury Insel is situated in the northern center of the archipelago and with an area of about 960 km², it is the sixth largest of the islands. Due to the partly very narrow sounds separating it from its next neighbours Champ, Luigi, Ziegler uand Wiener Neustadt Island , where the winter ice in some years can stay even throughout the whole summer season, many of the coasts of Salisbury Island are often difficult to access. The island itself is basically the remains of a former plateau, indented and cut by erosion into a number of ridges and smaller plateau mountains. Even up to most tops, the land is mostly covered by glacier ice. Highest elevation: 482 m above sea level. Larger ice-free zones are lacking, with the exception of some narrow beach stripes, rock walls, scree slopes and some small top areas. A spectacular view are the steep and high cliffs of Cape Fisher at the northwest end of the island, and the Pohndorff Narrows in the very southwest, where the big iceflows of two glaciers on Salisbury Island and Champ Island almost meet, leaving just a sound of about 6 km length but partly only a few hundred metres width between their steep ice.
Just off Cape Fisher at the northwest end of Salisbury Island is the small (Mary) Elizabeth Island (unglaciated, up to about 120 m high, about 10 km²). Right next to the shore of the northeast side of Salisbury Island, the tiny Kuchin islets are situated.
Biology: As almost all of Salisbury Island is hidden under glaciers, wider areas with tundra vegetation are lacking. Plant life is fairly basic, mostly only mosses and lichens on rock faces and scree or rocky mountain tops as the most typical terrain in the few ice-free places. Only under bird colonies, a more productive flora can be found locally. As ice-free terrain is mostly isolated rock cliffs, scree slopes and narrow shore zones between lots of glaciers, birdlife on the island is mostly sea birds coming here for breeding in summer, nesting on ledges, promontories and in the scree slopes: mostly Alle alle, Rissa tridactyla, Cepphus grylle, but also Uria lomvi, Fulmarus glacialis and some Larus hyperboreus.
History: The south of Salisbury Island was sighted already by the exploration tour from the TEGETTHOFF to the north in spring 1874, but was mistaken as part of an assumed huge "Zichy Land", not realizing that this is an archipelago of mostly relatively small islands. The northwest was seen and reached first time by the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition in spring 1895, and then again by the STELLA POLARE expedition in 1899. Due to the complex system of narrow sounds, it took until the Fiala-Ziegler expedition (1903-05) to fully discover the character of Salisbury Island as an own island and to map all its shorelines. In the history of the archipelago, the island played no special role.
Names: Salisbury Island received its name from Jackson, who set foot on its north first on April 27th 1895, putting also Cape Fisher, Cape McClintock, Cape Harkness and Cape Sybil Montefiore onto his map. A number of publications state that Jackson referred with the island name to the american geologist Rollin D. Salisbury, who participated in an 1895 search expedition for Peary in northern Greenland. However, at that time, Jackson was in Franz Josef Land already, thus probably without knowledge about that other expedition, and I have not come across any other links between the british Jackson and the american Salisbury. At the same time, the influential and respected Lord Robert Cecil Marquess of Salisbury was both prime minister and secretary of state in the United Kingdom since many years when Jackson left on his british expedition to Franz Josef Land, which makes it likely that the name of the island was chosen to honour him. However, I had no chance yet to check this further.
Also for Mary Elizabeth Island (Остров Елизаветы), some explanations for the name, associating it with the austrian Erzherzogin Maria Elisabeth von Österreich (Archduchess Maria Elisabeth of Austria) seem a bit far-fetched, as none of the members of the TEGETTHOFF expedition could even see this small island in 1874. The name does not appear on Payer´s map, either, who speculated in that area about a huge "Zichy Land", but is first shown on the map of Jackson, and his mother´s name was: Mary Elizabeth (in the english spelling, as on the maps). Similar instances of possible austrian hyperpatriotism can be found in some published explanations also for the names of Alexandra Land und George Land. Surely, the austrian TEGETTHOFF expedition was a remarkably successful endeavour, but still, it did not explore all of Franz Josef Land within spring 1874 !
The Kuchin Islands (Острова Кучина) were named in soviet times after russian polar traveller Alexander Kuchin (on the FRAM with Amundsen to Antarctica, disappeared with Rusanov´s HERCULES).
Tourism: Normally, touristic voyages do not land on Salisbury Island. Cape Fisher with its rock formations is an impressive sight from ships, as is also a look into the Pohndorff Narrows - the latter are inadequately charted, though, for navigating them with a ship, while a passage with small boats is not without risk regarding possible major calvings or being trapped by drifting ice in this narrow and 6 km long sound without any accessible shore for a safe emergency landing.