Arctic: ecology and economy
ISSN 2223-4594
Home Archive of journals Issue 2(38) 2020 Geological background to search underwater accumulations of mammoth ivory by sonar in the Russian Arctic


JOURNAL: 2020, 2(38), p. 86-96

HEADING: Study and development of nature resources of the Arctic

AUTHORS: Smirnov A.N., Kalinovskiy K.K.

ORGANIZATIONS: I. S. Gramberg All-Russia Scientific Research Institute for Geology and Mineral Resources of the Ocean

DOI: 10.25283/2223-4594-2020-2-86-96

UDC: 569.61:551.462.32(268.5):623.978

The article was received on: 13.04.2020

Keywords: fossil mammoth ivory, cryolithic zone, thermal abrasion, Northern Yakutsk ivory province, sea bottom placers, lacustrine placers, sonar detection, side-scan sonars, technical diving, eastern Arctic shelf

Bibliographic description: Smirnov A.N., Kalinovskiy K.K. Geological background to search underwater accumulations of mammoth ivory by sonar in the Russian Arctic. Arctic: ecology and economy, 2020, no. 2(38), pp. 86-96. DOI: 10.25283/2223-4594-2020-2-86-96. (In Russian).


Currently, the need for substantial increase in the base of actually recoverable resources of fossil mammoth ivory (FMI) — of the Mammuthus primigenius ivory (Blumenbach, 1799), is determined by intensified interest of domestic and foreign markets in this unique type of natural raw material. Accumulations of mammoth ivory are exogenous formations of the placer class, classified as boulder type placers, formed on the residual-denudation principle exclusively under conditions of the Arctic permafrost zone degradation. An analysis of their localization conditions allows the authors to identify several morphogenetic (geological and commercial) types of placers of the coastal-marine and continental genesis. The ivory is recovered (up to 30-50 tons annually) in the territory of Northern Yakutia from placers located on land, including the beach area.
Significant prospects for increasing the FMI resource base are associated with the study and exploitation of predicted underwater placers: bottom coastal-marine deposits in the shallow waters of the eastern Arctic Seas, and lacustrine placers formed in thermokarst lakes that are very common to the territory of Northern Yakutia. Bottom placers are under water, which excludes the possibility of their direct visual observation, especially resource estimation and processing by traditional methods.
Sonar detection is the most effective method of searching and identifying mammoth ivory and their fragments in underwater conditions. The technical basis are sensitive side-scan sonars (SSS) with an operating frequency between 500 and 1200 kHz and more, capable of operating in shallow waters. The mammoth tusks are small objects and their identification is possible only by morphology. This fact determines the necessity of using equipment with a high operating frequency.


1. Smirnov A. N. Klassifikatsiya prirodnykh skoplenii iskopaemoi mamontovoi kosti. [Classification of natural accumulations of fossil mammoth bone]. Litosfera, 2005, n. 4, . 151—164. (In Russian).
2. Smirnov A. N. Iskopaemaya mamontovaya kost’. [Fossil Mammoth Bone]. VNIIOkeangeologiya. St. Petersburg, 2003, 172 p. (Trudy NIIGA-VNIIOkeangeologiya; vol. 201). (In Russian).
3. Tomirdiaro S. V. Lessovo-ledovaya formatsiya Vostochnoi Sibiri v pozdnem pleistotsene i golotsene. [The loess-ice formation of Eastern Siberia in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene]. Moscow, Nauka, 1980, 184 p. (In Russian).
4. Patyk-Kara N. G. Ozernye rossypi blizhnego snosa: mineral’nye tipy i promyshlennoe znachenie. [Near-demolition lake placers: mineral types and industrial importance]. Litologiya i polez. iskopaemye, 1996, no. 1, pp. 56—67. (In Russian).
5. Firsov Yu. G. Osnovy gidroakustiki i ispol’zovanie gidrograficheskikh sonarov: Uchebnoe posobie. [Basics of hydroacoustics and the use of hydrographic sonars]. St. Petersburg, Nestor-Istoriya, 2010, 350 p. (In Russian).
6. Nesterov N. A. Nekotorye aspekty tekhnologii gidrolokatsionnogo poiska donnykh ob”ektov. [Some aspects of the technology of sonar search for bottom objects]. Navigatsiya i gidrografiya, 2014, no. 38, pp. 57—65. (In Russian).
7. Smirnov A. N., Kirillin N. D., Ivanova Yu. V., Zhurilova M. A. Zabytoe poleznoe iskopaemoe Arktiki — mamontovaya kost’. [Arctic Forgotten Mineral — Mammoth Bone]. Arktika: ekologiya i ekonomika, 2016, no. 1 (21), pp. 66—75. (In Russian).
8. Slovar’ po geologii rossypei. [Vocabulary geology dictionary]. Pod red. N. A. Shilo. Moscow, Nedra, 1985, 197 p. (In Russian).
9. Kirillin N. D. Iskopaemaya mamontovaya kost’ — osobyi geokriogennyi prirodnyi resurs severa Rossii: problemy prava, ekonomiki i organizatsii ratsional’nogo prirodopol’zovaniya. [Fossil mammoth bone is a special geocryogenic natural resource in the north of Russia: problems of law, economics and the organization of rational nature management]. Yakutsk, Dani AlmaS, 2011, 192 p. (In Russian).
10. Mol D., Oosterbaan A. Vos J. De Wolharige neushoorn. Eem dier van de mammoetsteppe. Leiden, Neushoorm Stichting Nederland, 2004, 32 p.

Download »

© 2011-2020 Arctic: ecology and economy
DOI 10.25283/2223-4594