Russia’s westernmost Arctic island is slated to become part of a national park

Until recently, the tiny island between Svalbard and Franz Josef land was almost completely covered by an ice cap.

Victoria Island, a 10.8-square-kilometer (about 4-square-mile) island located between the archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Svalbard, is due to be included in the Russian Arctic National Park.

A proposal on the issue is now under review by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, TASS reports.

According to the national park’s director, Aleksandr Kirilov, the expansion of the park could be completed in the course of 2018.

Previously, Victoria Island was almost completely covered by glaciers. In recent decades, that ice has significantly retreated and left bigger parts of the land open.

The island, which is located at 80 degrees North, was incorporated in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. Before that, Norwegian explorers, among them Gunnar Horn and Peder Eliassen had made attempts to claim it.

The Russian Arctic National Park is reportedly Russia’s biggest protected nature reserve. It was originally established in year 2009. In 2016, it was expanded and today includes the whole of Franz Josef Land and the parts of northern Novaya Zemlya. The national park today covers an area of 8.8 million hectares (about 21.7 million acres).