Nova Zembla (Russ. Novaya Zcmlya, new land), several closely contiguous islands in the Arctic ocean, directly N. of the boundary line between Europe and Asia, and stretching N. N. E. and S. S. W. between lat. 70° 30' and 77° N., and lon. 51° 30' and 67° 30' E., with a total length of about 500 m. and an estimated average breadth of 60 in. The territory belongs to Russia, and is subject to the government of Archangel. Nova Zembla is separated from the island of Vaigatch, which lies close to the mainland, by the strait of Kara (more properly called Burrough's strait), and from the continents of Europe and Asia by the sea of Kara. There are two, or at most three large islands, the southernmost of which is bounded N. by a navigable but narrow strait known as the Ma-totchkin Shar. Still further N., Cross bay on the W. coast has been supposed to be the entrance to a strait between a middle island and the northern portion of Nova Zembla; but the latest explorations indicate that this supposition is incorrect, and it is probable that there are but two large islands separated by Matotch-kin strait, the northern being about twice as long as the southern island. The geological formation of Nova Zembla is a continuation of the Ural system.
The rugged western coast is deeply indented by the sea, and is bordered throughout its extent by mountains which attain an elevation of from 1,000 to 2,000 ft. Several loftier peaks are known, two of which in the vicinity of Matotchkin strait are respectively 3,400 and 3,700 ft. high. In the north the heights do not approach the shore so closely; the E. coast, although lower, is also fringed by highlands. The soil is barren, the only vegetation being mosses and lichens, and in some places a few stunted shrubs. The polar bear, reindeer, walrus, and fox are the animals most frequently met with. The mean summer temperature at the S. extremity is 35.51°, and that of winter 3.21°. It has been observed that a comparatively mild temperature prevails in the vicinity of the Gulf Stream islands, a barren group on the N. W. coast, occupying a locality which, as is inferred from accounts left by Barentz, was covered by 18 fathoms of water in 1596. Their name is due to the supposition that they lie within the path of the warm current which skirts the Norwegian coast.
The islands have no permanent inhabitants, but are visited by fishermen and hunters from the mainland. - Nova Zembla was unknown to the navigators of western Europe prior to the voyage, in 1556, of Stephen Bur-rough, subsequently chief pilot of England, by whom the entrance to the sea of Kara was discovered. In 1596-'7 the Dutch navigator Wil-lem Barentz, with 10 men, wintered in a hut at Ice Haven on the N. E. coast, Although the coasts of Nova Zembla have been explored by several Russian expeditions during the present century, its N. E. extremity was never rounded again from the time of Barentz till 1871, when Elling Carlsen, a Norwegian sloop captain, succeeded in reaching Ice Haven, where he found the house formerly occupied by Barentz still standing, and obtained from it many interesting relics in a remarkably good state of preservation. Carlsen's voyage led also to the discovery that the position of the N. E. extremity of Nova Zembla had been erroneously laid down as in Ion. 73° E., the actual longitude being G7° 30' E.