Wrangel Island or Wrangell Island (răng´gəl), Rus. Ostrov Vrangelya, island, 1,740 sq mi (4,507 sq km), in the Arctic Ocean, between the East Siberian Sea and the Chukchi Sea, off NE Russia. It is separated from the mainland by Long Strait. Generally barren, frozen, and rocky, it has an arctic station and a permanent settlement. The island is a breeding ground for polar bears, polar foxes, seals, and lemmings. During the summer it is visited by numerous varieties of birds.
The island was sought by Russian Baron Ferdinand von Wrangel during his arctic expedition of 1820–24; he had heard of it from Siberian natives, but he did not succeed in finding it. It was finally discovered by Thomas Long, captain of an American whaling ship, who named it for Wrangel. Later George W. De Long, an American explorer, discovered that it was a small island and not a part of the mainland, as at first believed.
In 1911 a group of Russians made a landing on the island, and in 1921 Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the Canadian explorer, sent a small party to Wrangel with a view to claiming it for Great Britain. In 1926 the Soviet government established the first permanent colony there, ousting the few of Stefansson's Eskimo settlers who had remained. The Soviet freighter Chelyuskin, trying to discover (1933) whether an ordinary cargo ship could navigate the Northeast Passage, was crushed in the ice off Wrangel Island. The party was marooned on the island but was later rescued.
Wrangell Island (răng´gəl), 30 mi (48 km) long and 5 to 14 mi (8.1–22.5 km) wide, off SE Alaska in the Alexander Archipelago, south of the mouth of the Stikine River. It was occupied in 1834 by Russians, who named it for the Russian explorer Baron Ferdinand von Wrangel. The city of Wrangell, on the northern coast, grew around a fort built to prevent encroachment by the Hudson's Bay Company traders. From 1867 to 1877 it was a U.S. military post; later it became an outfitting point for hunters and explorers as well as for miners using the Stikine River route to the Yukon. Lumbering, fishing, and mining are pursued in the area.