In 1740 the explorer Vitus Bering reached Avacha Bay and laid the foundation stone for the port of Petropavlovsk, named after his two ships, the St. Peter and the St. Paul. In the summer of 1741 Bering’s ships put to sea. Their goal was the coast of America. This voyage saw the discovery of the Aleutian Islands and the Commander Islands, where Vitus Bering died of scurvy in December 1741. Since then the largest of the Commander Islands has borne his name.
The city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is the industrial, scientific and cultural center of Kamchatka. The city and its extremely large harbor are well-protected from all storms, and even from the dreaded tsunami tidal waves. The largest tsunami, the tidal wave of 1952, destroyed the town of Severo-Kurilsk on the island of Paramushir. Although the town is only 100 miles from Kamchatka, as the tsunami ran into Avacha Bay it died down to a harmless wave only a few feet tall. Even its long-time residents make no claims about the city’s beauty; its monotonous, Soviet-style 5-story buildings (there are no tall buildings in the city because of earthquake risks) are hard on the eyes, and pot-hole filled streets crowded with old, coughing cars do not add much. This matters little, however, since the city is surrounded by incredible natural beauty- the Avacha and Koryak volcanoes to the north, and huge Avacha Bay to the south.
Petropavlovsk was a great source of fish (particularly salmon) and crab meat for the Soviet Union in the 20th century; however, since the end of the Soviet era fishing rights have been granted to foreign interests. The city is situated on high hills and surrounded by volcanoes. In fact, the horizon cannot be seen clearly from any point of town as volcanoes and mountains are everywhere. The climate is subarctic (Kppen Dfc) and precipitation averages are estimated at 860 millimetres, or about three times as much as in Siberia, with most falling as snow. Temperatures in winter are milder than in Siberiaa typical January day averages -7.3 C, while in summer +20 C constitutes an average July maximum.
The city has developed a tourist infrastructure. About twenty large tourism companies offer a wide range of services from bear hunting to paragliding. Because Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is the second largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road after Iquitos, Peru (there are no roads into Kamchatka from the outside world), travel here is extremely expensive but is growing in popularity because of the remarkable scenery throughout the peninsula.