Franz Josef Land (frăns jōˈzəf, fränts yōˈzĕf) [key], Rus. Zemlya Frantsa Iosifa, archipelago, c.8,000 sq mi (20,720 sq km), in the Arctic Ocean N of Novaya Zemlya, Russia. It consists of 85 islands of volcanic origin, including Aleksandra Land, George Land, Wilczek Land, Graham Bell Island, Hooker Island, and Rudolf Island. Government observation stations (erected 1929) and settlements are on the latter two islands. Some 90% of Franz Josef Land is covered by ice interspersed with poor lichen vegetation; the average mean temperature is 6.5°F ( - 14.2°C). The islands were explored in 1873 by Karl Weyprecht and Julius von Payer, leaders of an Austrian expedition, and were subsequently more fully explored by expeditions such as those led by Frederick George Jackson (1894–97), Fridtjof Nansen (who spent the winter of 1895–96 in Franz Josef Land), Walter Wellman (1898–99), the duke of the Abruzzi (1899–1900), Evelyn Baldwin (1902–3), and Anthony Fiala (1903–5). In 1926 Russia, then a constituent republic of the USSR, claimed the archipelago as national territory.