This sea is one of the least studied in the Arctic area. It is characterized by severe climate, low water salinity, and a scarcity of flora, fauna and human population, as well as shallow depths (mostly less than 50 m), slow sea currents, low tides (below 25 cm), frequent fogs, especially in summer, and an abundance of ice fields which fully melt only in August–September. The sea shores were inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous tribes of Yukaghirs, Chukchi and then Evens and Evenks, which were engaged in fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry. They were then absorbed by Yakuts and later by Russians.
The present name was assigned to the sea on 27 June 1935 by Decree of the Soviet Government. Before that, the sea had no distinct name was intermixedly called in Russia as "Indigirskoe", "Kolymskoe", "Severnoe" (Northern), "Sibirskoe" or "Ledovitoe".