Ellesmere Island

Travel Guide North America Canada Nunavut Ellesmere Island

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Introduction

Ellesmere Island (Inuit: Umingmak Nuna, meaning "land of Muskox") is part of the Qikiqtaaluk Region of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Lying within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, it is considered part of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, with Cape Columbia being the most northerly point of land in Canada. It comprises an area of 196,235 km2 and the total length of the island is 830 kilometres, making it the world's tenth largest island and Canada's third largest island. The Arctic Cordillera mountain system covers much of Ellesmere Island, making it the most mountainous in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The Arctic willow is the only woody species to grow on Ellesmere Island.

Vikings from the Greenland colonies reached Ellesmere Island, Skraeling Island, and Ruin Island during hunting expeditions and trading with the Inuit groups. Unusual structures on Bache peninsula may be the remains of a late-period Dorset stone longhouse.

The first European to sight the island after the height of the Little Ice Age was William Baffin in 1616. Ellesmere Island was named in 1852 by Edward Inglefield's expedition after Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere. The US expedition led by Adolphus Greely in 1881 crossed the island from east to west, establishing Fort Conger in the northern part of the island. The Greely expedition found fossil forests on Ellesmere Island in the late 1880s. Stenkul Fiord was first explored in 1902 by Per Schei, a member of Otto Sverdrup's 2nd Norwegian Polar Expedition.

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Geography

Ellesmere Island is separated to the east by Nares Strait from Greenland, to the west by Eureka Sound and Nansen Sound from Axel Heiberg Island, and to the south by Jones Sound and Cardigan Strait from Devon Island.

Ellesmere Island contains Canada's northernmost point, Cape Columbia at 83°6′41″N.

More than one-fifth of the island is protected as Quttinirpaaq National Park (formerly Ellesmere Island National Park Reserve), which includes seven fjords and a variety of glaciers, as well as Lake Hazen, North America's largest lake north of the Arctic Circle. Barbeau Peak, the highest mountain in Nunavut (2,616 metres) is located in the British Empire Range on Ellesmere Island. The most northern mountain range in the world, the Challenger Mountains, is located in the northeast region of the island. The northern lobe of the island is called Grant Land.

Large portions of Ellesmere Island are covered with glaciers and ice, with Manson Icefield (6,200 km2) and Sydkap (3,700 km2) in the south; Prince of Wales Icefield (20,700 km2) and Agassiz Ice Cap (21,500 km2) along the central-east side of the island, and the Northern Ellesmere icefields (24,400 km2).

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Settlements

In 2006, the population of Ellesmere Island was recorded as 146. There are three settlements on Ellesmere Island, Alert (population 5), Eureka (permanent population 0, but home to a small temporary population), and Grise Fiord (population 130). Politically, it is part of the Qikiqtaaluk Region.

Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert is the northernmost settlement in the world. With the end of the Cold War and the advent of new technologies allowing for remote interpretation of data, the overwintering population has been reduced to approximately 65 civilians and military personnel.

Eureka, which is the third northernmost settlement in the world, consists of three areas, "Eureka Aerodrome" which includes "Fort Eureka" (the quarters for military personnel maintaining the island's communications equipment), the Environment Canada Weather Station, and the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), formerly the Arctic Stratospheric Ozone (AStrO) Observatory. Eureka has the lowest average annual temperature and least precipitation of any weather station in Canada.

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Sights and Activities

  • Marine wildlife, iceberg, Beluga whale and polar bear watching
  • Thule and European expedition sites can be viewed nearby
  • Hike Grise Fiord's glaciers and ice caps
  • Snowmobile and boat trips, hiking, walking, photography

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Getting There and Around The community of Grise Fiord is only reachable by flying up from Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island, or by sea in summer. There is an airport van that meets the plane when it arrives from Resolute. Access to Quttinirpaaq National Park requires chartering a Twin Otter from Resolute Bay, an expensive four-hour flight. There are no scheduled services. Access to CFB Alert is by military aircraft, which operate from Canada's largest air force base at Trenton (Ontario). One may travel by dogsled or snow machine with an Inuit guide from Grise Fiord.

Eat/Drink==
There is a small selection of groceries at the co-op store in Grise Fiord. There are no bars, pubs or taverns.

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Sleep

Grise Fiord Inuit Lodge, Grise Fiord Inuit Co-operative, ☎ +1 867 980-9913, fax: +1 867 980-9954. Attached to a local co-op store (with native crafts and a limited grocery selection), this eight-room lodge with 24 beds is one of few accommodations available. Meals are included in the rates

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This is version 1. Last edited at 12:59 on Jul 13, 16 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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