Friday, August 19, 2011

Northernmost Settlement in the World

 Ellesmere Island 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 (75,767 sq mi), 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. The first European to sight the island after the height of the "Little Ice Age" was William Baffin, in 1616; said "Age" lasted until roughly 1850. Ellesmere Island was named in 1852 by Edward Inglefield's expedition after Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere. The American expedition led by Adolphus Greely in 1881 crossed the island from east to west.
Large portions of Ellesmere Island are covered with glaciers and ice, with Manson Icefield and Sydkap in the south; Prince of Wales Icefield and Agassiz Ice Cap along the central-east side of the island, along with substantial ice cover in Northern Ellesmere Island. The northwest coast of Ellesmere Island was covered by a massive, 500 km (310 mi) long ice shelf until the 20th century. The Ellesmere Ice Shelf was reduced by 90 percent in the twentieth century due to global warming, leaving the separate Alfred Ernest, Ayles, Milne, Ward Hunt, and Markham Ice Shelves.

In 2006, the population of Ellesmere Island was recorded as 146. There are three settlements on Ellesmere Island, Alert (pop. 5), Eureka(permanent pop. 0, but home to a small temporary population), and Grise Fiord (pop. 141). 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 50.
Eureka, which is the second 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 Environmental Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), formally the Arctic Stratospheric Ozone (AStrO) Observatory.

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