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North America Natural Wonders
Ellesmere Island
Mackenzie Delta
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Gulf of St. Lawrence
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Ellesmere Island
The Osborn Range of the Arctic Cordillera mountain system
Nunavut, Canada
Earth's Natural Wonders in North America
 
Area-75,767 sq. miles (196,235 sq. km)
Highest peak-(Mt. Barbeau): 8,563 ft (2,616 km)
Length of Lake Hazen: 44 miles (70 km)
The Osborn Range

 

 

Blue rhyolite at Hansen Point on northern Ellesmere Island
Ellesmere Island is the largest of the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Belonging to the Nunavut territory of Canada, Ellesmere is located off the northwest coast of Greenland. Its Cape Columbia is the most northerly point of land in Canada. The world's tenth largest island at 75,767 square miles (196,236 square km), it is Canada's third largest.
Hansen Point
 

The Arctic Cordillera mountain system covers much of Ellesmere Island, making it the most rugged island in the archipelago, with vast ice fields and deeply indented coastlines. Nunavut's highest point, Barbeau Peak, reaches an elevation of 8,583 feet (2,616 meters).

More than one-fifth of the island has been turned into a national park. Quttinirpaaq National Park, in Inuktitut language, means "top of the world." The physical geography of Ellesmere Island is stunning, with breathtaking scenery and enchanting wildlife. Due to the lack of industrialization, its Arctic air is among the clearest on Earth. Though much of the island is ice or snow covered, the vegetation of its snow-free areas supports herds of musk oxen, caribou, and polar bears, as well as the Arctic Hare and birds such as the majestic Artic Tern.

The population is concentrated in three small settlements (Eureka, Grise Ford [Aujuittuq], and Alert) and a weather station and military outpost—the northernmost community in North America. The combined population of these settlements is less than 200. However, there are those who venture here time and again, to conquer what is affectionately called the "Horizontal Himalayas."

History of Ellesmere Island

The first inhabitants of Ellesmere Island were small bands of Inuit drawn to the area for Peary Caribou, muskox, and marine mammal hunting in approximately 1000-2000 B.C.E.

As was the case for the Dorset (or Palaeoeskimo) hunters and the pioneering Neoeskimos, the Post-Ruin Island and Late-Thule-culture Inuit used the Bache Peninsula region extensively both summer and winter until environmental, ecological and possibly social circumstances caused the area to be abandoned. It was the last region in the Canadian High Arctic to be depopulated during the "Little Ice Age," attesting to its general economic importance as part of the Smith Sound culture sphere of which it was occasionally a part and sometimes the principal settlement component.

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

The first European to sight the island after the Little Ice Age was William Baffin, in 1616. It 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. 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.

The Ellesmere ice shelf was documented by the British Arctic Expedition of 1875-76, in which Lieutenant Pelham Aldrich's party went from Cape Sheridan (82.47°N, 61.50°W) west to Cape Alert (82.27°N, 85.55°W), including the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf. In 1906, Robert E. Peary led an expedition in northern Ellesmere Island, from Cape Sheridan along the coast to the western side of Nansen Sound (93°W). During Peary's expedition, the Ice Shelf was continuous; a modern estimate is that it covered 8,900 km² (3,400 sq mi).

Geography

The Ellesmere Island coastline is incised by fjords, with its northern coast extended by ice shelves. The landscape is spectacular, ruggedly jagged. The mountains of Grant Land on the Island's north is formed by a chain of sedimentary rocks some 100,000 years old, and shrouded in ice nearly 2,953 feet (900 m) thick. Rock spires break through this ice; the highest mountain in North America is on Ellesmere, Barbeau Peak, at 8,583 feet (2616 m).

While numerous species of birds and land mammals make the Island their home, sea ice discourages marine mammals. Though the climate is extreme, a peculiar "thermal oasis" at Lake Hazen produces surprisingly warm summers. Ellesmere is a true polar desert, with only 2.75 inches (70 mm) of precipitation annually in some places; consequently, vegetation is sparse.

In July 2007, a study noted the disappearance of habitat for waterfowl, invertebrates, and algae on the Island. According to John P. Smol of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and Marianne S. V. Douglas of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, warming conditions and evaporation have caused low water level changes in the chemistry of ponds and wetlands in the area. The researchers noted that, "In the 1980s, they often needed to wear hip waders to make their way to the ponds…while by 2006, the same areas were dry enough to burn.


Glaciers and ice caps
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 was covered by a massive, 500 km (300 mi) long ice shelf until the twentieth century. The Ellesmere ice shelf 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. A 1986 survey of Canadian ice shelves found that 48 square kilometres (19 sq mi) (3.3 km³, 0.8 cu mi) of ice calved from the Milne and Ayles ice shelves between 1959 and 1974.

The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, the largest remaining section of thick (>10 m, >30 ft) landfast sea ice along the northern coastline of Ellesmere Island, lost 600 km (370 mi) of ice in a massive calving in 1961-1962. It further decreased by 27 percent in thickness (13 m, 43 ft) between 1967 and 1999.

The Osborn Range of the Arctic Cordillera mountain systemThe breakup of the Ellesmere ice shelves has continued in the twenty-first century: the Ward Ice Shelf experienced a major breakup during summer 2002; the Ayles Ice Shelf calved entirely on August 13, 2005; the largest break off of the ice shelf in 25 years, it may pose a threat to the oil industry in the Beaufort Sea. The piece is 66 square kilometres (25 sq mi). In April 2008, it was discovered that the Ward Hunt shelf was fractured into dozens of deep, multi-faceted cracks. It seems likely the shelf is disintegrating.

 

You tube video

The Wildlife of Ellesmere Island have seen little of humanity, and the team gets up close and personal with some Muskox and Wolves.

 

Benhorton83
November 06, 2008

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References
 
1."Ellesmere Island." New World Encyclopedia. 16 Feb 2009, 00:55 UTC. 2 May 2009, 19:47 http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ellesmere_Island?oldid=926949.
 
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