Baffin Island (ᕿᑭᖅᑖᓗᒃ, Qikiqtaaluk, Île de Baffin, Old Norse: Helluland) in the territory of Nunavut is the largest member of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It is the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world, with an area of 507,451 km² (195,928 sq mi). It has a population of 11,000 (2007). It is named after British explorer William Baffin. It is likely that the island was known to Pre-Columbian Norse of Greenland and Iceland and maybe the location of Helluland spoken of in the Icelandic sagas (the Eiríks saga rauða and the Grœnlendinga saga).
In September 2008, the local Nunatsiaq News reported archaeological remains of yarn, rats, tally sticks, a carved wooden face mask depicting Caucasian features, and possible architectural remains, which place European traders and possibly settlers on Baffin Island not later than 1000AD. What the source of this Old World contact may have been is unclear; the report states: "Dating of some yarn and other artifacts, presumed to be left by Vikings on Baffin Island, have produced an age that predates the Vikings by several hundred years. So [...] you have to consider the possibility that as remote as it may seem, these finds may represent evidence of contact with Europeans prior to the Vikings' arrival in Greenland."
To the south lies Hudson Strait, separating Baffin from Quebec on the mainland. To the east are Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, with Greenland beyond. The Foxe Basin, the Gulf of Boothia and Lancaster Sound separate Baffin Island from the rest of the archipelago to the west and north.
The Baffin Mountains run along the northeastern shore of the island and are a part of the Arctic Cordillera. Mount Odin is the highest peak, with an elevation of at least 2,143 m (7,030 ft) (some sources say 2,147 m/7,044 ft) (Another peak of note is Mount Asgard, located in Auyuittuq National Park, with an elevation of 2,011 m, (6,596 ft).
The Barnes icecap is in the central part of the island. It has been in retreat since at least the early 1960s, when the Geographical Branch of the then-Department of Mines & Technical Surveys sent a three-man survey team to the area to measure isostatic rebound and cross-valley features of the Isortoq River.
|Nanisivik||0 (From 77 in 2001- Mine Closure)|
Barren-ground caribou herds that migrate in a limited range from northern Baffin island down to the southern part in winter, even to Frobisher Bay peninsula, next to Resolution Island and migrate back north in the summer.
Polar Bears can be found all along the coast of Baffin Island, but are most prevalent where the sea ice is located as pack ice, where their major food sources — ringed seals (jar seal) and bearded seals — live. Polar bears mate approximately every year with from one to three cubs being born around March. Female polar bears may travel 10-20 km (6-12 mi) inland to find a large snow bank where they dig a den in which to spend the winter and later for giving birth.
Arctic fox that can usually be found where polar bears venture on the fast ice close to land in their search for seals. Arctic foxes are scavengers, and often follow polar bears to get their leavings. On Baffin Island, Arctic foxes are sometimes trapped by Inuit, but there is not a robust fur industry.
Arctic hare are found throughout Baffin island. Their fur is pure white in winter and molts to a scruffy dark grey in summer. Arctic hares, besides lemmings are a primary food source for Arctic foxes and Arctic wolves.
Lemmings are also found throughout the island, and are a major food source for Arctic foxes, Arctic wolves and the snowy owl. In the winter, lemmings dig complicated tunnel systems through the snow drifts in order to get to their food supply of dry grasses, and lichens.
The Arctic wolf is also a year-round resident of Baffin Island. Unlike the grey and brown wolves in the southern climes, Arctic wolves often do not hunt in packs, although a male-female pair may hunt together.
In the water (or under the ice) the year-round visitors are mainly the ringed seal.
The ringed seal is a year-round resident of Baffin Island, where it lives off-shore within 8 km (5 mi) of land. During the winter, it makes a number of breathing holes through ice up to 8 ft thick by visiting each one often, and keeping the hole open and free from ice. In March, when a female is ready to whelp, she will enlarge one of the breathing holes that has snow over it, and create a small "igloo" where they whelp one or two pups. Within three weeks the pups are in the water and swimming. During the summer, ringed seals keep to a narrow territory approximately 3 km (2 mi) along the shoreline. If pack ice moves in, they may venture out 4-10 km (2½-6 mi) and follow the pack ice, dragging themselves up on an ice floe to take advantage of the sun.
Summer land visitors to Baffin Island all have wings and all come to nest. Baffin Island is one of the major nesting destinations from the Eastern and Mid-West flyways for many species of migrating birds. Waterfowl include Canada goose, snow goose and brent goose (brant goose). Shore birds include the phalarope, various waders (commonly called sandpipers), murres including Brünnich's guillemot, and plovers. Three gull species also nest on Baffin Island: glaucous gull, herring gull and ivory gull.
Water species that visit Baffin Island in the summer are:
Harp seals (or saddle-backed seals), which migrate from major breeding grounds off the coast of Labrador and the south-east coast of Greenland to Baffin Island for the summer. Migrating at speeds of 15–20 km/h (9-12 mph), they all come up to breathe at the same time, then dive and swim up to 1–2 km (0.6-1.2 mi) before surfacing again. They migrate in large pods consisting of a hundred or more seals, to within 1–8 km (0.6-5 mi) of the shoreline, which they then follow, feeding on crustaceans and fish.
Walrus, which actually do not migrate far off land in the winter. They merely follow the "fast ice", or ice that is solidly attached to land, and stay ahead of it as the ice hardens further and further out to sea. As winter progresses, they will always remain where there is open water free of ice. When the ice melts, they move in to land and can be found basking on rocks close to shore. One of the largest walrus herds can be found in the Foxe Basin on the western side of Baffin Island.
Beluga or white whales migrate along the coast of Baffin Island as some head north to the feeding grounds in the Davis Strait between Greenland and Baffin Island, or into the Hudson Strait or any of the bays and estuaries in between. Usually travelling in pods of two or more, they can often be found very close to shore (100 m, 300 ft, or less), where they come up to breathe every 30 seconds or so as they make their way along the coastline eating crustaceans.
Narwhals, which are known for their long, spiraling tusks (males only), can also be found along the coast of Baffin Island in the summer. Much like their beluga cousins they may be found in pairs or even in a large pod of ten or more males, females and newborns. They also can be often found close to the shoreline, gracefully pointing their tusks skyward as they come up for air. When they first arrive, the males arrive a few weeks ahead of the females and young.
The largest summer visitor to Baffin Island is the bowhead whale. Found throughout the Arctic range, one group of bowhead whales are known to migrate to the Foxe Basin, a bay on the western side of Baffin Island. It is still not known whether they visit for the lush sea bounty or to calve in the Foxe Basin.