somerset island

Somerset Island and Fort Ross

A member of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Somerset Island is a large island across the 2km wide Bellot Strait from the Boothia Peninsula in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada. It has an area of 9,570 square miles (24,786 km²), making it the 45th largest island in the world and Canada's twelfth largest island. It is uninhabited.

Due to the ruins, the wildlife and its easy access from Resolute, the northern coast of the island has become a popular tourist destination.

Around 1000 AD, the north coast of Somerset Island was inhabited by the Thule people, as evidenced by whale bones, tunnels and stone ruins. In late 1848, James Clark Ross, commanding two ships, landed at Port Leopold on the northeast coast to winter. In April the following year, he launched an exploration of the island by sledge.

In 1937, the Fort Ross trading post was established by the Hudson's Bay Company at the southeastern end of the island. Only eleven years later, however, it was closed, as the severe ice conditions rendered it uneconomical and difficult to access. This left the island uninhabited. The former store and manager's house are still used as shelters by Inuit caribou hunters from Taloyoak.

In the summer of 2006, CBC's The National visited Fort Ross in their travels on the Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent in a special series focused on climate change.


Further reading

  • Berkhout, A. W. J., and L. W. Sobczak. A Preliminary Investigation of Gravity Observations in the Somerset and Prince of Wales Islands, Arctic Canada, with Map. Gravity map series of the Dominion Observatory, no. 81. Ottawa: Canada Dept. of Energy, Mines and Resources, Observatories Branch, 1967.
  • Canada. Migratory Bird Population Surveys in the District of Keewatin and omeret Island, 1976 - AIPP PRELIMINARY REPORT 1977. 1978.
  • Canadian Oceanographic Data Centre. Stanwell-Fletcher Lake, Somerset Island, N.W.T. 1965-1966 CODC References: 07-65-002, 07-66-002. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1968.
  • Geological Survey of Canada, J. F. Sweeney, H. R. Balkwill, R. Franklin, U. Mayr, P. McGrath, E. Snow, L. W. Sobczak, and R. T. Wetmiller. North American Continent - Ocean Transects Programme, Corridor G, Somerset Island to Canada Basin. Open file (Geological Survey of Canada), 1093. 1984.
  • Savelle, James M. Cultural and Natural Formation Processes of a Historic Inuit Snow Dwelling Site, Somerset Island, Arctic Canada. American Antiquity, Vol. 49, No.3. 1984.
  • Sekerek, A. D., D. Thomson, H. Bain, and J. Acreman. Summer Surveys of the Marine Ecology of Creswell Bay, Somerset Island, and Assistance Bay, Cornwallis Island, N.W.T. 1975. Polar Gas environmental program. Toronto: LGL Limited, 1976.
  • VanStone, James W., James E. Anderson, and C. F. Merbs. An Archaeological Collection from Somerset Island and Boothia Peninsula, N.W.T. Toronto, 1962.

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