Northeast coast of Baffin Island north of Community of Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada, from above (1000 m): Tongue of a glacier.

Baffin Island

ICTMN Staff
2/19/11

Inuit people have lived on Baffin for 4,000-plus years, according to the climbing website Summitpost.org. It lies in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, which was split off from the Northwest Territories in 1999. Iqualuit is its capital.

At 932 miles long and ranging from 124 miles to 435 miles in width, Baffin is the largest island in Canada’s Arctic Archipelago and the fifth-largest in the world. Davis Strait and Baffin Bay lie between it and Greenland, and northern Québec lies across Hudson Strait. It is separated from the Melville Peninsula by the Foxe Basin and the Fury and Hecla Strait, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

“The island's immensity and bewildering coastline confused early explorers and concealed its geography until recent times,” the Canadian Encyclopedia says. “It was likely here that one of the great ice sheets that covered most of Canada originated some 18,000 years ago, and ice lingered on the island until almost 1,500 years ago; vast areas are still sheathed in ice year-round.”

According to the University of Calgary, the Baffin was first visited by Europeans in 1576 when the British explorer Martin Frobisher, searching for the Northwest Passage, landed on Baffin near what is today Nunavut’s capital city, Iqualuit, according to the University of Calgary. Mistaking iron pyrite for gold, he came back twice more, the last time in 1578, the university said.

Its underlying granite ranges from 1 billion to 3.5 billion years old. This ancient granite is part of what is called the Canadian Shield, according to Summitpost.org.

Adventurers head to Baffin to glimpse the aurora borealis, polar bears and other Arctic wonders, according to the island tourism web site Baffinisland.ca.

Climbers are drawn to its big wall climbing, says Summitpost.org, especially along the Cumberland Peninsula and within Auyuittuq National Park and the coastal region near the Clyde River settlement, where they scale the walls that rise vertically from the sea. Travelers also enjoy traditional mountaineering, ski touring and ski mountaineering throughout the mountain chain, Summitpost.org says.

More historical information is at the University of Calgary.

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