Somerset Island (Nunavut)

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Not to be confused with Somerset Island, Bermuda.
Somerset Island
Somerset Island.svg
Somerset Island, Nunavut, Canada.
Map indicating Somerset Island, Nunavut, Canada.png
Location Northern Canada
Coordinates 73°15′N 93°30′W / 73.250°N 93.500°W / 73.250; -93.500 (Somerset Island)Coordinates: 73°15′N 93°30′W / 73.250°N 93.500°W / 73.250; -93.500 (Somerset Island)
Archipelago Canadian Arctic Archipelago
Area 24,786 km2 (9,570 sq mi)
Area rank 46th
Highest elevation 489 m (1,604 ft)
Highest point Creswell Peak
Territory Nunavut
Region Qikiqtaaluk
Population Uninhabited
Satellite photo montage of Somerset Island and its neighbours

In the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Somerset Island is a large, uninhabited island separated by the 2 km wide Bellot Strait from the Boothia Peninsula in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada, lying between Peel Sound (across which lies Prince of Wales Island) and Prince Regent Inlet (across which lies Baffin Island). It has an area of 9,570 square miles (24,800 km2), making it the 46th largest island in the world and Canada's twelfth largest island.


Around 1000 AD, the north coast of Somerset Island was inhabited by the Thule people, as evidenced by whale bones, tunnels and stone ruins.

William Edward Parry was the first European to sight the island in 1819.[1] 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.

Roald Amundsen transited the passage between the Island and the Prince of Wales Island in the Gjøa in the first successful traverse of the Northwest Passage in 1904. Henry Larsen transited the passage, in the St Roch in the second successful transit in 1943. But he found this route was dangerously icebound, and also too shallow for commercial travel.

The Fort Ross trading post was established and run by the Hudson's Bay Company at the southeastern end of the island from 1937-1948. When it was closed, the island was left uninhabited except for occasional use of the former store and manager's house as shelters by Inuit caribou hunters from Taloyoak. In 2006, CBC's The National included Fort Ross in a special series focused on climate change.[2]


Arctic Watch Lodge, a tourism establishment built in 1992, is located on Somerset Island. Arctic Watch was established at Cunningham Inlet because of the large number of beluga whales that congregate there in the summer. Arctic Watch Lodge is operated by Richard Weber and Josée Auclair.


Further reading[edit]

  • Migratory Bird Population Surveys in the District of Keewatin and Somerset 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, ON: Queen's Printer, 1968
  • Dyke, Arthur S. (1983), Quaternary Geology of Somerset Island, District of Franklin, Ottawa, ON: Geological Survey of Canada, ISBN 0-660-11401-1 
  • Reinson, G. E. (1978), Carbonate-Evaporite Cycles in the Silurian Rocks of Somerset Island, Arctic Canada, Ottawa, ON: Energy, Mines and Resources Canada, ISBN 0-660-01512-9 
  • 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
  • VanStone, James W.; Anderson, James E.; and Merbs, C. F.; An Archaeological Collection from Somerset Island and Boothia Peninsula, N.W.T, Toronto, ON, 1962

External links[edit]