North Star Bay

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North Star Bay
Thule Harbor, Wolstenholme Bay
North Star Bay is located in Greenland
North Star Bay
Location Arctic
Coordinates 76°33′41″N 68°49′39″W / 76.56139°N 68.82750°W / 76.56139; -68.82750Coordinates: 76°33′41″N 68°49′39″W / 76.56139°N 68.82750°W / 76.56139; -68.82750
Ocean/sea sources Baffin Bay
Basin countries Greenland
Islands Saunders Island and Wolstenholme Island

North Star Bay (Danish: North Star Bugt), also known as Thule Harbor and Wolstenholme Bay,[1] is a bay off the mouth of Wolstenholme Fjord, Greenland.

The bay is named after HMS North Star. Thule Air Base is located at the edge of the bay. There are two large islands in the bay, Saunders Island and Wolstenholme Island. The channel to the south, between Saunders Island and the mainland is known as Bylot Sound.[2]


The abandoned Inuit settlements of Narsaarsuk and Pituffik were located at the edge of the bay.

In 1849 under Commander James Saunders the North Star sailed to the Arctic in the spring on an expedition to search and resupply Captain Sir James Clark Ross' venture, who in turn had sailed in 1848 trying to locate the whereabouts of Sir John Franklin's expedition.[3]

Failing to find Franklin or Ross, Saunders's mission aboard North Star consisted in depositing stores along several named areas of the Canadian Arctic coast and returning to England before the onset of winter. However, James Saunders's ship progress northwards was hindered by ice in Melville Bay and the ship became trapped by ice off the coast of NW Greenland in North Star Bay. A paper left by Saunders in a cairn reads thus:

This paper is placed here to certify, that H.M.S, North Star was beset, at the east side of Melville Bay, on the 29th of July, last year, and gradually drifted from day to day, until, on the 26th of September, we found ourselves abreast of Wolstenholme Island; when perceiving the ice a little; more loose, and the Sound perfectly clear, we made all plain sail, and pressed her through it, anchoring in the lower part of the Sound that evening, and arrived in the Bay on the 1st of October, where she remained throughout the winter.

During the winter 1849–50 Saunders named numerous landmarks in that area while wintering in the frozen bay.[4]

The bay was the site of a Cold War nuclear accident when a B-52 bomber carrying four thermonuclear bombs crashed, spreading contaminated material over the area.[5]


View of North Star Bay with Thule Air Base in the foreground and Saunders Island in the background.
An unnamed berg frozen in place by sea ice in North Star Bay.