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August 28, 2008

Wikipedia: King William Island

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King William Island
Native name: Qikiqtaq
NASA Landsat satellite image of King William Island
NASA Landsat satellite image of King William Island
Location Northern Canada
Coordinates 68°58′N 97°14′W / 68.967, -97.233Coordinates: 68°58′N 97°14′W / 68.967, -97.233
Archipelago Canadian Arctic Archipelago
Area 12,516 km² (4,832 sq mi)
13,111 km² (5,062 sq mi)

Flag of Canada Canada
Territory Flag of Nunavut Nunavut
Largest city Gjoa Haven (1,064)
Population 1,064 (as of 2006)
Indigenous people Inuit
King William Island, Nunavut

King William Island, Nunavut

King William Island (Qikiqtaq)[1] is an island in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut and forms part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. In area it is between 12,516 km² (4,832 sq mi)[2] and 13,111 km² (5,062 sq mi)[3] making it the 61st largest island in the world and Canada’s 15th largest island. Its population, as of the 2006 census, was 1,064,[4] all of which live in the islands only community Gjoa Haven.

To the east it is separated from the Boothia Peninsula by the James Ross Strait and the Rae Strait. To the west is the Victoria Strait and beyond it Victoria Island. Within the Simpson Strait is Todd Island, and beyond it to the south is the Adelaide Peninsula, and the Queen Maud Gulf lies to the southwest.

Victory Point is on its north coast. Gore Point, Point Le Vesconte, Erebus Bay and Terror Bay are on the west coast. Douglas Bay, Booth Point, and Gjoa Haven are on the south coast.[5]

The island, long occupied by Inuit people, was originally named ‘King William Land’ for the reigning British King William IV in 1830 by John Ross, who thought it was a peninsula. A number of other polar explorers, while searching for the Northwest Passage, had spent their winters at King William Island. John Franklin’s expedition was stranded in the sea ice northwest of the island. After the ships were abandoned, most of the crew gradually perished from exposure and starvation as they attempted to walk south near the western coastline. Two of Franklin’s men are buried at Hall Point on the island’s south coast. The island is known for its large populations of caribou who summer there, before walking south over the sea ice in the autumn.

In 1903, explorer Roald Amundsen, looking for the Northwest Passage, sailed through the James Ross Strait and stopped at a natural harbour on the island’s south coast. There, unable to proceed due to sea ice, he spent the winters of 1903-4 and 1904-5. There he learned the Arctic living skills from the local Netsilik Inuit that were later to be invaluable in his expedition to the South Pole. He used his ship Gjøa as a base for explorations in the summer of 1904, sledding the Boothia Peninsula and travelling to the North Magnetic Pole. Amundsen finally left, after 22 months on the island, in August 1905. The harbour where he lived is now the island’s only settlement, Gjoa Haven.


  1. ^ Darren Keith, Jerry Arqviq (November 23, 2006). Environmental Change, Polar Bears and Adaptation in the East Kitikmeot: An Initial Assessment Final Report. Kitikmeot Heritage Society. Retrieved on 2008-01-23.
  2. ^ King William Island at the Atlas of Canada
  3. ^ Other Arctic Islands at the Atlas of Canada
  4. ^ 2006 census
  5. ^ Page 2 fig. 1 in Keenleyside, A., M. Bertulli, and H. C. Fricke. 1997. “The Final Days of the Franklin Expedition: New Skeletal Evidence”. Arctic. 50, no. 1: 36.
  • The Last Place on Earth, Roland Huntford, ISBN 0-349-11395-5

Further reading

  • Fraser, J. Keith. Notes on the Glaciation of King William Island and Adelaide Peninsula, N.W.T. Ottawa: Geographical Branch, Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys, 1959.
  • Taylor, J. Garth. Netsilik Eskimo Material Culture. The Roald Amundsen Collection from King William Island. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1974. ISBN 8200089452
  • Woodworth-Lynas, C. M. T. Surveying and Trenching an Iceberg Scour, King William Island, Arctic Canada. St. John’s: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Centre for Cold Ocean Resources Engineering, 1985.
This text comes from Wikipedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikipedia.

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