Bylot Island

Bylot Island (73° N 80° W, Nunavut, Canada) was named after Robert Bylot, captain of the Discovery, the first sailor to describe this region with his pilot William Baffin in 1616, in search of the North West Passage. Not until 1818-1919, 200 years later, did two other European explorers, James Ross and Sir William Edward Parry, sail again along Bylot Island. The island covers an area of about 15,000 km2 in Baffin Bay, north of Baffin Island. Its ice-capped mountains, rising to 1951 m (Byam Martin Mountains), are part of the "Arctic Cordillera" (Davis Highlands) running from southern Baffin Island to northern Ellesmere Island. Large sedimentary plains with a rich wildlife surround the glaciers. Large areas of this access-restricted land belong to the Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary established in 1965, and the whole island belongs to the Sirmilik National Park established in 1999.

Mean daily temperatures on Bylot Island range between 6°C (July) and -35°C (February) and are even colder on the windward coastal areas. Precipitation is higher than in most other parts of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, with 700 mm/year in the east and 150 in the northwest. Most of the major rivers and streams have glacial origins and peak flows occurring in late summer. Bylot Island lies within the Canadian Shield (crystalline basement complex with overlying succession of Proterozoic sedimentary and volcanic rocks) and the Arctic Platform (Cambrian to Devonian flat-lying sedimentary rocks and Cretaceous-Tertiary sediments) geological provinces. Geologists have found no mineral concentrations of economical interest, however, on the island. These bedrocks support static, turbic, and organic soils with many interesting periglacial phenomena (pingos, polygonal ground, sorted and nonsorted stone patterns, and solifluction lobes). Tall towers of weathered sandstone bedrock, called "the Hoodoos," rise above a river valley.

Several hundred mosses, lichens, and vascular plants are known from the five vegetation types covering the island: low shrub-herb tundra, dwarf shrub barrens, shrub-sedge tundra, wetland meadow, and lichen barren. Surrounded by Baffin Bay, Navy Boar Inlet, Eclipse Sound, Pond Inlet, and Lancaster Sound, Bylot Island has a strong marine component and an unequaled rich and diversified mammal fauna for Canada. White whale, narwhal, killer whale, bow-head whale, polar bear, walrus, and five species of seal exist in these rich waters. Among the terrestrial mammals, Arctic hare, collared and brown lemmings, Arctic fox, red fox, and ermine all breed on Bylot. Caribou (and their main predator, the wolf) had virtually disappeared in 1943, probably due to overhunt-ing, but in the 1990s, observations began to increase. The avifauna is also one of the richest known in Canada north of 70° N, with more than 45 breeding species among the 74 recorded. Seabirds (about 180,000 pairs) colonize the high cliffs at the southeastern (Cape Graham Moore) and northwestern (Cape Hay) tips of the island. The lowland terraces in the southwest hold the largest known colony of the greater snow goose, Anser caerulescens atlantica (70,000 adults in 1993), an increasing population precisely studied and monitored for more than ten years

Alexander Photography

by Gilles Gauthier and his team at the University of Laval in Québec.

When the Arctic Institute of North America organized a biological expedition on Bylot Island in 1954, there was still one permanent Inuit camp at Iglookashat on the southern shore of the island. According to Father Guy Mary-Rousselière, the renowned archaeologist who spent most of his life in Pond Inlet, Inuit had occupied the island for the last 4000 years. Presently, all the hunters and fishermen visiting Bylot Island travel from Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik, on Baffin Island) for short trips or a few weeks stay in summer camps. Currently, hunters target ringed seal, narwhal, polar bear, caribou, Arctic fox, snow goose, thick-billed murre, rock ptarmigan, and Arctic char.

Olivier Gilg

See also Baffin Bay; Baffin Island; Baffin, William; Bylot, Robert; Lancaster Sound; Mary-Rousse-liere, Father Guy

Further Reading

Lepage, Denis, David N. Nettleship & Austin Reed, "Birds of Bylot Island and adjacent Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, 1979 to 1997." Arctic, 51(2) (1998): 125-141

Miller, Richard S., "A survey of the mammals of Bylot Island,

Northwest Territories." Arctic, 8(3) (1955): 166-176 Scherman, Katharine, Spring on an Arctic Island, London:

Victor Gollancz, 1956 Zoltai, S.C., K.J. McCormick & G.W. Scotter, A Natural Resource Survey of Bylot Island and Adjacent Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Ottawa: Parks Canada, 1983

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  • katja
    How to describe bylot island's climate?
    2 years ago

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