|Major islands||Baffin Island, Victoria Island, Ellesmere Island|
|Area||1,407,770 km2 (543,540 sq mi)|
|Territories and province||Nunavut|
Newfoundland and Labrador
|Largest settlement||Iqaluit, Nunavut (pop. 7,429)|
|Pop. density||0.0098/km2 (0.0254/sq mi)|
The Arctic Archipelago, also known as the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, is an archipelago lying to the north of the Canadian continental mainland, excluding Greenland (an autonomous territory of Denmark).
Situated in the northern extremity of North America and covering about 1,424,500 km2 (550,000 sq mi), this group of 36,563 islands, surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, comprises much of Northern Canada, predominately Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The archipelago is showing some effects of climate change, with some computer estimates determining that melting there will contribute 3.5 cm (1.4 in) to the rise in sea levels by 2100.
Around 2500 BCE, the first humans, the Paleo-Eskimos, arrived in the archipelago from the Canadian mainland. Between 1000–1500 CE, they were replaced by the Thule people, who are the ancestors of today's Inuit.
British claims on the islands, the British Arctic Territories, were based on the explorations in the 1570s by Martin Frobisher. Canadian sovereignty was originally (1870–80) only over island portions that drained into Foxe Basin, Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait. Canadian sovereignty over the islands was established by 1880 when Britain transferred them to Canada. The District of Franklin – established in 1895 – comprised almost all of the archipelago. The district was dissolved upon the creation of Nunavut in 1999. Canada claims all the waterways of the Northwest Passage as Canadian Internal Waters; however, the United States and most other maritime countries view these as international waters. Disagreement over the passages' status has raised Canadian concerns about environmental enforcement, national security, and general sovereignty. East of Ellesmere Island, in the Nares Strait, lies Hans Island, ownership of which is now shared between Canada and Denmark, after a decades-long dispute.
The archipelago extends some 2,400 km (1,500 mi) longitudinally and 1,900 km (1,200 mi) from the mainland to Cape Columbia, the northernmost point on Ellesmere Island. It is bounded on the west by the Beaufort Sea; on the northwest by the Arctic Ocean; on the east by Greenland, Baffin Bay and Davis Strait; and on the south by Hudson Bay and the Canadian mainland. The various islands are separated from each other and the continental mainland by a series of waterways collectively known as the Northwest Passage. Two large peninsulas, Boothia and Melville, extend northward from the mainland. The northernmost cluster of islands, including Ellesmere Island, is known as the Queen Elizabeth Islands and was formerly the Parry Islands.
The archipelago consists of 36,563 islands, of which 94 are classified as major islands, being larger than 130 km2 (50 sq mi), and cover a total area of 1,400,000 km2 (540,000 sq mi). The islands of the archipelago over 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi), in order of descending area, are:
|Baffin Island||NU||507,451 km2 (195,928 sq mi)||5||1||13,039|
|Victoria Island||NT, NU||217,291 km2 (83,897 sq mi)||8||2||2,168|
|Ellesmere Island||NU||196,236 km2 (75,767 sq mi)||10||3||144|
|Banks Island||NT||70,028 km2 (27,038 sq mi)||24||5||104|
|Devon Island||NU||55,247 km2 (21,331 sq mi)||27||6||0|
|Axel Heiberg Island||NU||43,178 km2 (16,671 sq mi)||32||7||0|
|Melville Island||NT, NU||42,149 km2 (16,274 sq mi)||33||8||0|
|Southampton Island||NU||41,214 km2 (15,913 sq mi)||34||9||1,038|
|Prince of Wales Island||NU||33,339 km2 (12,872 sq mi)||40||10||0|
|Somerset Island||NU||24,786 km2 (9,570 sq mi)||46||12||0|
|Bathurst Island||NU||16,042 km2 (6,194 sq mi)||54||13||0|
|Prince Patrick Island||NT||15,848 km2 (6,119 sq mi)||55||14||0|
|King William Island||NU||13,111 km2 (5,062 sq mi)||61||15||1,349|
|Ellef Ringnes Island||NU||11,295 km2 (4,361 sq mi)||69||16||0|
|Bylot Island||NU||11,067 km2 (4,273 sq mi)||72||17||0|
* NT = Northwest Territories, NU = Nunavut
After Greenland, the archipelago is the world's largest high-Arctic land area. The climate of the islands is Arctic, and the terrain consists of tundra except in mountainous regions. Most of the islands are uninhabited; human settlement is extremely thin and scattered, being mainly coastal Inuit settlements on the southern islands.
|Arctic Bay||Baffin Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||944|
|Clyde River||Baffin Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||1,181|
|Iqaluit||Baffin Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||7,429|
|Kimmirut||Baffin Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||426|
|Pangnirtung||Baffin Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||1,504|
|Pond Inlet||Baffin Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||1,555|
|Sachs Harbour||Banks Island||Inuvik, NT||104|
|Qikiqtarjuaq||Broughton Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||593|
|Resolute||Cornwallis Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||183|
|Kinngait||Dorset Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||1,396|
|Grise Fiord||Ellesmere Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||144|
|Sanikiluaq||Flaherty Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||1,010|
|Igloolik||Igloolik Island||Qikiqtaaluk, NU||2,049|
|Gjoa Haven||King William Island||Kitikmeot, NU||1,349|
|Coral Harbour||Southampton Island||Kivalliq, NU||1,038|
|Cambridge Bay||Victoria Island||Kitikmeot, NU||1,760|
|Ulukhaktok||Victoria Island||Inuvik, NT||408|
Of the more than 36,000 islands, only 11 are populated. Baffin Island, the largest, also has the largest population of 13,309. The population accounts for 67.37 per cent of the 19,355 people in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, 56.51 per cent of the population of the Arctic Archipelago, and 35.38 per cent of the population of Nunavut.
|King William Island||1,349||13,111||8,147||0.103||0.266|