Ellesmere Island

A mountain range on the island

Ellesmere Island is an island in Nunavut, Canada.

The world's tenth largest island, Ellesmere Island only has one small community called Grise Fiord, plus some military bases and scientific research stations. The community of Grise Fiord is only reachable by flying up from Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island, or by sea in summer.


Ellesmere Island is the northernmost populated place on Canadian land, 4654km north of Middle Island and Point Pelee. Established primarily as a means to establish Canadian sovereignty in the high Arctic, it consists of three small communities:

This is the land of the midnight sun; months of sunlight in summer, months of darkness in winter.

Get in

Almost all transport is by air. The only scheduled destination is Grise Fiord Airport (IATA: YGZ), which has one regular connection from Resolute, 85 minutes away by Twin Otter plane. Flights run twice weekly, costing over $900 return (as of 2005). A Twin Otter can carry 1000-1200 kg, enough for eight to ten people and cargo. Air Nunavut and Borek Air fly cargo and a handful of passengers to the small 134-person village.

Access to Quttinirpaaq National Park requires chartering a Twin Otter from Resolute Bay, an expensive four-hour flight. There are no scheduled services.

Access to CFB Alert is by military aircraft, which operate from Canada's largest air force base at Trenton (Ontario).

Get around




Runway 32 at Grise Fiord Airport

With the possible exception of some local handicrafts or locally-caught fish and game, expect practically everything to be very expensive. This is a remote location where everything has to be flown in or brought by boat. The storekeeper has to cover shipping costs not only on the merchandise but also on fuel for heating the store and running a generator.




Conventional landline telephony is available in Grise Fiord in Nunavut's area code +1-867. Calls destined to Eureka and Alert are placed by calling a federal government number in Ottawa, plus a four-digit extension; voice and data is brought into Eureka by military satellite link then overland to Alert. Bandwidth, unsurprisingly, is somewhat limited.

Mobile telephones have no signal in most Canadian High Arctic points outside the three territorial capitals. Satellite telephone coverage is poor; Iridium works all the way to the North Pole but systems which rely on satellites parked above the Equator may simply disappear below the horizon and fail to communicate - especially if the satellite's location is anywhere other than exactly due south.

Post office boxes are available in Grise Fiord; the addresses are PO Box nn, GRISE FIORD NU, X0A 0J0 Canada. Mail to the base is carried by military aircraft from CFB Trenton.

Stay safe

Quttinirpaaq is polar bear country. Whiteouts and hazardous winter conditions are not uncommon; avalanche risk and glacial conditions are common, while adverse weather may delay departure or return for days. Untested water must be boiled or disinfected before consumption in the wild. Access to first aid is limited; self-reliance, map/GPS navigation and complete safety equipment are a necessity. Experience and training in wilderness travel, knowledgeable companions and/or the services of an outfitter or experienced guide are a necessity.

Any rescue in the park or in uninhabited portions of the island is an expensive and arduous task, as resources may need to be brought in from outside Nunavut. Park visitors must notify authorities of their arrival and their safe return to avoid the unnecessary launch of a very expensive search expedition.

See also cold weather; the island has lots of that.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, November 12, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.