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A Guide to Baffin Island
Friday, 11 January 2008 12:56

Animals of Land and Sea

Written by Baffin Island Expedition
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Photo Credits (l-r): (1) (2) (3)

Baffin Island is home to many species that are found almost nowhere else on Earth. Some of the animals of Baffin Island are land-dwelling species, such as the barren-ground caribou, which lives on the sparse vegetation, and the Arctic fox, which hunts other land animals such as lemmings and the Arctic hare. The Arctic fox of Baffin Island is also a scavenger that follows polar bears out to the pack ice and eats the bear's scraps. Many other creatures live in or around the ocean.


The major producer in the Arctic marine food web is algae; it feeds the mussels, fish, and plankton, which in turn feed the larger animals. There has been a record of mass die-off of Arctic algae since 1970 as a result of global warming, and the disappearance of this foundational food supply has had a ripple effect throughout the Arctic ecosystem.


arctic ternBirds such as the Canada goose, snow goose, eider duck, Arctic tern, and plover can be found around the water’s edge. Baffin Island is an important stopover for migrating bird species, where they spend time mating and eating the fish and shellfish that live along the water’s edge. Some birds, such as the Arctic tern, can travel as many as 12,000 miles in a single year. According to the British Trust for Ornithology, a 25-year-old Arctic tern “will travel well in excess of 500,000 miles on migration, more than enough to take it to the moon and back.” Seabirds are already feeling the effects of global warming. They nest in rocky cliffs along the coast, then fly out to fish and forage between cracks in the sea ice. The greater distance they must fly between nesting and feeding sites means they cannot get enough food for themselves or their young. Another threat to Arctic birds comes from species that, until recently, have never been seen before on Baffin Island. They are moving north because of the warmer temperatures and competing with the Arctic birds for food and other resources. (Photo Credit: 4)

Marine Mammals

harp sealThe most unique Baffin Island wildlife are the marine mammals. Harp seals spend their summers in the water near the edge of the pack ice, feeding on mussels and fish, migrating up from their birthing grounds near Labrador, Canada. They come up for air at breathe-holes in the ice. Declining sea ice is making it increasingly difficult for all seal species, but especially ice-dependent species like harp seals, to feed and breed. Walrus live on Baffin year-round and do not travel very far from shore; a large herd of walrus inhabits the Foxe Basin. They can often be found sunning themselves on rocks. The ice edge provides the ideal feeding area for walrus, which dive to the sea floor to eat clams and other shellfish. These food sources live only on the continental shelves; as the ice retreats to deeper areas, the walrus are finding it increasingly difficult to dive for food. Belugas and narwhals are the whale species for which Baffin Island is most
narwhalfamous. Belugas, the famous white whales, inhabit the Hudson Strait; they live in communities of two or more and feed on crustaceans. Narwhals are known for the long spiral-shaped horn found on the foreheads of the males. They travel in large communities of ten or more. In the Middle Ages, Vikings sold the horns of narwhals to other Europeans, who believed they came from unicorns. The largest marine mammal living in the waters around Baffin are the bowhead whales. They are known as “baleen whales” for their strainer-like mouths that capture brine shrimp and other small aquatic creatures. (Photo Credit l-r: 5 and 6)

Polar Bears

baffinPolar bears are the animals that are experiencing the greatest effects of global warming. One of the two largest land carnivores, they are major predators and the top of the Arctic food chain, and they feed almost exclusively on seals. During the summer, they swim out to the pack ice. When seals come up for air, the polar bears can catch them and eat them. But the melting of the polar sea has meant that bears must now swim farther to reach the pack ice, resulting in more difficult hunting and greater expenditures of energy. Many bears drown along the way. The greatest threat to the species, however, is low birth weight and declining survival rates among polar bear cubs. (Photo Credit: 7)


Animals and the Inuit

whale bonesThe Inuit have lived on these animals as food sources for 5,000 years. In addition to a source of meat, they use seal and whale oil for light and heat. They use the animals’ skins for warm clothing and boots. They have great respect for these animals, which play important roles in their culture’s religion and folktales. The official Nunavut Coat of Arms features the caribou (known in Inukshuk as “tuktu”) and the narwhal (or “qilalugaq tugaalik”). The huge die-offs of the past decade have meant hard times for the Inuit; if these were traditional times, the declining animal populations would have meant widespread starvation. Instead, the Inuit have had to rely more on processed foods, which has resulted in a rising rate of diabetes and other health problems. (Photo Credit: 8)



The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Photo Credits:

1. "Caribou from Wagon Trails," by Brian0918 (
2. "Arctic Fox," by Greg Hounslow
3. "Bobba Fett" (eider duck), by Taro Taylor
4. "Arctic Tern Attack," by Seth and Lara M (
5. "Unicorns Are Real," by Chris Corwin
6. "EPV0024" (harp seal), by SeanR
7. Howard Ruby
8. "Whale Carcass," by Cliff Lavallee

Last modified on Friday, 15 January 2010 14:30
Friday, 11 January 2008 12:54


Written by Baffin Island Expedition
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Photo credit: Peter Morgan

Climate is defined as the prevailing meteorological conditions in a region. Climate includes temperature, precipitation and wind.

Average (mean) daily temperatures for Iqaluit reach their low of -17°F (-27°C) in February, when the Global Warming 101 expedition begins. By April the average (mean) daily temperatures reach 5°F (-15°C) and by June, when the expedition finishes, the mean daily temperature is 39°F (8°C). The warmest month in Iqaluit is July with a mean daily temperature of 46°F (8°C).

On average, precipitation levels mirror average temperatures on Baffin—the coldest months generally have the least precipitation (usually in the form of snow) and the warmest months have the most (usually in the form of rain).

Climate is the long-term pattern of weather. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at any given time. One unusual weather event is not in itself evidence of climate change. Changes in longer-term trends, however, can be evidence of climate change. Some indications of climate change are later falls, earlier springs and disrupted precipitation and wind patterns.

Photo credit: Cliff Lavallee

Inuit traveling by dogsled or snowmobile often navigate by the wind direction. As the direction of the prevailing wind shifts, it becomes difficult or impossible for them to find their destinations.

The expedition team will give daily reports that include the weather conditions they experience. They will be watching to see if temperatures, precipitation, and wind on Baffin Island are different than average.

Last modified on Thursday, 21 January 2010 17:14
Thursday, 10 January 2008 22:55

Polar Night and Midnight Sun

Written by Baffin Island Expedition
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midnight sunUnless you live close to the equator, you might have noticed that there are fewer hours of sunlight in the winter and more hours of sunlight in the summer. This is because of the tilt of the Earth on its axis. When a hemisphere tilts towards the sun, the sun is visible for more hours than when that same hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. This difference in winter and summer daylight hours increases the closer one gets to the poles.

In the northern hemisphere, the Arctic Circle marks the latitude (distance from the equator) where the sun does not dip below the horizon on the summer solstice (June 21) and does not rise above the horizon on the winter solstice (December 22).

The Global Warming 101 Expedition will begin south of the Arctic Circle on February 14 and will cross the Arctic Circle after leaving Pangnirtung. Look at the chart below to discover how much daylight the expedition team will have on different days. In Iglulik, our northernmost stop, the sun will rise at 2:03 a.m. on May 18 and will not set again until 1:08 a.m. on July 25.

February 1
63°45’N, 68°31’W
10:12 a.m.
5:25 p.m.
March 1
66°08’N, 65°45’W
8:36 a.m.
6:36 p.m.
April 1
67°01’N, 64°01’W
6:28 a.m.
8:14 p.m
May 1
Clyde River
70°29’N, 68°31’W
3:57 a.m.
11:10 p.m.
June 1
69°21’N, 81°48’W
24-hr daylight
No sun set

Aurora borealisThe constant daylight in the summer and the constant darkness in the winter is a defining characteristic of life in the Arctic Circle (above 66°33’N). Global warming affects even the darkness of the Arctic winter. Inuit people notice that the darkness is not as dark as it once was. Wayne Davidson, a weather station operator, discovered that this is due to a warmer layer of air that reflects sunlight over the horizon (Source: Struck, D. Inuit see signs in Arctic thaw, Washington Post, March 22, 2006.)

Last modified on Thursday, 21 January 2010 17:15
Wednesday, 09 January 2008 04:50

Learn Inuktitut with Becky Mike

Written by Baffin Island Expedition
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becky_mike.jpg Learn Inuktitut with Becky Mike. Becky is an Inuit interpreter, translator and radio news reader. Listen as she and expedition member Elizabeth Andre practice useful phrases and words.

What is your name? Kinauvit?


My name is... (Becky Mike)nguvunga.


Where are you from?


I am from... (Iqalu)nmiutauvunga.


It's cold. Ikkii.


It's snowing. Qanniqtuq


It's windy. Anuraaqtuq.


Are you hungry? Kaakpiit?


I'm hungry. Kaaktunga.


Are you tired? Taqaviit?


I'm tired. Taqajunga


Thank you. Qujannanmiik.


You're welcome. Iilaali.


Caribou Tuktu


Fish Iqaluk


Seal Natsiq


Polar Bear Nanuq




Last modified on Friday, 15 January 2010 14:24
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