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Definition: Arctic Archipelago from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(ärk'tĭk, är'tĭk), group of more than 50 large islands, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, N Canada, in the Arctic Ocean. The southernmost members of the group include Baffin (the archipelago's largest island), Victoria, Banks, Prince of Wales, and Somerset islands; N of Viscount Melville and Lancaster sounds are the Queen Elizabeth Islands, of which Ellesmere is the largest. Tundra and permanent ice cover the islands, on which oil and coal have been discovered. After Greenland, the Archipelago is the world's largest high-arctic land area.


Summary Article: Arctic Archipelago
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Umbrella term for thousands of separate islands that lie north of mainland Canada and the Arctic Circle and west of Greenland. The islands formed part of the Northwest Territories until 1999 when most of them were subsumed within the new Inuit homeland of Nunavut. The archipelago covers a total area of some 1.3 million sq km/500,000 sq mi.

The Arctic Archipelago is made up of a number of separate groups of islands. North of the Parry Channel, an ocean trench situated at about 74° north, lie the Queen Elizabeth Islands (among which are Ellesmere Island, Devon Island, the Parry Islands, the Sverdrup Islands, and others). These remote, largely ice-covered, and icebound islands are made up of largely sedimentary rocks folded into mountains that rise to over 2,430 m/8,000 ft in the far north. There is little human, animal, or plant life here, except for a handful of Inuit settlements and government research stations. South of the Parry Channel, major islands include Banks, Prince of Wales, King William, Somerset, and Baffin (the largest by far). Except for their northern extremities, these islands form part of the older Canadian Shield geological system, and are relatively flat. They are home to several Inuit settlements, as well as government stations, and are used occasionally by fur trappers, hunters, fishermen, whalers, sealers, and mining operations. The largest community in the entire archipelago, Iqaluit, is on the southeast Baffin Island. The Northwest Passage passes through the Parry Channel and the southern tier of islands.

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