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Melville Island (Canada)


Melville Island (75°30′N, 111°30′W) is a vast, uninhabited member of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Canada with an area of 42 149 km². It is the 33rd largest island in the world and Canada's 8th largest island. Melville Island is shared by the Northwest Territories, which is responsible for the western half of the island, and Nunavut, which is responsible for the eastern half. The mountains on Melville Island, some of the largest in the western Canadian Arctic, reach heights of one kilometre.

The island has little or no vegetation. Where continuous vegetation occurs, it usually consists of hummocks of mosses, lichens, grasses, and sedges. The only woody species, the dwarf willow, grows as a dense twisted mat crawling along the ground. However, a diverse animal population exists: Polar Bear, Peary Caribou, musk ox, Northern Collared Lemming, Arctic Wolf, Arctic Fox, Arctic Hare, and Ermine (Stoat) are common. A 2003 sighting of a Grizzly Bear and grizzly tracks by an expedition from the University of Alberta represents the most northerly report of grizzly bears ever recorded.

Melville Island was first visited by the British explorer Sir William Parry in 1819. Not only did he discover the island, but he was forced to spend the winter at what is now called "Winter Harbour", until August 1, 1820 owing to freeze-up of the sea. The island is named for Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville who was First Sea Lord at the time.

Melville has surfaced as a candidate for natural gas deposits. The first Canadian Arctic island exploratory well was spudded in 1961 at Winter Harbour. It drilled Lower Paleozoic strata to a total depth of 3,823 meters. In the 1970s, the northern portion of the island along the Sabine Peninsula proved to contain a major gas field.

Melville Island is one of two major breeding grounds for a small sea goose, the Western High Arctic Brant (or Gray Brant, Intermediate Brant or Grey-bellied Brent Goose). DNA analysis and field observations suggest that these birds may be distinct from other brant stocks. Numbering only 4-8,000 birds, this could be one of the rarest goose stocks in the world.


  • Sea islands: Atlas of Canada; Natural Resources Canada

Further reading

  • Arctic Pilot Project (Canada). Environmental Statement : Melville Island Components. [Calgary, Alta.?]: Arctic Pilot Project, 1979.
  • Barnett, D. M., S. A. Edlung, and L. A. Dredge. Terrain Characterization and Evaluation An Example from Eastern Melville Island. Paper (Geological Survey of Canada), 76-23. Ottawa: Energy, Mines and Resources Canada, 1977. ISBN 0660008122
  • Buchanan, Robert A., William E. Cross, and Denis H. Thomson. Survey of the Marine Environment of Bridport Inlet, Melville Island. Calgary: Distributed by Pallister Resource Management Ltd, 1980.
  • Christie, Robert Loring, and N. J. McMillan. The Geology of Melville Island, Arctic Canada. Ottawa, Canada: Geological Survey of Canada, 1994. ISBN 0660149826
  • Dominion Observatory (Canada), and A. Spector. A Gravity Survey of the Melville Island Ice Caps. Canada Dominion Observatory Contributions, 07:7. 1967.
  • Hodgson, D. A. Quaternary Geology of Western Melville Island, Northwest Territories. Ottawa, Canada: Geological Survey of Canada, 1992. ISBN 0660138093
  • Hotzel, Charles Neish Duncan. Terrain Disturbance on the Christopher Formation, Melville Island, NWT. Ottawa: Carleton University, Dept. of Geography, 1973.
  • McGregor, D. C., and M. Camfield. Middle Devonian Miospores from the Cape De Bray, Weatherall, and Hecla Bay Formations of Northeastern Melville Island, Canadian Arctic. Ottawa: Energy, Mines and Resources Canada, 1982. ISBN 0660110849
  • Shea, Iris V., and Heather Watts. Deadman's Melville Island & Its Burial Ground. [Tantallon, N.S.]: Glen Margaret Pub, 2005. ISBN 0920427685
  • Shearer, David Lloyd. Modern and Early Holocene Arctic Deltas, Melville Island, N.W.T., Canada. S.l: s.n.], 1974.
  • Steen, O. A., and Z. D. Hora. Landscape Survey Eastern Melville Island, N.W.T. Calgary: R.M. Hardy & Associates, 1978.
  • Thomas, Donald C., W. J. Edmonds, and H. J. Armbruster. Range types and their relative use by Peary caribou and muskoxen on Melville Island, NWT. Edmonton, AB: Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, 1999.
  • Trettin, Hans Peter, and L. V. Hills. Lower Triassic Tar Sands of Northwestern Melville Island, Arctic Archipelago. [Ottawa]: Dept. of Energy, Mines and Resources, 1966.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Melville_Island_(Canada)". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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