Monday, January 7, 2013

8 Abandoned Arctic Islands

There is something less than 100 inhabited islands, which are located within the Arctic Circle (66°33'44"N). All other islands are uninhabited, mostly because of the harsh climatic conditions. However, some of these uninhabited islands were once populated, but were abandoned due to various reasons.

1. Herschel Island, Canada
At the edge of the Beaufort Sea off the north coast of Canada's Yukon Territory, Herschel Island was first inhabited a millennium ago by the Thule - ancestors of the present-day Inuit.
Camp for casual visitors  link
Following the discovery that the Beaufort Sea was home to a large population of Bowhead whales - prized for their oil - in the late nineteenth century, the first European/American settlement was founded on the island, which quickly became a hub for commercial whaling in the region.
Herschel Island is home to numerous archaeological sites associated with the Thule and Inuit, as well as the earliest European/American settlements. Many whaling-related historic structures are preserved on the island. The island was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1972. Today, these cultural resources of Herschel Island are threatened by rising sea levels, eroding coastlines, and melting permafrost caused by global warming.
Former whaler station  link
No one lives on Herschel Island now. Located on the coast of the Canadian Yukon, 45 miles (72 km) east of Alaska but separated from Prudhoe Bay by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it is not the most convenient place to visit. But kayakers traveling down the Firth River visit and cruise ships stop by during the warm months. The Inuvialuit periodically return for days or months to practice the old ways and teach them to a new generation. [link1link2map]

2. Edgeøya, Svalbard, Norway
Graveyard of whales on the Edgeøya island  link
Edgeøya, occasionally anglicised as Edge Island, is an uninhabited Norwegian island in southeast of the Svalbard archipelago, it is the third largest island in this archipelago.
An old whalebone becoming part of the rich tundra  link
Discovered in the early 17th century by whalers, and possibly known to the Pomors (hunting people from northern Russia) even earlier than that. The Pomors established a number of hunting stations and used them well into the 19th century. In the late 19th and early 20th century, southeastern Edgeøya was an important area for Norwegian trappers to hunt polar bears.
Abandoned research station with old houses and an unusually large number of walrus link
The Swedish-Russian Arc-de-Meridian expedition (1899-1904) had a station at Kapp Lee (or, more precisely, Dolerittneset). At the same place, Dutch biologists established a research station in the late 1960s, where they also wintered to do research mainly on polar bears. The station was abandoned after a few years. [link1link2map]

3. Wrangel Island, Russia
Wrangel Island is an island in the Arctic Ocean, between the Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea. Nearly all of Wrangel Island, and Herald Island, are a federally protected nature sanctuary administered by Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources.
Abandoned village of Ushakovskoye  link
Wrangel Island belongs administratively to the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of the Russian Federation. This rocky island has a weather station and, formerly, two Chukchi fishing settlements on the southern side of the island (Ushakovskoye and Zvyozdny).
Hunters hut at Wrangel Island  link
By the 1980s, the reindeer-herding farm on Wrangel had been abolished and the settlement of Zvezdnyi was virtually abandoned. Hunting had already been stopped, except for a small quota of marine mammals for the needs of the local population. In 1992, the military radar installation at Cape Hawaii (on the southeast coast) was closed and only the settlement of Ushakivskoe remained occupied on the island.
Wrangel Island is best known for it's remarkable concentration of Polar Bears  link
In the 1980s, people began to leave Ushakovskoye. In 1997, it was decided to resettle the inhabitants at Mys Shmidta (settlement on the mainland). The last resident of Ushakovskoye left the village on October 13, 2003. [linkmap]

4. Somerset Island, Canada
Around 1000 AD, the north coast of Somerset Island was inhabited by the Thule people, as evidenced by whale bones, tunnels and stone ruins.
Port Leopold - an abandoned trading post at the northeast tip of Somerset Island  link
William Edward Parry was the first European to sight the island in 1819. In late 1848, James Clark Ross, commanding two ships, landed at Port Leopold on the northeast coast to winter. In April the following year, he launched an exploration of the island by sledge.
Excavated Thule whale bone dwelling, Hazard Inlet, Somerset Island, showing abundant whale bone used in original dwelling construction  link
Roald Amundsen transitted the passage between the Island and the Melville Peninsula in the Gjøa in the first successful traverse of the Northwest Passage in 1904. Henry Larsen transitted the passage, in the St Roch in the second successful transit in 1943. But he found this route was dangerously icebound, and was also too shallow for commercial travel.
Fort Ross - abandoned trading post on the south of island  link
The Fort Ross trading post was established and run by the Hudson's Bay Company at the southeastern end of the island from 1937-1948. When it was closed, the island was left uninhabited except for occasional use of the former store and manager's house as shelters by Inuit caribou hunters from Taloyoak. In 2006, CBC's The National included Fort Ross in a special series focused on climate change. [linkmap]

5. Alluttoq Island, Greenland
Alluttoq Island is a large (655 km2 (252.9 sq mi)), uninhabited island in the Qaasuitsup municipality in western Greenland, located in the northern part of Disko Bay, in the outlet of the Sullorsuaq Strait, east of Disko Island.
Lonely abandoned cabin in the Arctic wilderness  link
Ataa was a settlement in the Disko Bay region of western Greenland. It was located on the eastern coast of Alluttoq Island, approximately 60 km (37 mi) to the north of Ilulissat and 30 km (19 mi) to the southeast of Qeqertaq.
The settlement was abandoned around 1960. Ataa is now converted into a wilderness camp. In the summer months, tourists come to this place to enjoy the Arctic wilderness. [linkmap]

6. Skorpa, Norway
Skorpa is an uninhabited island in the municipality of Kvænangen in Troms county, Norway. The 8.26-square-kilometre (3.19 sq mi) island is located in the middle of the Kvænangen fjord. The last permanent resident of the island moved off the island around 1980, and the island has had no permanent inhabitants since then.
The island was the historical center of the municipality of Kvænangen. The municipal government and Skorpa Church were located on the island. The Skorpa prisoner of war camp was located on the island during World War II. The municipal government moved to Burfjord on the mainland during the 20th century and the island's population continued to decline until around 1980 when the island became uninhabited. [link, map]

7. Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland
Qeqertarsuaq (Herbert Island) is an island near Qaanaaq in the Qaasuitsup municipality. This is also the name of an abandoned fishing village on the island. The island has an area of 223 km2 (86 sq mi).
The hunting camp of Qeqertarsuaq, on Herbert Island  link
On this island, there is abandoned town Qeqertarsuaq. By 1990, the town was inhabited by people who were engaged in fishing. After that, the population moved to Qaanaaq. Today Qeqertarsuaq has no permanent residents, but is occasionally visited by hunters. [link, map]

8. Devon Island, Canada
Devon Island claimed to be the largest abandoned island on Earth, is located in Baffin Bay, Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. Because of its relatively high elevation and its extreme northern latitude, it supports only a meagre population of musk oxen and small birds and mammals.
An outpost was established at Dundas Harbour in 1924, and it was leased to Hudson's Bay Company (the oldest commercial corporation in North America) nine years later. The collapse of fur prices and the need to cut relief expenses led to the dispersal of 53 Baffin Island Inuit families on the island in 1934.
It was considered a disaster due to wind conditions and the much colder climate, and the Inuit chose to leave in 1936. Dundas Harbour was populated again in the late 1940s, but it was closed again in 1951. Only the ruins of a few buildings remain. [link, map]
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