World Heritage: Canada

Quttinirpaaq

Nunavut
Geographical Location:
82° N – 70° W

This is a land of desolation and splendour on a grand scale, yet a place of intimate, fragile beauty. Here also is evidence of the earliest human occupations of the northernmost tip of North America.

Quttinirpaaq © Lynch, W.

Most of Quttinirpaaq is a frozen, almost lifeless desert. The rugged peaks of the Innuitian Mountains, the highest east of the Rockies, pierce the ice cap that covers much of this area. Glaciers extend icy fingers towards deep fiords; unique aprons of millennia-old freshwater ice 80 m thick extend several kilometres over the Arctic Ocean. But within this “freeze-dried” land are unique lowland areas, such as the one surrounding Lake Hazen. In the brief summer of continuous 24-hour sunlight, it bursts into a rich, frantic growth of sedges, mosses and arctic wild flowers. This “arctic oasis” supports a remarkable variety of wildlife for this latitude: muskoxen, arctic hare, the endangered Peary caribou, a few wolves, arctic fox and about 30 species of birds. Numerous archaeological sites represent all pre-Contact groups to have occupied High Arctic Canada, and this land is central to one of the routes by which peoples moved from the Canadian Arctic to Greenland.