Ellef Ringnes Island
Ellef Ringnes Island is one of the Sverdrup Islands
Sverdrup Islands
The Sverdrup Islands is an archipelago of the northern Queen Elizabeth Islands, in Nunavut, Canada. The islands are situated in the Arctic Ocean, west of Ellesmere Island from 77° to 81° North and 85° to 106° West.- History :...

 in Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut
Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. Also a member of the Queen Elizabeth Islands
Queen Elizabeth Islands
The Queen Elizabeth Islands are the northernmost cluster of islands in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, split between Nunavut and Northwest Territories in Northern Canada.-Geography:...

 and Canadian Arctic Archipelago
Canadian Arctic Archipelago
The Canadian Arctic Archipelago, also known as the Arctic Archipelago, is a Canadian archipelago north of the Canadian mainland in the Arctic...

, it is located in the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

, east of Borden Island
Borden Island
Borden Island is an uninhabited, low-lying island in the Queen Elizabeth Islands of northern Canada. With an area of in size, it is the 172nd largest island in the world, and Canada's 30th largest island...

, and west of Amund Ringnes Island
Amund Ringnes Island
Amund Ringnes Island is one of the Sverdrup Islands in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. It is located in the Arctic Ocean, between 78 and 79 degrees of latitude. It lies east of Ellef Ringnes Island, west of Axel Heiberg Island. Hassel Sound separates Amund Ringnes Island from Ellef Ringnes...

. It has an area of 11295 km² (4,361 sq mi), making it the 69th largest island in the world (slightly larger than Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

) and Canada's 16th largest island. Its highest mount is 260 m (853 ft).

The island was named by Otto Sverdrup
Otto Sverdrup
Otto Neumann Knoph Sverdrup was a Norwegian sailor and Arctic explorer.-Early and personal life:...

 for Oslo brewer Ellef Ringnes
Ringnes is the largest brewer in Norway.-History:Ringnes AS was founded in 1876. The company's brewery in the Grünerløkka district of Oslo produced its first beer in 1877. The brewery was founded by brothers Amund and Ellef Ringnes together with financial director Axel Heiberg...

, one of the sponsors of his expedition. It was first sighted by one of his men in 1901. The island was then claimed by Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 from 1902 until the claim was relinquished (in favour of Canada) in 1930.

A High Arctic Weather Station (H.A.W.S.) called Isachsen
Isachsen, Nunavut
Isachsen was a remote Arctic research-weather station named after the Norwegian explorer of the Arctic, Gunnar Isachsen. it is located on the western shore of Ellef Ringnes Island in the Sverdrup Islands, in the territory of Nunavut in Canada. Isachsen Station was established to participate in a...

 lies on the west coast of the island. It was opened April 3, 1948 as part of a joint Canada-U.S. military effort to support a weather station
Weather station
A weather station is a facility, either on land or sea, with instruments and equipment for observing atmospheric conditions to provide information for weather forecasts and to study the weather and climate. The measurements taken include temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed, wind...

 network. When it closed on September 19, 1978, it was replaced with an automated weather system. The station represented the only known permanent human settlement of the island.

Ellef Ringnes Island was the last landmass to be visited by the Earth's wandering Magnetic North Pole. In April and May 1994, Larry Newitt, of the Geological Survey of Canada, and Charles Barton, of the Australian Geological Survey Organization, conducted a survey to determine the average position of the North Magnetic Pole at that time. They established a temporary magnetic observatory on Lougheed Island
Lougheed Island
Lougheed Island is one of the uninhabited islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut. It measures in size. It is relatively isolated compared to other Canadian Arctic islands, and is located in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Ellef Ringnes Island to the...

, close to the predicted position of the pole. They determined that the average position of the North Magnetic Pole in 1994 was located on the Noice Peninsula, southwest Ellef Ringnes Island, at 78.3° N, 104.0° W. The pole shifted from the island that year and now lies some 250 miles (400 km) to the NNW.

The island is also the location and namesake of an episode of The Secret Saturdays
The Secret Saturdays
The Secret Saturdays is an American animated television series created by Canadian cartoonist Jay Stephens for Cartoon Network. It debuted on October 3, 2008, in the United States...



The first known sighting of Ellef Ringnes Island was in 1901 by a sledging party consisting of Gunerius Isachsen and Sverre Hassel. Members of the Second Norwegian Arctic Expedition of 1898-1902, which was under the command of Otto Sverdrup. The island was named to honour Ellef Ringnes, a one of the principal patrons of the expedition. At the time of the discovery of Ellef Ringnes Island, the expedition was based at Goose Fiord on the south coast of Ellesmere Island. Isachsen and Hassel made their initial sighting of Ellef Ringnes Island on
April 23 as they rounded the southwest corner of Amund Ringnes Island, an island they had sighted and partly explored the previous year. The following day, Isachsen and Hassel traveled across Hassel Sound making a landfall at the southern extremity of the island. In the course of the following 20 days, they succeeded in circumnavigating Ellef Ringnes. The resulting map and notes on geological specimens are published in Otto Sverdrup's narrative New Land (1904). In 1948. the federal Department of Transport and the United States Weather Bureau jointly established a meteorological station at Isachsen. The station was in operation for thirty years. Drilling took place on the island in the seventies by Panarctic Oils.


The island is characterized by broad lowlands and locally by dissected uplands which reflect the diversity of structures and lithological characters of the bedrock formations. The island is rimmed by low shelving coastal areas, domal structures (salt dome
Salt dome
A salt dome is a type of structural dome formed when a thick bed of evaporite minerals found at depth intrudes vertically into surrounding rock strata, forming a diapir....

) with cores of diapiric anhydrite and secondary gypsum constitute striking features of the landscape. Two major structural provinces of the Arctic Archipelago are represented: the Sverdrup basin which includes the greater part of the island and preponderant thickness of sediments: and the Arctic Coastal Plain, an area at the north-eastern extremity of the island. These salt domes create the highest topographic features. While most of the island is flat lying, the salt domes stand out clearly on satellite. There are seven domes, Dumbbells, Contour, Hoodoo, Malloch, Haakon, Helicopter and Isachsen Dome(260m) which is the highest point on the island. On the north part of the island, there is a concentration of gabbro and diabase dikes
Dike (geology)
A dike or dyke in geology is a type of sheet intrusion referring to any geologic body that cuts discordantly across* planar wall rock structures, such as bedding or foliation...

 and sills
Sill (geology)
In geology, a sill is a tabular sheet intrusion that has intruded between older layers of sedimentary rock, beds of volcanic lava or tuff, or even along the direction of foliation in metamorphic rock. The term sill is synonymous with concordant intrusive sheet...

. Most of the rock is Jurassic to Cretaceous with the northern part (Isachsen Peninsula) being Tertiary. The Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks are varying formations of sandstone and shale. The sediment was deposited in the Sverdrup Basin. The salt diapirs are Carboniferous.

Flora and fauna

Ellef Ringnes Island is interesting to biologists because of its extremely rigorous arctic environment and its resulting meager flora and fauna. Together with Amund Ringnes, Borden, Brock, King Christian, Lougheed, Mackenzie King and Meighen Islands (the so-called northwestern
Queen Elizabeth Islands) it constitutes the most barren part of the high arctic region. Some idea of its bleakness is conveyed by the remarks
of others who worked there. Stefansson (1921), on visiting Ellef Ringnes in June 1916, wrote “I did not see a blade of grass and the district struck me as the most barren I had even seen”; MacDonald (1961) who spent the field season of 1954 at Isachsen, stated, “My immediate impression of Isachsen was of a region of utter desolation”. Summers at Isachsen, the richest locality on the island, are colder than at any other arctic weather station. Accordingly, Ellef Ringnes probably supports fewer forms of life than any other ice-free arctic land mass of comparable size (5,000 sq. mi.). The total confirmed flora comprises 49 species of vascular plants and about 85 of fungi; only 10 species of mammals and 15 of birds have been recorded on the island. Mammals include muskox, Peary caribou
Peary Caribou
The Peary Caribou is a caribou subspecies found in the high Arctic islands of Canada's Nunavut and Northwest territories. They are the smallest of the North American caribou, with the females weighing an average of 60 kg and the males 110 kg...

, polar bears and foxes

Further reading

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