The One Minute Geographer: Baffin Island

Jim Fonseca
5 min readApr 22
Photo from

Looking for an exotic spot for your summer vacation? How about Baffin Island, Canada. Exotic doesn’t have to be tropical, does it?

Baffin Island is a paradise for wildlife viewing. You can see polar bears, Arctic foxes and wolves, many species of geese and ducks, snowy owls, seals, walruses, narwhals, even beluga whales.

Baffin island is the fifth largest island in the world (after Greenland, New Guinea, Borneo and Madagascar). Baffin is about 20% larger than California, so if the island were a US state, only Alaska and Texas would be bigger. The southern half of the island is large enough to contain two large lakes, one of them, Nettilling Lake, is just a bit smaller than Lake Ontario. The coast is studded with fjords.

Map from

First, let’s realize how far north we are. The Arctic Circle cuts off the southernmost bottom third of the island. Iqaluit, the largest town, is about the latitude of Iceland or the middle of Norway. The northernmost part of the island extends about 250 miles farther north than the northernmost point of Alaska. This is the land of the midnight sun and the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights.

Only about 15,000 people call the island home, half of those are in Iqaluit on the southern part of the island. There are a half-dozen other scattered towns of 500 to 1,000 people. About 75% of folks on the island are indigenous Inuit people.

The island derives much of its money from tourism. Residents work at the airport, in the few hotels, restaurants and shops, and they work as fishing and hunting guides. The indigenous folks rely a lot on hunting and fishing for food and there’s some export of fish. The Inuit people hand-craft items and artworks for tourists.

The town of Iqaluit. Photo by David Gunn of CBC on

There’s some government employment because Iqaluit is the capital, not only of Baffin Island, but also of the huge but sparsely populated Nunavut territory of Canada. And people work in services like schools, fire, police and the…

Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.