Taconite Inlet Project

1. Geographic setting

The Queen Elizabeth Islands are the part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago situated north of Parry Channel (Queen Elizabeth Islands Location Map). The Islands include the northernmost extremity of North America, at Cape Aldrich. The Cape is only ca. 50 km further south than Cape Morris Jesup, Greenland (8338'N), the most northerly point of the Northern Hemisphere. (In 1978, the Danes discovered a more northerly island (OodaaqO) off the coast of Greenland, at 8340'.) The entirety of the Queen Elizabeth Islands is underlain by continuous permafrost, is north of the treeline, and is north of the 5C July isotherm. Based on the latter categorization (July temperature), the region is designated as High Arctic.

Ellesmere Island is the largest of the Queen Elizabeth Islands. The island is heavily glacierized, including three major ice caps, and has an extensive system of fjords. The highest peaks of eastern North America are found on Ellesmere Island, especially in the Grantland Mountains, where Barbeau Peak (2604 m) is the highest (Map of northern Ellesmere Island).

The north coast of Ellesmere Island is a unique region of North America. Today, the glaciation level gradient inland of the coast is among the steepest in the world (Miller et al., 1975). Ice shelves still exist along the north coast of the island, and are not known to exist anywhere else in the northern hemisphere today. Rapid disintegration of these ice shelves this century has claimed roughly 80 percent of the formerly extensive fringe, for largely unknown reasons (Jeffries, 1987).

Taconite Inlet is a series of small embayments adjacent to the much larger M'Clintock Inlet, west of Cape Discovery (Map of northern Ellesmere Island). The exchange of water between Taconite Inlet and the Arctic Ocean has been limited in the past by ice shelves, and is currently still restricted somewhat by land-fast ice and ice shelf fragments. (Most of the M'Clintock ice shelf broke away between 1963 and 1965, and according to Serson (1983), the remainder (10 km^2 lodged at Borup Point) broke away in 1966.) Adjacent to Taconite Inlet are three lakes, ranging from 1.1 to 1.8 km^2 in area (Lamoureux, 1994) and 51 to 84 m depth (Bradley et al., in press). The northernmost of these was designated Lake C (unofficial name) by Hattersley-Smith et al. (1970). Following Jeffries (in litt. to R.S. Bradley), the lakes are currently unofficially named C1, C2 and C3. All three of the lakes are density-stratified to varying degrees (Ludlam, 1996), and are perennially ice covered.

An overview of Lake C2, the principal inlet stream, and its catchment can perhaps best be visualized from an oblique aerial photograph taken at an altitude of over 6100 m (20000 ft) (Watershed Oblique). The following table provides a summary of Lake C2 and watershed characteristics.

Selected physical characteristics of Lake C2 and the inlet stream watershed
Catchment area (km^2) (w/o primary stream)5.6
Elevation (m a.s.l.)1.2
Maximum depth (m)84
Inlet to outlet distance (m)1100
Inlet stream watershed
Catchment area (km^2)21
Maximum elevation (m)1200
Appropriate glacierized area (percent)9

The lake is situated 10-15 km inland (south) from the coastline. On several occasions during the 1992 field season, an open-water zone roughly paralleling the coast ca. 25 km north of the lake was observed from Echo Peak; this probably represents the shear zone between landfast ice and the Arctic Ocean.

Watershed & northern Ellesmere Island index page

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