Discover Baffin Island Glaciers

Baffin Island is the largest island in Canada and one of the largest in the entire world. Over 500,000 square kilometres in diameter, Baffin Island is an unofficial gateway to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Baffin Island is believed by many historians to have been one of the prime sources of ice sheets that covered great expanses of what is now Canada during the Ice Age. Even  the Canadian landscape emerged from the Ice Age, Baffin Island and large parts of the territory of Nunavut remained covered in ice for thousands of years. It’s only in the last century that parts of Baffin Island have become more green, though much of the area is still sheathed in ice.

Quark Expeditions guests on a shore landing to view glaciers at Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, which is also home to Baffin Island.

Quark Expeditions guests on a shore landing to view glaciers at Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, which is also home
to Baffin Island. Photo: Sam Edmonds

From its position on the edge of the Arctic archipelago, Baffin Island is surrounded by many stunning glaciers that attract voyagers from all over the world. Some of these glaciers are located on the cusp of magical waterfalls and howling fjords that make for an unforgettable photographs. 

Where is Baffin Island?

Baffin Island is located north of Hudson Bay in Canada, and it’s directly west of Greenland via the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. Historians believe the island was first discovered by a tribe of nomads known as the Dorset Culture as evidenced by archeological discoveries on the southwest coast of the island. First Nations tribes who first arrived in Canada via Siberia later came to the island and erected settlements. They became known as the Baffin Island Inuit.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that European explorers first arrived on the island and made contact with the Baffin Island Inuit. The maiden voyage to the island was led by English explorer Martin Frobisher, after which it was called Frobisher Bay. In 1987, Frobisher Bay was officially renamed Iqaluit, the rightful name bestowed upon it by the Inuit who had inhabited the island long before European settlers and explorers.  Iqaluit is the Inuktitut word for “place of many fish.”

How to get to Baffin Island

History tells us that the coast of Baffin Island confused early European explorers on their initial voyages to what is now the Canadian High Arctic, leaving the island largely unexplored for many decades. These days, travelers follow established expedition routes to reach Baffin Island.

If you’re interested in exploring the vast wonders of Baffin Island you can do so by booking voyages such as  Best of the Western Arctic: Canada and Greenland. This 20-day voyage, one of the longest offered by Quark Expeditions, provides guests with abundant opportunities to witness the Arctic Archipelago in all its glory. You’ll fly from Toronto, Canada, to your embarkation port in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

Glaciers are one of the many ice-and-landforms guests can see up close on polar expeditions to the Arctic, especially in places like Baffin Island.

Glaciers are one of the many ice-and-landforms guests can see up close on polar expeditions to the Arctic,
especially in places like Baffin Island. Photo: Sam Edmonds

Once underway, you will sail through the Davis Strait and along the northeastern coast of Baffin Island. There are three days set aside for exploring the island with official stops made in Qikiqtarjuaq, where travelers get an incredible view of the Davis Strait, as well as Isabella Bay, which is frequented by large families of bowhead whales.

Baffin Island climate

Since Baffin Island lies alongside the Arctic Archipelago, the climate is typical of many northern environments. The winter months are very cold with average temperatures ranging from -20°C to -33°C depending on the month. On the other hand, in the summer months temperatures rise as high as 14°C with nightly lows hovering near the freezing point.

Precipitation is more common during the summer than in the winter. This is largely due to the fact that it’s too cold throughout the winter months for much snow to accumulate.

Baffin Island glaciers

Glaciers found on Baffin Island are typically ice caps or ice fields, many of them found on the northern coast. The largest ice caps are Penny Ice Cap and Barnes Ice Cap. Baffin Island is also known for its glacier-fed lakes and glacier-carved coastlines. Nearby Bylot Island is also heavily glacierized.

Baffin Island cruise

In order to photograph Baffin Island glaciers and other landforms in Nunavut, you can book a voyage such as the Northwest Passage: In The Footsteps of Franklin. This 17-day adventure departs from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, for an incredible journey around the coast of Baffin Island.

On this voyage, you’ll make stops in remote northern Canadian settlements such Pangnirtung at the base of Mount Duval, a community known for Inuit arts, crafts, and culture. You’ll then sail up the coast of Baffin Island toward Pond Inlet where you’ll have an opportunity to sail through frozen bays. Whether on a shore excursion on land, or from the deck of the ship, you’ll find evidence of glaciers in almost every direction.

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