Canada’s Largest Islands Have Very Small Populations

December 1, 2018 7:01 am77 commentsViews: 87

According to Vaughn Aubuchon’s list of the world’s twenty largest islands, (Vaughn’s Summaries, 2005, updated 2010) Baffin Island in the eastern Arctic is the world’s fifth largest, after Greenland, New Guinea, Borneo and Madagascar. Baffin, part of the territory of Nunavut, lies north of the Arctic Circle (latitude 60 degrees north), and Victoria Island, shared between the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, lies north of 65. Ellesmere Island, controlled by the Northwest Territories, lies entirely north of 75 degrees.

Baffin Has a Few Thousand People; Madagascar About Twenty Million

Though the sizes of Baffin, Madagascar and Sumatra are quite similar, their populations are vastly different. Baffin Island, at around 507,000 square km, has an area a little smaller than Madagascar, at 578,000 and a little larger than Sumatra, at 425,000. (Aubuchon) Yet while Baffin’s population is now something above the about eleven thousand reported by Earth Snapshot in 2006, that of Madagascar in 2008 was over nineteen million, as reported by the World Bank. In the same year, Sumatra had over thirty-six million people (Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. 2008).

Victoria Island is nearly double the size of the Canadian province of Newfoundland. With an area of nearly 217,300 square kilometers, it is slightly larger than Great Britain, which measures just under 217,000 and slightly smaller than Japan’s main island of Honshu, at about 227,000 square kilometers. (Aubuchon) Yet while Victoria Island has a population of only a couple of thousand people, the UK is approaching sixty-two million (BBC News, June 24, 2010) and Honshu, according to Japan Statistical Yearbook 1920-2006. had over a hundred three million in 2006 (

On Ellesmere Island, There are Nearly a Thousand Square Miles of Territory Per Person

Ellesmere Island in the remote north has 196,000 square kilometers of land and is home to fewer than 200 people. (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 2004) Though it larger than the both the South and North Islands of New Zealand, nearly double the size of Cuba and Iceland, and more than double the size of Ireland and Mindanao, Ellesmere is virtually unknown outside of Canada, because so few live there.

The island of Mindanao in the Philippines has over twenty-one million people. Cuba has over eleven million, Ireland has about four and a half million, and Iceland has approximately 318,000. In terms of population density, this means that whereas on Mindanao, an average of about 221 people occupy each square kilometer of land, in Iceland, each person has the equivalent about 2/3 of a kilometer of land to him or herself. On Ellesmere, however, if we assume the population as now risen to 200 people, there is an astonishing 9800 square kilometers of land per person.

Tiny Northern Island Communities Accessible by Air

Ellesmere does have an airport, however. Called Eureka, it is located at 79 degrees north latitude. The airport in the accompanying photo is at Resolute Bay, on Cornwallis Island. This island, though it is among the world’s top 100 in size, is not one of Canada’s really big ones. Located at 75 degrees North latitude, it is just under 7000 square kilometers in size, about a quarter the area of Vancouver Island. According to Joshua Calder’s webpage, Largest Islands of Canada, (2007), Ellesmere is number 21 by size on Canada’s long list of islands.


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