The eastern part is hilly, with local plains. It was on this side of the island that large tree stumps were discovered in 1985. The stumps have since been dated at 40 million years old, evidence that the Far North was at that time much warmer and wetter. This "Fossil Forest" is not petrified but contains all its organic matter, making it a unique glimpse into an ancient ecosystem. The stumps, logs, seeds, cones and leaves are in some cases so well preserved that it is difficult to distinguish them from present-day samples. The most common tree species is dawn redwood (Metasequoia sp), but LARCH, plane-tree sycamore (Platanus sp), Chinese water chestnut (Glyptostrobus sp), SPRUCE and PINE have also been found. Animal evidence of semitropical Axel Heiberg was found in the late 1990s when alligator and turtle fossils were found at Mokka Fiord and fossilized tooth fragments of an extinct huge rhinoceroslike herbivore, Brontotheriidae, were found in the fossil forest site.
The climate today is much colder and vegetation is scant, but well-vegetated spots occur in the lowlands. Arctic hares are the most common mammals. Muskoxen occur in the lowlands, but caribou are scarce. The island was discovered in 1899 by a Norwegian expedition led by Otto SVERDRUP, who named it after the Norwegian consul.
Author S.C. ZOLTAI
Links to Other Sites
The Muskox Patrol: High Arctic Sovereignty Revisited
A 2003 article about the role of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the Canadian government’s quest to secure international recognition of its claims to sovereignty over the High Arctic islands. Includes photos of the ship “Beothic,” the Dundas Harbour RCMP Detachment, and more. From the Arctic Institute of North America.
Axel Heiberg Island
A detailed map and brief description of Axel Heiberg Island. A University of Guelph website.
Glaciology on Axel Heiberg Island
This informative and well illustrated site is devoted to Trent University glaciological research projects on Axel Heiberg Island.
Axel Heiberg Haute Ski Traverse 2005
This site documents a skiing expedition that traversed Axel Heiberg Island in 2005. Check out the spetacular photos of island's icy landscape. From the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...