Along the east coast the land slopes up from the beach into mud, sand and gravel cliffs. The highest point is Durham Heights (almost 730 m). The central portion is a level plain, cut by valleys of the larger rivers (Big, Bernard and Thomsen) that rise near the southeast side. The Thomsen is Canada's most northerly river navigable by canoe. It is the centrepiece of AULAVIK NATIONAL PARK. Seams of hard, impure coal underlie the northeast plateau, and softer coal has been found around Mercy Bay. On the east side, which was glaciated, lakes are numerous and glacial till covers the hills.
There is a large arctic fox population, as well as caribou, polar bears, wolves, muskoxen, arctic hare, lemmings, ermine, seal and occasionally grizzly bears. White and bowhead whales are common offshore. Numerous species of birds are found, including lesser snow geese, black brants, eiders, peregrine falcons, snowy owls, rough-legged hawks and ravens. There are 2 BIRD SANCTUARIES on Banks Island: one along the banks of the lower Thomsen River and the larger of the 2 comprising the southwest quarter of the island surrounding Sachs Harbour. Arctic char have been taken at the mouths of the Sachs, De Salis and Thomsen Rivers; whitefish and lake trout at the Thomsen.
The island was inhabited sporadically for more than 3000 years, first by the Pre-Dorset, then by the Thule and COPPER INUIT. There is evidence of their occupation along the southwestern and southeastern coasts and along the Thomsen River. Today, except for an air base at SACHS HARBOUR, Banks Island is uninhabited except for trappers.
Author JAMES MARSH
Links to Other Sites
Aulavik National Park of Canada
This illustrated Parks Canada website describes the ecology, geography, and history of Aulavik National Park of Canada.
Important Bird Areas in Canada
An extensive database of key facts and maps about bird populations, habitat types, and land use activities associated with Important Bird Areas across Canada. To search the database, click on "IBA database." Then, click on the "Show IBA List" button to see a list of these locations.
The website for Arctic Mission, a scientific voyage through the Arctic’s fabled North-West Passage. Features interactive maps, videos, photos and written observations about the landscape, climate, and wildlife that inhabit this region. From the National Film Board.