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Mars Research on the Uninhabited Devin Island

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Devon Island

Native name: Tatlurutit
Truelove Lowlands Devon Island.jpg

Truelove Lowland, a polar oasis located in Devon Island
Devon Island, Canada.svg
Location Baffin Bay
Coordinates 75°08′N 087°51′WCoordinates: 75°08′N 087°51′W
Archipelago Queen Elizabeth Islands
Canadian Arctic Archipelago
Area 55,247 km2 (21,331 sq mi)
Area rank 27th
Length 524 km (325.6 mi)
Width 155–476 km (96–296 mi)
Highest elevation 1,920 m (6,300 ft)
Highest point Devon Ice Cap
Territory Nunavut
Region Qikiqtaaluk Region
Population 0

Patterned ground permafrost pattern seen on Devon Island

Topography of Devon Island

Satellite photo montage of Devon Island and its neighbours

Devon Island (Inuit: Tatlurutit)[1] is the largest uninhabited island on Earth. It is located in Baffin Bay, Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. It is one of the larger members of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the second-largest of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada’s sixth largest island, and the 27th-largest island in the world. It comprises 55,247 km2 (21,331 sq mi) (slightly smaller than Croatia) of Precambrian gneiss and Paleozoic siltstones and shales.[2] The highest point is the Devon Ice Cap at 1,920 m (6,300 ft) which is part of the Arctic Cordillera. Devon Island contains several small mountain ranges, such as the Treuter Mountains, Haddington Range and the Cunningham Mountains.


History and settlement

Robert Bylot and William Baffin were the first Europeans to sight the island in 1616.[3] William Edward Parry charted its south coast in 1819-20,[4] and named it North Devon, after Devon in England, a name which was changed to Devon Island by the end of the 1800s.[5] In 1850 Edwin De Haven sailed up Wellington Channel and sighted the Grinnell Peninsula.[6]

An outpost was established at Dundas Harbour in 1924, and it was leased to Hudson’s Bay Company nine years later. The collapse of fur prices led to the dispersal of 53 Baffin Island Inuit families on the island in 1934. It was considered a disaster due to wind conditions and the much colder climate, and the Inuit chose to leave in 1936. Dundas Harbour was populated again in the late 1940s, but it was closed again in 1951. Only the ruins of a few buildings remain.


Because of its relatively high elevation and its extreme northern latitude, it supports only a meagre population of musk oxen and small birds and mammals; the island does support hypolith communities. Animal life is concentrated in the Truelove Lowland area of the island, which has a favourable microclimate and supports relatively lush Arctic vegetation. Temperatures during the brief (40 to 55 days) growing season seldom exceed 10 °C (50 °F), and in winter can plunge to as low as −50 °C (−58 °F). With a polar desert ecology, Devon Island receives very little precipitation.

Cape Liddon is an Important Bird Area (IBA) notable for its black guillemot and northern fulmar populations.[7] Cape Vera, another IBA site, is also noted for its northern fulmar population.[8]

Devon Island is also notable for the presence of the Haughton impact crater, created some 39 million years ago when a meteorite about 2 km (1.2 mi) in diameter crashed into what were then forests. The impact left a crater about 23 km (14 mi) in diameter, which was a lake for several million years.

Scientific research

Devon Island Research Station

The Devon Island Research Station was established in 1960 and it is maintained by the Arctic Institute of North America. It is located in Truelove Lowland, on the northeast coast of Devon Island (75°40′N 84°35′W).

Flashline MARS

The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station project entered its third season in 2004. In July 2004, Devon Island became the temporary home for five scientists and two journalists, who were to use the Mars-like environment to simulate living and working on the Red Planet. April 2007 through 21 August 2007 was the longest simulation period and included 20 scientific studies.[9]

The Haughton crater is now considered one of Earth’s best Mars analog sites. It is the summer home to a complementary scientific program, NASA‘s Haughton Mars Project. HMP has conducted geological, hydrological, botanical, and microbiological studies in this harsh environment since 1997.[10] HMP-2008 is the twelfth field season at Devon Island.[11]

In 2007, fossils of the seal ancestor Puijila darwini were found on the island.[12]

On July 16, 2013, the Canadian Space Agency assigned Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen to a secondment with the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration of the University of Western Ontario at Haughton Crater in preparation for a potential future manned exploration of Mars, the Moon or the asteroids.[13]





Further reading

  • Anderson, David G, and L C Bliss. 1998. “Association of Plant Distribution Patterns and Microenvironments on Patterned Ground in a Polar Desert, Devon Island, N.W.T., Canada”. Arctic and Alpine Research. 30, no. 2: 97.
  • Bliss, L. C. Truelove Lowland, Devon Island, Canada A High Arctic Ecosystem. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1977. ISBN 0-88864-014-5(Publisher description)
  • Cockell, Charles S, Pascal Lee, Andrew C Schuerger, Loretta Hidalgo, Jeff A Jones, and M Dale Stokes. 2001. “Microbiology and Vegetation of Micro-Oases and Polar Desert, Haughton Impact Crater, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada”. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 33, no. 3: 306.
  • Lamoureux, Scott F, and Robert Gilbert. 2004. “A 750-Yr Record of Autumn Snowfall and Temperature Variability and Winter Storminess Recorded in the Varved Sediments of Bear Lake, Devon Island, Arctic Canada”. Quaternary Research. 61, no. 2: 134.
  • Paterson, W. S. B. “An Oxygen-Isotope Climate Record from the Devon Island Ice Cap, Arctic Canada”. Nature, Vol.266,No.5602. 1977.
  • Robertson, Peter, and G. D. Mason. Shatter Cones from Haughton Dome, Devon Island, Canada. 1975.
  • Thorsteinsson, R., and Ulrich Mayr. The Sedimentary Rocks of Devon Island, Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Ottawa, Canada: Geological Survey of Canada, 1987. ISBN 0-660-12319-3
  • Ugolini, Fiorenzo C, Giuseppe Corti, and Giacomo Certini. 2007. “Pedogenesis in the Sorted Patterned Ground of Devon Plateau, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada”. Geoderma. 136, no. 1: 87.

Author: Kids Talk Radio

Bob Barboza is an educator, STEM journalist, software designer and founder of The Occupy Mars Learning Adventures and the Barboza Design and Space Centers. He leads a team of scientists, engineers and STEAM++ educators. They are training students to become Jr. astronauts, scientists and engineers. His team provides internships and workshops in STEAM++ and the integration of Common Core State Standards and Next Generations Science Standards. Contact information:

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