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Alert, Nunavut

Alert, Nunavut
Weather station and signals intelligence base
Environment Canada air chemistry observatory
Environment Canada air chemistry observatory
Motto: Inuit Nunangata Ungata (Beyond the Inuit Land)
Alert, Nunavut is located in Canada
Alert, Nunavut
Country Canada
Territory Nunavut
Region Qikiqtaaluk Region
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 0 to 5
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)

Alert, in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada, is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world,[2] at latitude 82°30'05" north, 817 kilometres (508 mi) from the North Pole.[3] Its permanent population was reported as zero in the 2011 census,[1] but military and scientific personnel on rotation were present. It takes its name from HMS Alert, which wintered 10 km (6.2 mi) east of the present station, off what is now Cape Sheridan, in 1875–1876.

Alert has many temporary inhabitants as it hosts a military signals intelligence radio receiving facility at Canadian Forces Station Alert (CFS Alert), as well as a co-located Environment Canada weather station, a Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) atmosphere monitoring laboratory, and the Alert Airport.


  • History 1
  • Current events 2
  • Geography 3
  • Climate 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Alert is named after Ellesmere Island.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Charles J. Hubbard began to rouse interest in the United States and Canada for the establishment of a network of Arctic stations. His plan, in broad perspective, envisaged the establishment of two main stations, one in Greenland and the other within the Archipelago, which could be reached by sea supply. These main stations would then serve as advance bases from which a number of smaller stations would be established by air. The immediate plans contemplated the establishment of weather stations only, but it was felt that a system of weather stations would also provide a nucleus of transportation, communications and settlements which would greatly aid programs of research in many other fields of science. It was recognized that ultimate action would depend on international co-operation since the land masses involved were under Canadian and Danish control.

The weather station was established in 1950, and the military station in 1958.

Nine crew members of a Royal Canadian Air Force Lancaster died in a crash while making an airdrop of supplies to the station in 1950. Charles Hubbard, USWB Chief of Polar Operations Project, was among the passengers on board the ill-fated Lancaster crash and was among those buried at Alert.

"Boxtop 22", a C-130 Hercules flying as part of Operation Boxtop, crashed about 30 km (19 mi) short of the runway on 30 October 1991. Of the 18 aboard, four died in the crash, while the pilot died during the 32 hours that it took search and rescue teams to reach the crash site under blizzard conditions. The crash was the subject of several books, including Death and Deliverance: The True Story of an Airplane Crash at the North Pole by Robert Mason Lee, as well as a film, Ordeal in the Arctic, starring Richard Chamberlain.

Current events

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported in April 2006 that the heating costs for the station had risen. As a result of the rising costs the Canadian Forces proposed cutbacks to support jobs by using private contractors.[5]

Also in April 2006, the Roly McLenahan Torch, used to light the flame in Whitehorse, Yukon for the 2007 Canada Games, passed through Alert.

In August 2006, the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, made a visit to Alert as part of his campaign to promote Canadian sovereignty in the north.

The Olympic Torch passed through Alert on 9 November 2009 en route to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.[6]

On 19 and 20 of January 2015 Governor-General and Commander-In-Chief David Johnston flew into Alert on a C-17 Globemaster transport from CFB Trenton.[7] He toured Alert, received an overview of its operations, met with civilian and military personnel and presided over a change-of-command.[8]


Orthographic projection centred over Alert, Nunavut.

Alert is located 12 km (7.5 mi) west of Cape Sheridan, the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, on the shore of the ice-covered Lincoln Sea. Alert lies just 817 km (508 mi) from the North Pole; the nearest Canadian city is Iqaluit, the capital of the territory of Nunavut, 2,092 km (1,300 mi) away.

The settlement is surrounded by rugged hills and valleys. The shore is composed primarily of slate and shale. The sea is covered with sea ice for most of the year but the ice pack does move out in the summer months, leaving open water. Evaporation rates are also very low, as average monthly temperatures are above freezing only in July and August.

Other places on Ellesmere Island are the research base at Eureka and the Inuit community of Grise Fiord, 800 km (500 mi) to the southwest.


Alert (indicated by small text label near centre of image) within the Arctic region. Composite image showing extent of ice at 15 September 2008.

Alert has a polar climate. There is snow cover for 10 months of the year on average and sometimes snow from one year persists into the next year in protected areas. The warmest month, July, has an average temperature of 3.4 °C (38.1 °F), with only July and August averaging above freezing, and those are also the months where well over 90% of the rainfall occurs. Alert is also very dry, the fourth driest in Nunavut, averaging only 158.3 mm (6.23 in) of precipitation per year. Most of this occurs during the months of July, August and September, mostly in the form of snow. On average Alert sees 17.4 mm (0.69 in) of rain, the least of any place in Nunavut, between June and September. Alert sees very little snowfall during the rest of the year. September is usually the month with the heaviest snowfall. February is the coldest month of the year and the yearly mean of −17.7 °C (0.1 °F) is the second coldest in Nunavut after Eureka. Snowfall can occur during any month of the year, although there might be about 28 frost free days in an average summer.[9]

Being north of the Arctic Circle, Alert experiences polar night from the middle of October until the end of February, and the midnight sun from the first week of April until the first week of September. There are two relatively short periods of twilight from about 13 February to 22 March and the second from 19 September to 22 October.[10]

Climate data for Alert Airport
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) −13.5
Average high °C (°F) −28.6
Daily mean °C (°F) −32.2
Average low °C (°F) −35.8
Record low °C (°F) −48.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 7.2
Average snowfall cm (inches) 9.0
Source: Environment Canada Canadian Climate Normals 1981–2010[9]

See also

  • Nord, Greenland - the second northernmost permanent settlement in the world
  • Baffin, Unorganized - the census area to which Alert belongs


  1. ^ a b [2] See rectified count of private dwellings occupied by usual residents in Baffin Unorganized, NO
  2. ^ Reynolds, Lindor (31 August 2000). "Life is cold and hard and desolate at Alert, Nunavut".   ("Twice a year, the military resupply Alert, the world's northernmost settlement.")
  3. ^ "Alert, Nunavut".  
  4. ^ A History of the Canadian Coast Guard and Marine Services
  5. ^ "Costly fuel prompts cuts at northern military station".   article mirror
  6. ^ "Olympic torch crosses Arctic". Sport24. 10 November 2011. Archived from the original on 22 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Allemang, John; Cowan, Tonia (23 January 2015). "Governor-General Johnston discusses Alert, Canada’s northern ‘anchor point’".  
  8. ^ "Governor General and Commander-in-Chief Visits Canadian Forces Station Alert". News Release on Governor-General web site. 19 January 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Alert A" (CSV (4222 KB)). Canadian Climate Normals 1981–2010.  
  10. ^ Sunrise/Sunset/Sun Angle Calculator

Further reading

  • Bottenheim, Jan W, Hacene Boudries, Peter C Brickell, and Elliot Atlas. 2002. "Alkenes in the Arctic Boundary Layer at Alert, Nunavut, Canada". Atmospheric Environment. 36, no. 15: 2585.
  • Diggle, Dennis A., and David G. Otto. Drilling of an Arctic Protected Cable Route, Alert, Ellesmere Island, N.W.T. [Victoria, B.C.]: Defence Research Establishment Pacific, Research and Development Branch, Dept. of National Defence, 1994.
  • Morrison, R. I. G., N. C. Davidson, and Theunis Piersma. Daily Energy Expenditure and Water Turnover of Shorebirds at Alert, Ellesmere Island, N.W.T. Progress notes (Canadian Wildlife Service), no. 211. Ottawa: Canadian Wildlife Service, 1997. ISBN 0-662-25795-2

External links

  • Canada National Defence page on CFS Alert
  • Climate information
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia: Alert, Nunavut
  • Map of Nunavut showing location of Alert
  • Current weather conditions (
  • Personal visit to CFS Alert
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