Canadian Arctic- Axel-Heiberg Island

"Axel Heiberg Island is a forgotten place.
It has no national parks like its famous neighbour Ellesmere,
nor do North Pole explorers, past or present,
start their treks from its northern shores"
(CAH, 2007)

Canadian Arctic- Axel-Heiberg Island - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project

Site Concept Map:

Axel Heiberg Island: 35,180 sq km, in the Arctic Ocean, N Nunavut Territory, Canada, W of Ellesmere Island. It was named by the Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup (who explored it 1898-1902) for one of his patrons. The island's plateau surface (3,000-6,000 ft/915-1,830 m high) is deeply indented by fiords (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 2000).

Axel Heiberg Island is an island in the northern part of Canada, just west of Ellesmere Island. There are fifteen fiords and five bays by the coastlines. The island has a rugged topography, with two main ice-capped mountains dominating the landscape. One of these is the Mueller Icecap, while the other is Steacie Icecap (University of Guelph, 2007).

Note the difference between an Ice Cap and a Glacier: "An ice cap is a large mass of ice that originates on land by compaction and recrystallization of snow. Ice caps flow outwards in several directions and submerge most or all features of underlying land. An ice mass constrained by bedrock to flow in one direction, usually along a valley, is called a glacier. This distinction is not sharp; for example, an ice cap surrounded by mountains may be drained by a series of valley glaciers" (Canadian Encyclopedia, 2007).

For an in-depth look at Axel Heiberg Island's history click HERE!

Axel Heiberg Island has 1, 121 Glaciers, many of which are unnamed, and several large ice caps (Natural Resources Canada, 2005).
In the last 50 years, there has been noted change in the amount of ice coverage on Axel Heiberg Island. Table 1 below notes the change in ice covered areas between 1959-1999.

Table 1: Ice coverage on Axel Heiberg Island 1960-2000

1960 Area (km2)

2000 Area

Area Change

Area Change(%)

Axel Heiberg Island



- 214


Source: Arctic Net, 2007

Canadian Arctic- Axel-Heiberg Island - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project

Axel Heiberg Island page compiled by:


Ivy Dam
Paulina Nowosielska
Tracey Page
Madelaine Patterson
Louis Zsamboki