King William Island


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King William Island was once described as "a limestone country, low and uninteresting, but abounding in reindeer, musk-cattle, and old native encampments". The island is indeed flat, with the exception of Mount Matheson, a modest hill in the southeast. The surface of this island is scattered with innumerable small lakes. During the Pleistocene, King William Island was glaciated, so most of its features are young; in fact, because the riverbeds are so newly formed, they are shallow and often connect several lakes. The surface of the island is limestone, with small patches of gravel and sand.

King William Island is best known as the final resting place for the majority of the Franklin Expedition. After three winters in the Arctic (1845–1848), the 105 officers and crew still alive abandoned their ice-locked ships and attempted to trek south along the west coast of King William Island to the mainland and the ultimate safety of a Hudson's Bay post. However, none of them made it; they either died from scurvy or starvation.

However, not all is bleak: in 1965, about 155 Netsilik formed a small community. Today, another community, called Gjoa Haven (Ursuqtuuq), is home to 960 Inuit.