Prince of Wales Island

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Prince of Wales Island, which has a surface area of 40,000 km2, sits just west of Somerset Island and the Boothia Peninsula. It is the least hospitable of the southern Arctic islands, as it is usually surrounded by ice on its southern, western, and eastern coasts. The Inuit rarely visited it.

Prince of Wales Island has four distinct topographic regions. The first region lies along the eastern side of the island and includes all sites east of a line drawn south from the middle of Prescott Island to Strzelecki Harbour. Here, ridges of Precambrian granite reach a maximum elevation of 300 m on Prescott Island.

The second region consists of Russell Island, the western section of Prescott Island, and Prince of Wales Island north of Cape Smith and Browne bays, but excludes the three landmasses that extend from the northwestern coast. Limestone and sandstone bedrock form an upland plateau, which lies 250 m above sea level. Cliffs line the coast, but gently rolling, flat-topped hills separated by wide valleys are found inland. The western regions of this plateau are particularly flat, with a few small lakes and rivers. To the south, the plateau ends in an escarpment, which drops abruptly down to the third region, the lowlands.

The lowland area includes the three promontories in the northwest and the areas south of Cape Smith Bay and west of a line running from the inner tip of Browne Bay to Coningham Bay. This flat area is splattered with lakes and divided by the shallow rivers that drain them. The direction of glacial movement is shown in the patterns of drumlins and eskers on the landscape. Just west of Fisher Lake there are small hills, etched in drumlins, that form the Colquhoun Range. The range is 50-km long and reaches 150-m high. The Rollinson Hills lie to the west of Ommaney Bay, between Minto Head and Cape Richard Collinson.

The fourth region lies between the first and third regions, south of Browne Bay. The area is filled with flat-topped hills and small plateaus that do not exceed 150 m in elevation.