CEN Ward Hunt Island Field Station

The CEN Ward Hunt Island Field Station is located at the northernmost tip of Canada, off the coast of northern Ellesmere Island and is part of Quttinirpaaq National Park, Nunavut, Canada. Quttinirpaaq means “top of the world” in Inuktitut and reflects this station’s location, situated about 750 km from the geographic North Pole. It is the world's most northerly station, situated at 83°N.


Ward Hunt Island was briefly used as a weather station during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, and since then it has been used as the starting point for a number of attempts to reach the North Pole, beginning with Ralph Plaisted in 1968. Scientists have been working at the station since the 1950s. Nowadays, Parks Canada has three Weatherhaven shelters onsite with oil burning furnaces. A laboratory made of insulated fiberglass and powered by solar panels was built in 2010, by CEN, thanks to a federal infrastructure grant.

This High Arctic island is 6.5 km long (from east to west) and 3.3 km wide. The climate regime is typical of polar deserts, with dry and extremely cold temperatures (annual mean temperature of -17.3°C). The natural environment features lakes, ice shelves, fjords, epishelf lakes, ice caps and glaciers, sea ice, mountains, and valleys. The desert terrain has a low plant and animal diversity, but the region contains diverse microbial communities such as cyanobacterial mats that survive in these extreme environments.

Climatic and environmental data:  CEN has collected extensive climate data since 1995 and still operates a climate station from the CEN SILA Network (www.cen.ulaval.ca/sila) in the area. For requests concerning ecological monitoring data, please contact the lead researcher, Warwick Vincent.

CEN's Nordicana-D series freely and openly give access to online climatic and environmental data reports archived at CEN, aiding the management of the wealth of environmental data sets produced by CEN's monitoring and research activities. The following data series is available for this area : CEN 2013. Environmental data from Northern Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada, v. 1.0 (2002-2012). Nordicana D1, doi: 10.5885/44985SL-8F203FD3ACCD4138. Visit the Website www.cen.ulaval.ca/nordicanad/ to view the complete list of available data.

This station is part of the Canadian Network of Northern Research Operators (CNNRO, www.cnnro.ca) and the international network INTERACT (www.eu-interact.org).

Institution Université Laval
Country Canada
Infrastructure type Research station
Disciplines Biology and biochemistry
Environmental sciences
Earth sciences
Natural environments and wildlife
Language of operation Inuktitut
Keywords permafrostmicrobial ecologygeomorphologyclimate changearctic environmentaquatic systems


Availability: Early May to late August. Rate: No fixed rate. Rates to use the facility must be negociated with the contact people in advance.

Contact information

Contact the CEN secretariat by email : cen@cen.ulaval.ca, or by telephone +1-418-656-3340.


Parks Canada
Emma Hansen, Park Manager


Phone |Téléphone: +1-867-975-4975


Lead researcher

Dr. Warwick F. Vincent, professor
Biology Dept., Université Laval
Phone: 418-656-5644

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