Baffin Island: Floe Edge – Exploring Bylot Island

Bylot Island is the fourth largest uninhabited island in the world, all of it being a national park. It’s an incredible experience to go hiking here, especially this early in the short summer Arctic season. First, it takes some climbing over jagged ice blocks to get off the sea ice and onto land. It’s still snow-covered for the most part, except the sunny slopes where the first arctic flowers are already in full bloom – found 4 different species, including the purple saxiflage! We also hiked to old earth dwellings dating hundreds of years, made from rocks and bowhead whale bones. These days, these ruins are home to large colonies of brown lemmings – an arctic specialist mouse-like mammal without long tail. Bylot Island is actually famous for very large lemming colonies and it is here where the massive lemming suicides were observed. Lemmings reproduce very quickly at 7-9 offspring 4-5 times per year and colonies often reach critical points when the food becomes scarce and they all get up and move in search of more, occasionally deciding to swim across open ocean which inadvertently becomes suicidal.