The Arctic

The Arctic

Google Maps of the Arctic ⇣

The Arctic, a vast and enigmatic region, spans the northernmost parts of Asia, North America, and Europe, encircling the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean. This unique geographical arrangement creates a circle of continental landscapes that converge in some of Earth’s most extreme environments. Despite its harsh climate, the Arctic has been home to resilient communities for millennia, including the European Lapps (Sámi), the Russian Nenet, and the North American Inuit. These indigenous groups have finely adapted their lifestyles to thrive in the Arctic, relying on fishing, herding, and hunting to sustain their cultures and economies.

Historically, the Arctic has been relatively isolated, preserving not only its environmental integrity but also the traditional ways of life of its native peoples. However, discovering vast natural resources, particularly in the Russian Arctic, has shifted the dynamic. The region’s oil and mineral reserves have attracted significant international investment and a wave of immigration to exploit these resources. This rush for economic gain has not come without cost. The environmental impacts are profound, affecting the delicate ecological balance of the Arctic. Pollution from mining and drilling activities has contaminated waterways and landscapes, posing a threat not only to wildlife but also to the health and traditions of local communities.

The traditional lifestyles of the Arctic’s indigenous populations, deeply intertwined with nature, have been particularly vulnerable. The influx of outside economic activities has disrupted their ancestral practices, such as reindeer herding and ice fishing, which are economically, culturally, and spiritually vital.

Addressing these challenges requires robust international cooperation. The Arctic is not just a collection of resources to be exploited but a critical part of the Earth’s climate system and a region of immense cultural heritage. Efforts must focus on sustainable development that respects the rights and traditions of indigenous peoples and protects the natural environment.

The path forward should include stringent environmental regulations, collaborative international policies prioritizing ecological and cultural preservation, and active involvement of indigenous groups in decision-making processes. Such measures are essential to ensure that the Arctic remains where nature and cultures can continue to thrive amidst changing global dynamics.

In conclusion, safeguarding the Arctic’s future is imperative. It involves a balanced approach that supports economic development while firmly committing to environmental stewardship and cultural respect. Through continued international dialogue and cooperation, we hope to preserve the Arctic’s unique heritage and ecology for generations to come.

Google Maps of the Arctic

Facts of the Arctic

The Arctic, a region defined by its extreme conditions and remarkable geography, has unique geological features and ecological systems. Here are some key facts that highlight the distinctive characteristics of the Arctic:

  1. Canadian Shield: Almost all of the Canadian Arctic is underlain by the Canadian Shield, a vast and stable plateau of ancient rock. This region is characterized by numerous glacial lakes and sediments supporting tundra vegetation growth, a resilient ecosystem adapted to the cold climate.
  2. Arctic Ocean: The smallest of the world’s oceans, the Arctic Ocean covers an area of approximately 5,440,000 square miles (15,100,000 square kilometers). Its unique position at high latitudes means that much of the ocean remains covered by pack ice throughout the year, although the ice is dynamic, frequently cracking and shifting due to wind and ocean currents.
  3. Permafrost and Geological Activity: Extending into the more temperate regions of the Arctic, like Siberia, the landscape is dominated by permafrost. During the short summer season, thawing permafrost leads to several phenomena: solifluction, where the top layer of soil slides over the frozen layer beneath; freeze/thaw activity, which creates distinctive polygonal patterns on the ground; and the formation of pingos, which are dome-shaped hills with ice cores.
  4. Mountain Systems: An ancient and complex mountain system stretches from the Queen Elizabeth Islands to eastern Greenland, formed over 245 million years ago. These mountains testify to the geological forces that have shaped the Arctic over millennia.
  5. Greenland’s Ice Sheet: Covering much of Greenland is an immense ice sheet spanning over 650,000 square miles (1,683,400 square kilometers). The tremendous weight of this ice has depressed the central land area, creating a basin more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) below sea level, with only the edges of the island exposing bare rock.
  6. Iceland’s Glaciers and Volcanic Activity: Iceland features five major glaciers sustained by heavy snowfall. These glaciers often cover active volcanoes, such as Bárdarbunga. Periodic eruptions heat the ice, causing melting and the subsequent formation of large lakes at the glacier margins, dramatically illustrating the interaction between volcanic activity and glacial processes.
  7. Calving of Icebergs: At the edges of the Arctic ice shelves, a process known as calving occurs when sea water flows beneath the ice, melting it and forming crevasses on the surface. This weakens the ice until blocks break away, creating icebergs. This natural phenomenon plays a significant role in the lifecycle of Arctic ice and has implications for oceanic water levels and circulation patterns.


Large quantities of coal, oil, and natural gas are to be found in the basins of the Arctic Ocean and northern Canada, Alaska, and the Russian Federation. The cost and difficulty of extraction and, more recently, awareness of environmental damage have limited exploitation to coastal regions. The unfrozen waters have fish stocks, including cod, flounder, and haddock. Quotas have now been implemented to restrict the number of fish caught annually. Reindeer are herded in large numbers by many of the native Arctic peoples. Most grain and vegetables are imported from elsewhere.

The landscape

The Arctic Ocean comprises two large ocean basins divided by three submarine ridges, the greatest of which is the Lomonosov Ridge, which is a huge underwater mountain range with an average height of more than 10,000 ft (3000 m). The lands that encircle the Arctic Ocean are underlain by great shield areas of ancient rocks, which were heavily glaciated during the last Ice Age.

Understanding these aspects of the Arctic is crucial for appreciating its importance in global ecological and geological processes, highlighting the need for ongoing research and conservation efforts to protect this unique and vulnerable region.


With its extreme environments and complex ecosystems, the Arctic region is a crucial area of interest for scientists, policymakers, and environmentalists alike. Its unique geological features, such as the Canadian Shield and the expansive Greenland ice sheet, as well as dynamic processes like permafrost thaw and iceberg calving, illustrate the Arctic’s significant influence on global climate patterns and sea-level changes. The delicate balance of this northern frontier is sensitive to the impacts of climate change and human activities, making it a critical indicator of environmental shifts.

Preserving the Arctic’s integrity requires a concerted international effort to understand and mitigate the effects of environmental degradation and climate change. This includes respecting and integrating the traditional knowledge of indigenous populations, who have inhabited these regions for thousands of years and possess invaluable insights into sustainable living in such harsh climates.

In conclusion, the Arctic is not just a remote and icy expanse at the top of the world but a vital component of the Earth’s climate system and a region rich in biodiversity and cultural heritage. Its protection is imperative for maintaining global biodiversity, regulating the planet’s climate, and ensuring the sustainability of its native cultures. As we face the challenges of the 21st century, the future of the Arctic stands as a profound reminder of our interconnectedness with nature and the pressing need to act responsibly and collaboratively to safeguard our planet.