Alert | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Alert, Nunavut, is a Canadian military base stationed at the north end of Ellesmere Island. Located 817 km from the north pole, Alert is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world. About 55 people live at Alert. These people are members of the Canadian Armed Forces, employees of the Department of National Defence and Environment and Climate Change Canada, as well as contract workers.


The military base is built on the rugged terrain of Ellesmere Island and surrounded by hills and valleys. The shoreline is composed of slate and shale, while the offshore is covered with pack ice throughout the summer months.

Alert, Nunavut

Early History

One of the most remote places on Earth, Ellesmere Island has experienced little human activity (see Arctic Exploration). However, archaeological evidence shows that the fjords of Hazen Plateau, just south of Alert, were occupied some 4,000 years ago. The Dorset people lived along the eastern Arctic coast for about 2,000 years until they disappeared around 1400 CE. Early Inuit (Thule), ancestors of the Inuit, arrived in the area around the 12th century. Excavations of early Inuit winter houses on Bache Peninsula (mid-island), dating from 1250–1350 CE, have uncovered numerous Norse artifacts, including knife blades and a shipwreck.

Sir George Nares visited the Alert area in 1875–76 as commander of the HMS Alert. The HMS Alert was the first European vessel to land on the shores of northern Ellesmere Island.

Military Base

Alert Weather Station

In 1950, the Canadian government established a weather station at Alert. In 1958, the military began operating a signals intelligence unit. The Doctor Neil Trivett Global Atmosphere Watch Observatory is also located at Alert. The observatory supports climate change and air quality research. Alert also plays a role in Canadian Arctic sovereignty.

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