One of the larger members of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Banks Island is situated in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. It is separated from Victoria Island to its east by the Prince of Wales Strait and from the mainland by Amundsen Gulf to its south. The Beaufort Sea lies to its west. To the northeast, M'Clure Strait separates the island from Prince Patrick Island and Melville Island.
It was named "Banks Land" in 1820 by Sir William Edward Parry in honour of Sir Joseph Banks. However, during the exploration of the area by Robert McClure (1850–1854) the island was marked on their maps as "Baring Island".
The only permanent settlement on the island, Sachs Harbour or Ikhuak, an Inuvialuit hamlet, is on the southwest coast. Two federal Migratory Bird Sanctuaries were founded on the island in 1961. The island is treeless, with the tallest plant, the Arctic Willow, growing occasionally to about the height of a person's knee but usually standing no taller than 10 cm (3.9 in).
Banks Island covers an area 70,028 km2 (27,038 sq mi) and it is the world's 24th largest island and Canada's fifth largest island. It is approximately 380 km (240 mi) long, and at its widest point at the northern end, 290 km (180 mi) across. The highest point of the island is in the south, Durham Heights, rising to about 730 m (2,400 ft). It is part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and had a population of 114 in 2001, all in Sachs Harbour. Banks Island is home to two thirds of the world's population of lesser snow geese, which make their way across the Amundsen Gulf from the mainland. There is an annual goose hunt in the spring out of Sachs Harbour. The island is part of the tundra world biome, which has extremely cold winters. The island is home to Barren-ground Caribou, polar bears, muskoxen, and birds such as robins and swallows.
The Aulavik National Park of Canada, a fly-in park, protects approximately 12,274 km2 (4,739 sq mi) of Arctic lowlands at the northern end of the island. The park has the highest concentration of muskoxen on earth, and is home to the endangered Peary Caribou. The Thomsen River runs through the park, and is the northernmost navigable river (by canoe) in North America. Ptarmigan and ravens are considered the only year-round birds in the park, although 43 species make seasonal use of the area.
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