Alert, Nunavut

Thursday, 28th January 2010 by

Welcome to Alert, Nunavut, the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world. Only 817 km (508 miles) from the North Pole, Alert1 has a chilly average high temperature of -14.7 C (6 F), and winter lows of around -46 C (-51 F)!

For 10 months out of the year, Alert is either in complete sunlight or darkness all day long. The remaining two months offer a tease of the regular sun up, sun down process the rest of the world is used to.

According to the 2006 Canadian census, Alert is home to only five permanent residents, but the presence of a military intelligence facility adds 74 more temporary residents.

The facility is known as Canadian Forces Station Alert (CFS Alert), and houses a weather station, a Global Atmosphere Watch laboratory, and its own airport.2 The 74 crew members are often referred to as "The Frozen Chosen".

So what is there to do in Alert? Downtown Alert has everything you need; general stores, all-you-can-eat buffets, $2.50 drinks, and a workout facility which gives out free t-shirts to those who complete 500km of exercise.

"Top of the World Radio" CHAR-FM used to broadcast trivia games and music to the residents, but when CHAR moved to cable broadcasting in 2006, Alert's over-the-air service ended.

Most of Alert's supplies are shipped in via C-130 aircraft just once a week, but you can see some infrastructure in the area thanks to Google's high resolution images. Some of the notable sights include the 8 fuel tanks used for providing heat, and water pumps that supply potable water to the base.

One of the most photographed objects in Alert is likely its sign. Originally built in 1967, the "Alert Sign" has been highly customised over the years by station personnel, each wishing to add their own personal touch to the post.3

For more information on Alert, check out this great article by Jerry Proc or of course, Wikipedia.

Thanks to Tom for the suggestion!

  1. Alert was named after the British HMS Alert, which landed nearby in 1875. ↩︎

  2. Despite the harsh climate only two fatal air accidents have occurred here, and only one of those due to the weather! ↩︎

  3. A new sign was built recently near the original one depicting the Canadian flag and the phrase "CFS ALERT PROUDLY CANADIAN." ↩︎