Killiniq Island, Canada

On October 1, 2008 · 20 Comments

Sometime I come across the most interesting topics while researching other topics, as was the case when I investigated the Labrador Boundary Dispute recently. That thread led me to the unusual significance of Killiniq Island in northeastern Canada.

Killiniq Island is very small. It’s only about 13 X 29 kilomteres (8 X 18 miles). It sits off the northern tip of the Labrador Peninsula in a horribly remote location. Dangerous tides and currents make it difficult to reach, as does the jagged, rocky shoreline. The weather is extreme. The name translates to something like “ice flows” or “drift ice” (depending on the source consulted). Nobody lives here. In other words, there should be nothing remarkable about this spot. So why am I even bothering to mention it?

View Larger Map

As a chunk of rock, Killiniq Island may not be remarkable, but it happens to stand at the confluence of a host of different man-made and geographic focal points and dividing lines.

  • The island became the northern anchor point for the boundary between Québec and Newfoundland during their protracted border dispute, about the only thing the two could agree upon as they pursued their respective claims to the Labrador Peninsula. The island was considered as integral to the Peninsula even though technically it is separated from the mainland by the treacherous McLelan Strait.
  • The final boundary fixed on the flow of water across the landscape. Drainage to the Atlantic belonged to Newfoundland. On Killiniq Island, this is the Eastern end of the island, known as Cape Chidley (or Chudleigh). Thus the northern continental divide, separating the Arctic Ocean watershed (in this case via Ungava Bay and the Hudson Strait) and the Atlantic Ocean watershed, cuts straight through Killiniq. Here the continental divide also happens to reach its northern terminus.
  • The western portion of Killiniq Island, the piece originally in Québec, now resides within Nunavut. The tiny sliver of border running through the island is the only land boundary between Nunavut and the province of Newfoundland & Labrador. It is the southeastern tip of Nunavut and the northernmost point of Newfoundland & Labrador.
  • Additionally, Cape Chidley marks the southern terminus of the Hudson Strait.
  • And if that’s not enough, the Torngat mountain range running northward up the Labrador Coast, terminates here too.

So a lot of different features begin and end right here on this tiny speck.

The island used to be inhabited. A town called Port Burwell (not to be confused with a town by the same name in Ontario) traced back to an 1884 meteorological station, followed by a Moravian mission, Hudson Bay Company trading post, and finally an Inuit co-operative. All inhabitants were relocated in the 1970’s and the town has since been demolished. But don’t bother doing a Google search on Port Burwell, Nunavut, though. You’ll find lots of hits for supposed jobs, birthdays, singles and vacation rentals here – which obviously do not exist since neither does the town – thanks to the link farms trying to use false information to generate hits for their nefarious purposes.

On October 1, 2008 · 20 Comments

20 Responses to “Killiniq Island, Canada”

  1. Mitch says:

    Since Google put Killiniq Island into high resolution on ‘maps’, you can now search Port Burwell Killiniq and zoom in on a not so demolished town. Check it out! And let me know when we’re all going there! LOL!

  2. Howder says:

    Thanks for the tip, Mitch. I think I found one of the cabins right here. I poked around and couldn’t find the rest of the town, though. Maybe post the long/lat when you get a chance?

  3. JEG says:

    The buildings you can see are on the site of the Moravian Mission founded in 1903

    Port Burwell is about a mile to the West at about 60 24.53.14N
    Check URL below for photos

  4. JEG says:

    Correction, East!

    • Thanks, JEG. You have amazing vision. I still can’t see them — probably because of all the ice — but the coordinates you provided are right here.

      Thanks also for the photo links. I really enjoyed leafing through them.

  5. JEG says:

    Not an eyesight problem, there are no buildings to see.

    The photographs here show that there is nothing left on the Port Burwell site, all the buildings shown are around the Moravian mission site.

    The maps here show Port Burwell and the Moravian mission.

    • In one sense I’m relieved to know my eyes aren’t failing me. In another sense I’m saddened to know that the site no longer exists. Thanks once again for the clarification, JEG.

  6. Mitch Gingras says:

    From the Google maps picture of the Morvanian mission building, when you find this building, pan 250 meters to the Northwest and you’ll find the abandoned Killiniq town.
    So when are we all going?

    • Ah yes, apparently you do have to draw me a map to it. Finally I’ve found it (see below). As far as the visit — when does it actually get warm up there?

      View Larger Map

    • Elena Lysko says:

      Perhaps, you just wanted to ask a slightly different question like: “So Where are we all going?” I think, guys, you all missed the point while focusing your attention entirely upon the geographic & weather conditions issues of the barren site. In my view, this horrid place is not completely abandoned and from time to time is been newly visited not only by the polar bears and such live 4-legged inhabitants. What if the criminal seafarers use the island for their secret smuggling purposes and keep there the forbidden cargo like radioactive toxin waste, etc.? The real detective explorers might find there something very curious, then… if only they can first secure their precious lives from being vanished from the face of earth after visiting these savage shores.

  7. Mitch Gingras says:

    a buddy of mine declined a teaching job in Port Burwell due to a bad history of weather back in the 70’s, and shortly after, they closed the town. I wonder if he feels a bit guilty..but that’s life in Canada, eh? As far as when does it get warm? I might say 10C is where it tops in July.

  8. Jane Kendall says:

    Going to Killiniq in July on a Cruise North vessel. Will report in after I return. JAne

  9. Mitch Gingras says:

    Jane! There’s an ancient Thule settlement (over 4000 years old) on the south side of Maclellen Strait and where it is at it’s most narrow. Maybe you can convince them to take a few of you into shore for photo ops. This settlement has very few pics to show and was documented by the University of Quebec many years ago,

    • Mitch, I’m truly humbled by your knowledge of this area. The more I hear, the more I want to see it in person some day. If only it weren’t so difficult to get there… but I suppose that’s part of the appeal too. 🙂

  10. Coming of Age in the Arctic says says:

    This Town is described in the excellent book Last of the Gentlemen Adventurers by Edward Maurice. What a great book

  11. Dave Mannix says:

    Terrific! And all this time I thought I was the only oddball in the world with this fixation on geopolitical trivia and oddities~ for years I, a Yank (southern Oregon) had been stumping–and irritating, since they never believed the answer– my Canajin friends with this one: “What provinces do the NWT [now Nunavut, of course]border?” They NEVER came up with Lab-Newf.. never. And even after I explained the answer (the whole bit about north coast and east coast distinction in defining what was ‘off’ the north coast going to NWT and what was ‘off’ the east coast belonging to Labrador )they would look at me like I was out of my mind…. the other tricky aspect, now that we’re talking about Nunavut, creating a quadrapoint with Man. and Sask at Nunavut’s SW point, is whether one may say that it ‘touches’ Sask. Look at the discussion of Jungholz (Austria)about whether it is technically surrounded by Germany enough to qualify as a true enclave/exclave or not as it bears on this question of meeting at a point, at Jan Krogh’s terrific ‘Geosite’ page. I can be reached at legal [place at symbol here] silvercrk [place dot here] com [edited by 12MC so the spam bots don’t capture this email address]. Thank you, fellow geo-trivia nerds! Dave

  12. David Guitard says:

    I have been to Killiniq as part of my job with the CCG. I was there in the summer months while repairs were being carried out on the Radio transmission tower. There is one ok landing spot for a small boat but anything more than an outboard Inflatable would have trouble. The first building you see is the left over fish processing plant. Inside there is not much except a powerful odour of fish and 60 or so bags of now solid salt used for preserving the fish. As you walk past that you can follow a small path to the village where there are a few buildings standing, maybe only 3 of which are multiple story. We carry a firearm with us at all times for protection against polar bears which a great concern at this site, a such we didn’t really explore inside the buildings. There is a garage with some old equipment in it very dated electricity production equipment. There is a large empty 45 Gallon drum fuel barrel dump set up in a few rows stacks 1 or 2 high. It was a very interesting and beautiful but at the same time barren place.

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