HomeNews & LifestyleDevon Island In Canada Is A Desolate, Unexpectedly Martian Landscape

Devon Island In Canada Is A Desolate, Unexpectedly Martian Landscape

Devon Island Is Home To A Harsh Arctic Martian Landscape Unlike Anywhere Else On The Planet

When scientists need to prep for a trip to Mars, they do so on Devon Island in northern Canada. Believed to be the environment on Earth that most closely resembles the Red Planet, Devon Island is almost entirely devoid of plant life.

In addition to this, Devon Island is freezing cold, dusty, and basically uninhabitable. In fact images of this barren landscape are eerily similar to the pictures that have been beamed back to Earth by the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars on February 18, 2021.

devon island
Image: @stefacoastro on Instagram

Devon Island is so rugged, so barren, and also has a sizeable crater and ‘patterned ground’ that freezes and thaws creating a similar look to Mars. There’s even a V-shaped canyon that looks nearly identical to the one on the Red Planet.

The V-shaped canyon is fittingly called “Astronaut Canyon” because of its similarity to the explorable space on Mars.

Where Is Devon Island?

devon island
Image: GoogleMaps

Devon Island is located in the most norther part of Canada, close to Baffin Bay, and in between Canada and Greenland.

Why Is Devon Island Uninhabited?

devon island
Image: @tanyadeleeuwphoto on Instagram

Devon Island is essentially a barren wasteland. Covered by sharp, frost-shattered rocks and pretty much devoid of any flora or fauna, the average annual temperature is -16 degrees celsius.

In fact, the ground is totally frozen for almost the entire year. The easterd third of the island is permanently covered by an ice cap that’s between 500 to 700 metres thick. There’s a small window of about 45-50 days in the peak of summer where the ground is snow-free.

It’s a super interesting place for scientists and space researchers, but other than that, it’s not much of a spot in which humans will thrive. At least… not yet.

A Training Ground For Future Space Exploration

devon island
Image: @vidhyaganeshr on Instagram

The desert setting and unliveable climate bears many resemblances to conditions on Mars. Since 2001, Devon Island has been the base camp (during the summer, of course) for a group of researchers working on an international project called the Haughton Mars Project.

HMP, as it’s been dubbed, is part of a research facility located on Devon… the world’s largest uninhabited island. The harsh climate mimics the environmental conditions on Mars and other planets, providing a perfect training ground.

Devon’s barren terrain, freezing temperatures, and utter remoteness offer scientists and personnel research opportunities that they haven’t found anywhere else in the world.

Plus, the Arctic day and night cycle, with restricted capabilities offer perfect real-life training for the challenges of long-duration space flights.

Can You Visit Devon Island?

devon island
Truelove Lowlands, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada. Photo credit: Martin Brummell/Wikimedia

Surprisingly, Devon Island is not entirely devoid of life. The TrueLove Lowland area, on the northeast coast of the island, is quite warm and wet. Because of this, it has some vegetation and even some wildlife.

As mentioned above, there’s a short period of about 45 days where there’s no snow on the ground. That happens in this area, which is also poorly drained and favors the growth of moss and encourage the habitation of musk-oxen.

Because of this, it is possible to visit Devon Island. Obviously you’ll have to avoid all of the super top secret government Mars stuff going on. But if you’re interested, you can book a tour.

How To Get To Devon Island

devon island
Image: @tanyadeleeuwphoto on Instagram

Geographically, you’ll get to Devon by sailing a passage through Baffin Bay, a huge body of water that sits between the Canadian Arctic Archipelago from Greenland. Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada, is located just south of Devon on the other side of the bay.

Alternatively, you can book a plane to Devon. However, you’re looking at about 900 km between Baffin and Devon. Including transfers and stopovers, you’re looking at nearly 30 hours of travel to get there. The quickest flight takes 21 hours and has two stops along the way.

Things To Do On Devon Island

devon island
Image: @frankwolf70 on Instagram

If you’re keen to visit the largest uninhabited island in the world, you first need to know that the population here is… zero. It’s not exactly a tourist destination.

Mars on Earth is a polar desert, that also offers rich and diverse vegetation and wildlife. If you can catch the 45-day window where you won’t die of cold, you can go polar bear spotting, catch the Northern Lights, go dog sledding, snowmobiling, whale watching, and even kayaking.

You can also check out (especially from the air) the Haughton impact crater. This massive crater is 23 km in diameter. It was created 39 million years ago when a massive, 2km diameter meteor crashed into what was then forests.

All in all, it sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

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