The Northwest Territories

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The Northwest Territories make up Canada’s largest continuous landmass and contain much of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole (both magnetic and true north). As one of three territories administered directly from Ottawa, the Northwest Territories (or NWT) became part of Confederation in 1870, although its present borders were created in 1999 with the formation of the Nunavut Territories to the east.

With just over 41,000 inhabitants, the NWT is largely a wild and unforgiving place, although in recent years eco-tourism to this unexplored part of the world has been increasing. The Northwest Territories’ capital is Yellowknife, with a population of just under 20,000 people, or half of the population of the territories.

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The NWT license plate, one of the most unique in the world!

The NWT license plate, one of the most unique in the world!

The NWT are home to some of the most isolated and jaw-dropping natural scenery in the world. During the winter ice chokes up the oceans, creating a near-continuous ice bridge to Greenland. In recent years, with global temperatures shifting, the famed “North West Passage” has opened up, allowing some marine traffic to circumnavigate the top of the world. This has created political tension among the nations who share the Arctic, and Canada, with the greatest claim on Arctic sovereignity, has been at the forefront of ensuring the region stays Canadian. Military bases and the construction of several new-age ice-breaker warships are helping to ensure the NWT and the surrounding waters stay Canadian.

In 2011 Russian "Bear" long-range bombers infiltrated Canadian airspace over the NWT on 3 occasions. All 3 times CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled to "escort" the Russians out.

In 2011 Russian “Bear” long-range bombers infiltrated Canadian airspace over the NWT on 3 occasions. All 3 times CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled to “escort” the Russians out.

New specialized arctic frigates, designed and built in Canada, are coming on line to protect Canada's Arctic claims.

New specialized arctic frigates, designed and built in Canada, are coming on line to protect Canada’s Arctic claims.

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Canada keeps a series of specialized Arctic troop units ready to respond to any aggression. Local inhabitants in all 3 territories also take part in volunter Ranger battalions.

Canada keeps a series of specialized Arctic troop units ready to respond to any aggression. Local inhabitants in all 3 territories also take part in volunteer Ranger battalions.

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The Canadian military employs drones and submarines to patrol the long NWT borders, particularly looking for incursions by Russians.

The Canadian military employs drones and submarines to patrol the long NWT borders, particularly looking for incursions by Russians.

The Northwest Territories are home the Great Slave Lake, the deepest body of water in North America, as well as the Nahanni National Park Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With such a large land mass, temperatures in the far Arctic north differ widely from those in the south. Temperatures around Yellowknife average +12 C in the summer and -31 C in winter, while in the north it is +3 C in the summer and -40 C in the winter!

The Northwest Territories are made up of at least 11 different ethnic groups, all with their own languages and customs. As a result, their are 11 official languages in the NWT, including English, French, Cree, Inuktitut, Slavey and a host of others.

The NWT are opening up as technology and climate shift allows for better exploration and extraction of natural resources. It is estimated that a third of the world’s oil supply lies frozen beneath the NWT, one reason Russia, the USA, Denmark and Canada all lay claim to the area (it is interesting to note that before global warming caused ice to melt, all of these countries recognized the NWT and surrounding ocean as part of Canada. Now that the ice is melting and resources are being found, they are all claiming the NWT for themselves). In addition to oil, massive deposits of uranium, copper, zinc, gold and, most recently, diamonds have been discovered. Northwest Territory diamonds are being marketed around the world today as an alternative to African blood diamonds, and diamond revenues have caused a whole boom industry to flourish throughout the territories.

A NWT diamond mine

A NWT diamond mine

NWT diamonds are a good alternative to blood diamonds. Extracted in a democratic country by well-paid unionized labour, these diamonds are catching on around the world.

NWT diamonds are a good alternative to blood diamonds. Extracted in a democratic country by well-paid unionized labour, these diamonds are catching on around the world.

A chunk of raw uranium mined from the NWT. The NWT provides the US and Great Britain with more than 80% of its raw nuclear materials for both energy and military uses.

A chunk of raw uranium mined from the NWT. The NWT provides the US and Great Britain with more than 80% of its raw nuclear materials for both energy and military uses.

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Drilling for shale gas in the Northwest Territories.

Whatever the reason for visiting the Northwest Territories, nobody comes home the same way. From the spectacular high Arctic geography to the tense politics of international rights, and the abundance of rare wildlife to the high-paying resource jobs, the NWT are sure to amaze everyone.

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Million-year old glaciers look the same today as they did in prehistory.

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The NWT in the summer are a breathtaking sight to behold.

Northern Lights over the NWT.

Northern Lights over the NWT.

The Northwest Territories are home to more than 70% of the world's remaining polar bear population.

The Northwest Territories are home to more than 70% of the world’s remaining polar bear population.

The Arctic Lynx, a seriously endangered species only found in the NWT.

The Arctic Lynx, a seriously endangered species only found in the NWT.

Arctic wolves have made a dramatic comeback since government programs to re-introduce the species in the NWT following a near-extinction.

Arctic wolves have made a dramatic comeback since government programs to re-introduce the species in the NWT following a near-extinction.

The Arctic Snow Owl is on a UN endangered species list. Numbers are dwindling as its natural environment is changing.

The Arctic Snow Owl is on a UN endangered species list. Numbers are dwindling as its natural environment is changing.

The Arctic Hare is abundant in the NWT!

The Arctic Hare is abundant in the NWT!

Actor Eric Schweig, of Last of the Mohicans fame, hails from the NWT.

Actor Eric Schweig, of Last of the Mohicans fame, hails from the NWT.

Inuit artist Helen Kalvak was from the NWT.

Inuit artist Helen Kalvak was from the NWT.

Inuit peoples still live a very traditional lifestyle in the NWT, however, they have melded modern conveniences with their original culture.

Inuit peoples still live a very traditional lifestyle in the NWT, however, they have melded modern conveniences with their original culture.

The city of Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories.

The city of Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories.

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