Orbital View: Loneliness Alert

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world, with a population of about five—less than the number on the International Space Station:

A photo posted by DigitalGlobe (@digitalglobe) on

The place is called Alert, in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada:

Alert has many temporary inhabitants as it hosts a military signals intelligence radio receiving facility at Canadian Forces Station Alert (CFS Alert), as well as a co-located Environment Canada weather station, a Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) atmosphere monitoring laboratory, and the Alert Airport. Alert is named after HMS Alert, a British ship which wintered about 10 km (6.2 mi) away in 1875–76. The ship’s captain, George Nares, and his crew were the first recorded people to reach the northern end of Ellesmere Island.

(See all Orbital Views here)