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10 surprising facts about Canadian geography


Posted by in Nature on Tuesday, November 4, 2014



The Sudbury impact crater in Ontario, Canada. The oval-shaped crater (which stretches diagonally across the image from bottom left to upper right) is Canada's largest known crater. (Photo: NASA WorldWind/Wikimedia Commons)

There are times when I speak and, based on the reactions of those around me, I feel very much like Cliff Clavin, the know-it-all barfly from the 1980-90s sitcom Cheers. You see, from the fall of 2013 through the winter of 2014, I researched and wrote a book called Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1000 Facts & Figures (in stores now!), which boasts national superlatives in a number of categories, such as geography, weather, sports, pop culture, etc, etc. And so, it seems (to me at least) like I know an impressive stat or feat relating to just about anything and everything in Canada, and it feels fun to share them (and I don’t intend it in a know-it-all way anymore than I expect Clavin did). If you enjoy trivia, particularly Canadian trivia, or have a particularly fascination with Canadian facts and feats, you’ll surely enjoy my new book. In the following weeks, I’ll share a selection of my 10 favourites from each category in hopes of further capturing your interest. This week: geography.

1. If long walks on the beach are your thing, Canada’s the place to be. The country’s 243,000 km of coastline are the longest in the world. At a pace of about 20 km each day, the stroll would take 33 years. The shores of 52,455 islands are a big part of what makes the coastline so long.

2. With water flowing out from the Great Lakes, the largest source of freshwater in the world, it’s little wonder the St. Lawrence maritime estuary (a place where fresh and saltwater mix) is one of the largest and deepest estuaries in the world. Freshwater increasingly mixes with saltwater for nearly 250 km, from Île d’Orléans, near Quebec City, to Pointe-des-Monts, northeast of Baie Comeau on the St. Lawrence River’s north shore.

3. The oldest known rocks on Earth — 250 million years older than any other known rocks — are found in Canada. The 4.28-billion-year-old rock was discovered by geologists in 2001 in an area of exposed bedrock on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay, in northern Quebec.

4. The largest known impact crater in Canada (and the second-largest on Earth) is found near Sudbury, Ontario. Known as the Sudbury Basin, the crater is 130 km in diameter. It is believed that the impact of a 10 km meteorite created the Sudbury Basin in just seconds about 1.85 million years ago.

5. Our pingos are bigger than yours. The Northwest Territories’ Mackenzie Delta region is home to the world’s greatest concentration of pingos (some 1,350) and the largest. A pingo is an ice-cored hill, usually conically shaped, that grows only in permafrost. They’re formed when water freezing under the surface is forced up by pressure, and they range from a few metres to several tens of metres high.

6. There are millions of lakes in Canada, so it’s hardly surprising that our nation has more lake area than any other country. They’re often big, too, with 563 lakes larger than 100 square km.

7. Water so buoyant it’s impossible to sink? Head to the Dead Sea, right? Or go to central Saskatchewan’s Little Manitou Lake. Fed by underground springs, the 13.3 square km lake has mineral salt concentrations of 180,000 mg per litre, making the water extremely buoyant.

8. Ontario’s Wasaga Beach is the longest freshwater beach in the world. It stretches 14 km along the shore of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. That’s a whole lotta sand!

9. At a latitude of 50°26' and a longitude of 104°37', Regina is the Canadian city closest to the geographical centre of North America.

10. The nation’s only officially bilingual province? New Brunswick, where about 33 percent of people speak French.




  Comments (9)

Pingos! Every day's a school day...

Submitted by Tony O'Donnell on Tuesday, November 4, 2014

1. Regarding #4, there has been recent evidence that the Sudbury Basin occurred as a result of a comet impact, not a meteorite.

2. Regarding #9, I am not sure if it is still there, but there used to be a sign on the TCH just outside of Winnipeg, claiming the Geographic Centre of Canada? Maybe it should be relocated?

Submitted by Ed Mizzi on Thursday, November 27, 2014

Unfortunately, Australians have found a 4.4 billion year old rock.

Submitted by Leslie on Thursday, November 27, 2014

About 10 minutes east of Winnipeg on the Tran-Canada Hwy. is the sign showing the geographical centre of Canada at 96 degrees, 48 minutes, 35 seconds. I believe the town associated with said co-ordinate is called Landmark for that reason.

Submitted by Wpgbruce on Thursday, February 5, 2015

Regina is not the closest city in Canada to the centre of North America. The centre of North America is Rugby, North Dakota. Regina is 403km in a straight line while Brandon Manitoba is 168km straight north and Winnipeg Manitoba is 268km in a straight line.

Submitted by Dave Alexander on Friday, July 3, 2015

Comets circle the Sun, Meteors are bits of rock that enter the atmosphere.
Meteorites are meteors that survive reentry to hit the ground.
Meteoroids are remnants of small comets that become Meteors when they enter the atmosphere and meteorites when they hit the ground.

Submitted by Denis Desjardins on Friday, September 4, 2015

#10 is wrong...all of Canada is bilingual...#cybywy

Submitted by Jess on Tuesday, September 15, 2015

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, Jess posted "#10 is wrong...all of Canada is bilingual...#cybywy"

Technically speaking, both Jess and #10 are both correct.

According to section 16(1) of the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, "English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada."
This seems to apply to all federal business conducted in Canada.

And according to section 16(2) of the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, "English and French are the official languages of New Brunswick and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the legislature and government of New Brunswick."
This seems to apply to all provincial business conducted in New Brunswick.

Submitted by Horatio on Sunday, November 1, 2015

Australia's "oldest rock" is, in fact, not a rock, but a zircon, which is the oldest terrestrial material. However, the oldest rock may be claimed by part of the Isua Greenstone Belt, Narryer Gneiss Terrane, Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt in northern Quebec - the jury is still out!

Submitted by Terry on Thursday, December 31, 2015

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