Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Queen Charlotte Islands
The Queen Charlotte Islands or Haida Gwaii are an archipelago off the north-west coast of British Columbia, Canada, consisting of two main islands: Graham Island in the North, and Moresby Island in the south.
The islands are separated from the British Columbia mainland on the east by the Hecate Strait. They are separated from Alaska on the north by the Dixon Entrance and from Vancouver Island on the south by the Queen Charlotte Sound.
Some of the land, including the homelands of the Haida people, is protected as Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site . The islands are home to an abundance of wildlife, including the largest subspecies of black bear (Ursus americana carlottae) and the subspecies of stoat Mustela erminea haidarum. The black-tailed deer and raccoon are introduced species which have become abundant.
Haida Gwaii was the site of Kiidk'yaas (meaning "ancient tree"), the only naturally occurring golden Sitka Spruce in the world. This Golden Spruce was sacred to the Haida people as well as a popular tourist attraction. The 300 year old tree was illegally cut down by Grant Hadwin on January 22nd of 1997 as a misguided political protest against the logging companies. Botanists from the University of British Columbia took cuttings from the fallen tree so that this unique form of tree would not be lost forever, and have since offered a number of seedlings to the Haida people to have replanted.
Another rare natural occurrance that was popular amongst tourists to Haida Gwaii was the White Raven. This was a completely albino raven that was often mistaken for an eagle or seagull due to its unusual colouring. The White Raven lived around Port Clements and would commonly be seen taking food hand-outs from locals and visitors alike. It died after making contact with an electrical transformer, temporarily knocking out power to the town and surrounding area.
Some 6,000 people live on the islands. Their economy is resource-based with logging, commercial fishing and mining being the most important. Service industries and government jobs maintain about one-third of the employment rolls. In recent years tourism has started to become a more prominent part of the economy, especially for fishing and tour guides, cycling, camping and adventure tourism.
The archipelago was visited in 1774 by Juan Pérez and in 1778 by Capt. James Cook. In 1787 the islands were surveyed by Capt. George Dixon. The islands were named by Capt. Dixon after one of his ships, the Queen Charlotte, which was named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of the United Kingdom.
The archipelago seems to have escaped much of the glaciation of the last Ice age. That, and its subsequent isolation from the mainland, has produced what some call the "Galapagos of the North", a unique biological zone with many unusual animals and plants. Its climate, like that of the rest of the British Columbia and Alaskan coast in the area, is moderated by the Kuroshio Current, and features considerable precipitation and relatively mild temperatures year round.
The artwork known as Haida Gwaii, by Bill Reid, is featured on the reverse side of the Canadian $20 bill.  The piece depicts the Spirit of Haida Gwaii in a canoe, accompanied by the mythic messengers. Haida art is also frequently seen on large monumental sized cedar totem poles and even as cartoons in the form of Haida manga .
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