Hudson Bay

Hudson Bay

Hudson Bay is located in North America, in northern Canada. This bay is one of the largest bays in the world. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and connected to the Arctic Ocean to the north through the Gadsen Strait and Foxe Strait. Hudson Bay plays an important role in the climate processes of the region and is important to the ecosystem of this part of Canada.


Hudson Bay is one of the depressions in the Archean Canadian continental platform that gradually filled with seawater as a result of tectonic activity. The sheer size of the bay makes it comparable to a sea. Together with James Bay, which adjoins it from the south, it forms the Arctic Archipelago Marine Ecozone, one of Canada’s five marine ecozones.

Hudson Bay is part of the Arctic Ocean. To the east, the Hudson Strait connects the Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. In the north, Hudson Bay is connected to the open Arctic Basin through a complex network of straits in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. To the south, it forms the vast James Bay.

For more than half the year, the surface of Hudson Bay is ice-covered.


The discovery of the bay by Europeans took place in stages. First, the Italian navigator Sebastian Cabot discovered the passage to the bay during an expedition in 1506-1509. The purpose of the expedition was to discover a northwest passage to India. Some scholars dispute the fact that Cabot did find a way into Hudson Bay.

It took a century before in 1610 the Discovery, the ship of another English navigator, traveled along the eastern shore of the bay. It was in honor of Englishman Henry Hudson (Hudson) that the backwater was later named. Like Cabot, Hudson was trying to find a northern route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean to reach China and India, bypassing the colonies of the Spanish and Portuguese. With money from London and Amsterdam merchants, Hudson made four northern expeditions between 1607 and 1611. It was not until his last voyage that Hudson managed to steer his sailing ship westward through the Hudson Strait between Labrador Peninsula and Baffin Island – and discovered the vast bay later named after him.

The fate of the discoverer himself, Captain Hudson, is tragic. In June 1611, on the way back to the Old World, the ship’s crew mutinied, and Hudson, along with his son and seven other sailors, was put into a dinghy, which disappeared without a trace in the North Atlantic.

In 1612-1613 the western shore of the bay was explored by the expedition of Thomas Button, who intended to find traces of the missing Hudson. Button discovered and named the Nelson River and several other geographic features in the Bay area.

In 1631, even more exploratory work was done by Thomas James, after whom a bay in the southeast corner of Hudson Bay was named. Luke Fox’s expedition in the same year practically completed the general study of its shores.

By that time the first fur trading posts had already appeared here. Furs were bought for next to nothing by English and French trappers – fur trappers and traders – from the indigenous Cree, Inuit and Naskapi peoples. When the traders became numerous, conflicts between them began, which gradually turned into armed clashes. The authorities in the North American colonies of England and France stood up to protect the interests of their citizens.

In 1670, the Hudson Bay Company was established to organize the development of the territory adjacent to the shores of the bay. It still exists today, remaining the oldest trading firm in North America and one of the oldest in the world, headquartered in Toronto, Canada. This company was more than just a commercial enterprise. For several centuries it completely controlled the fur trade in the part of North America that belonged to England (8 million km2) and also explored the northern territories. In those wilderness areas, the company actually acted as an official authority.

In the mid-19th century, the company was forced to cede to Canada a significant part of its lands, as well as the monopoly on the fur trade along the entire Gulf Coast.


The straits connecting Hudson Bay to the oceans are navigable for three months, and for eight months they are clogged with drifting ice. Fog and storms are frequent here, making navigation difficult even during late summer.

The rapid freezing of the water is facilitated by its low salinity. Throughout the bay drift ice formed in the bay itself, brought by rivers and arrived from the Hudson Strait and the Arctic Ocean.

The bay is vast but shallow: maximum depths are confined to a depression that stretches across the middle of the bay from southwest to northeast.

The shores of Hudson Bay are low everywhere, and only at the northwestern tip of the Labrador Peninsula is a rocky coastal ridge.

The coastline is characterized by sinuousness, and there are countless small bays and peninsulas on most of its territory. In the northern part there are many islands, and the largest of them is Southampton; and in the east of the bay stretches a chain of archipelagos of many uninhabited islets.

A large number of large rivers flow into the bay: the Albany, Severn, Thelon, Churchill, Ismayne, Attawapiskat, and others.

The Hudson Bay area is often jokingly referred to as “America’s cold storage area,” which is entirely true. The bay is large but shallow and therefore has little influence on the climate of coastal areas. In winter, the air temperature over the bay drops to -40°C, and in the Rankin Inlet area reaches -50°C.

The northern shores of Hudson Bay are endless Arctic tundra. To the south stretches a belt of northern coniferous forests – taiga. To the east is the edge of high rocky cliffs, and to the west spreads the marshy plains.

The Bay’s main port is Churchill. Canada’s only subarctic deep-water port is located in the northwestern part of the province of Manitoba on the shores of Hudson Bay in the Churchill River delta. It is famous for its abundance of polar bears: the city’s neighborhoods are the southernmost polar bear habitats. And the city itself is on the migration route of the animals from the tundra to Hudson Bay. From September to November, the bears wade to the freezing waters of Hudson Bay and hunt seals here.

Wapusk National Park is located south of Churchill, right on the coast of Hudson Bay, on an area of 11,475 km2. It is one of the largest polar bear wintering grounds in North America.

Churchill is a place where all the species of feathered birds that live on the shores of the bay are represented. There are more than two hundred of them here – Canada goose, hawk, falcon, white owl, swan, tern, different species of gulls.

Among the large marine animals in Hudson Bay live beluga whale, killer whale, walrus and seal, and of land animals there are beaver, moose, reindeer, several species of bears, hounds, cats and others.


A second port could have been Port Nelson, but the difficult building conditions in the north have gradually turned it into a ghost town, with abandoned houses and an inoperative shipyard. The other settlements are village settlements.

The local inhabitants, mostly descendants of French and English settlers and a small number of Inuit and Cree indigenous people, fish for cod, herring, and flounder, which are abundant in the bay. There is also a limited seal fishery.

The Hudson’s Bay Company has long been out of the fur trade and has moved into the small wholesale and retail business, opening several supermarket chains in Canada and the United States.

General Information

  • Inland sea of Canada, surrounded from east, south and west by the lands of the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and the territory of Nunavut.
  • In the northeast it is separated from the Baffin Sea by Baffin Island; it is connected to the Labrador Sea by the Hudson Strait and to the Arctic Ocean by the waters of Fox Bay.
  • Settlements: Rankin Inlet, Arviat, Powungnituk, Churchill.
  • Languages: French, English, Inupik (Inuit languages).
  • Ethnicity: indigenous peoples (Cree, Inuit), descendants of English and French settlers.
  • Religions: Christianity, local beliefs.
  • Currency unit: Canadian dollar.
  • The largest islands: Southampton, Cote, Mansel, Nottingham, Salisbury, Long Island.
  • James Bay Island: Akimiski.
  • Major rivers flowing into the bay: Thelon, Churchill, Nelson, Severn, Severn, Winisk, Hayes, Kaskattama, Kettle, Niskeby, Ta-Ann, Tleviaza, Caribou, Seal.
  • James Bay rivers: Attawapiskat, Albany, Moose, Rupert, Nottaway.
  • Area: 1.23 million km2.
  • Basin area: 4,041,400 km2.
  • Maximum depth: up to 258 meters.
  • Maximum length: 2,100 km.
  • Maximum width: 1,050 km.
  • Average depth: 112 m.
  • River discharge into the bay: about 700 km3 per year.
  • Tides: semidiurnal, up to 12 m high (Hudson Strait), 5 m high (eastern shores), 1.8-3.4 m high (western shores).
  • Total volume of water in the bay: 92 thousand km3.
  • Average salinity: 29-31%o.


  • Minerals: oil, natural gas, nickel.
  • Fishing.
  • Hunting.
  • Services: tourism, transportation.

Climate and weather

  • Arctic.
  • Average air temperature in January: -22°С – -31°С.
  • Average air temperature in July: +5°С in the north, to +15°С in the south.
  • Annual temperature amplitude: up to 35-36°C.
  • From mid-December to mid-June it is covered with ice.
  • Average annual water temperature in the deep layer: -1.8°C TO -2.2°C.
  • Average annual precipitation: from 200 mm in the north to 430 mm in the south.
  • Relative humidity: 80%.


  • Vapusk National Park;
  • Yukkusaiksalik National Park;
  • Port Churchill;
  • Nelson River;
  • Town of Repulse Bay (Melville Peninsula);
  • Rankin Inlet settlement;
  • Eskimo Museum (Churchill);
  • Deer Sanctuary (Kote Island);
  • Winisk River Provincial Park.

Fun Facts

  • The Canadian authorities made several attempts to find work for the local population in the Inuit settlement of Rankin Inlet. In the 1960s and 1970s, a hog farm and a poultry farm were opened there. But because the animals and birds were fed on fish (there was no other food available), the local produce had a very unpleasant odor and was not in demand. In addition, the farm and factory were constantly attacked by polar bears, so the enterprises were closed.
  • An Inuksuk, or “human-like” stone figure, is an important element in Inuit culture. The first such monuments appeared on the shores of Hudson Bay as early as the second millennium B.C. After an Inuksuk was created, Inuit tradition forbids its destruction. Therefore, many of them have stood there from ancient times to the present day. When the territory of Nunavut was created as part of Canada in 1999, the image of the Inuksuk was placed on its flag and coat of arms. An Inuksuk named Ilanaak, or “Friend,” was chosen as the official symbol of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
  • The Eskimo village of Coral Harbor on Southampton Island in Hudson Bay is named for the coral that can be found in the seawater near the village.
  • In 1990, the Telon River, which flows into Hudson Bay, was listed as one of Canada’s protected rivers; the river basin contains a large area with no roads at all, thus preserving the pristine nature of these areas, including flora and fauna.
  • Fort Severn, a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, was founded at the mouth of the Severn River in 1685, but was burned to the ground by the French in 1689. It was later rebuilt and is now one of the oldest European settlements in Ontario.
  • The Hudson wolf, or Hudson Bay wolf, is a medium-sized, light-colored, medium-sized predator, sometimes also called the tundra wolf. It inhabits areas adjacent to the Hudson Bay coast and is nomadic, migrating south with herds of caribou.
  • Polar bears feel relatively safe on the shores of Hudson Bay and even venture into towns and cities. This predator is most often found in the vicinity of Churchill Harbor and at the mouth of the Churchill River.
  • For many years, the Hudson Bay coast has been the scene of fierce battles over the right to trade furs.
  • Located in the subarctic belt, Hudson Bay experiences a seasonal change of air masses: Arctic air in winter and temperate air in summer. Along the shores is a zone of tundra, forest tundra and partially taiga.
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