Haida Gwaii is located 100 kilometers west of the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada and is an isolated group of over 200 islands, large and small, totaling approximately 3750 square miles or 1,000,000 hectares.
The west coast lays at the edge of the continental shelf – an abrupt tectonic scarp rising from 3,000 metres below sea level to the 1,000 metre-high peak of the San Christoval mountains. Exposed to Pacific Ocean weather systems, it bears the brunt of the strongest winds in Canada, waves up to 35metres, and four metres of rainfall a year.
The east coast is a gentler leeward landscape of sheltered inlets, islands, lowland and plateau, with an annual rainfall of about 80 centimetres, yet is also exposed to high wind speeds from most points of the compass.
The islands’ shores are bathed in nutrient-rich waters of the north Pacific, their climate tempered by warm offshore currents. There are extensive seabird nesting colonies, large numbers of raptors, and many salmon spawning streams of all sizes.
About 5000 people inhabit these islands. The 2016 Census counted 555 in Old Massett; the Village of Masset with 793; Village of Port Clements 282; Skidegate 837; Village of Queen Charlotte 853; Area D, (rural Graham Island) 607; Area E (Sandspit) 296.
The closest city to Haida Gwaii is Prince Rupert with a population of 12,220. The ferry from Prince Rupert to Skidegate is 93 nautical miles or approximately 8 hours in good weather. The islands are situated 48 km south of Alaska, and 720 km north from Vancouver with a population of 2,116,581.