The Smoking Hills of The Canadian Arctic

A deposit of sedimentary rock that’s been burning and smouldering continuously for thousands of years.

In Cape Bathurst, where Canada’s mainland meets the Arctic Ocean, an entire coastline is burning. Known as The Smoking Hills, it’s home to a unique geological phenomenon: a deposit of sedimentary rock that’s been burning and smoldering continuously for thousands of years.

To this day, these hills continue to burn. The reason is simple: sulfur-rich oil shales make up a significant layer in this area. In the same region, sulfur-rich lignite deposits auto ignite, creating a continuous source of fire to burn the oil shale.

View of The Smoking Hills From the Air

…And a View From Sea

This has had a marked effect on the local landscape. Despite the presence of limestone, most of the water in the area has reached a pH of less than 2, roughly equivalent to muriatic acid. The continuous belching of sulfur compounds has filled the water with sulfuric acid.

It’s not a hospitable environment, but on occasion, people do visit. The area can only be reached by boat or plane, preventing the unwary from stumbling into the pools of strong acid and inhaling the dangerous smoke.

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