Quaternary Geology of the Queen Elizabeth Islands
The physiography of the Queen Elizabeth Islands was developed during episodes of subaerial erosion and planation, and relatively recent rifting may have formed interisland channels. Marine erosion has been a relatively minor facet in physiographic development and glacial processes have had only local effect.
The dominant surficial material is weathered and colluviated bedrock, which varies in character depending on the lithology and hardness of the source material. This thin mantle includes the weathered residue of early or middle Quaternary tills. Identifiable tills and other glacial deposits occur only locally and are generally located near margins of existing ice caps, although they are present to some degree on most islands. Offshore and littoral offlap marine deposits mantle low-lying shores but rarely extend up to marine limit. Glacier ice covers one quarter of the land area.
The processes responsible for erosion of plateau surfaces, deposition of locally preserved pre-Quaternary unconsolidated deposits, and division by interisland channels are not understood. Also unknown is whether tectonism postdated the onset of glaciations in the late Tertiary.
Distribution of erratics suggests that continental ice at one time extended onto Prince Patrick Island and at least as far north as Ellef Ringnes Island, and that Greenland ice overran the northeast margin of Ellesmere Island. During these and other times, ice was possibly generated within the northern archipelago either from an ice complex over the eastern islands, or as ice caps on individual islands.