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The town is located on Frobisher Bay on the southwest part of Baffin Island, in the Arctic Ocean to the east of the territory's mainland, and to the north of Hudson Bay. Inhabitants of Iqaluit are called Iqlalummuit (singular, Iqlalummuk).
Begun as an American airbase in World War II, the population of the town of Frobisher Bay increased rapidly during the construction of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW line, a system of radar stations, see NORAD) in the 1950s. On January 1, 1987, the name of this municipality was officially changed from "Frobisher Bay" to "Iqaluit", which means "place of many fish" in Inuktitut.