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Gjoa Haven [dead link] (Norwegian: Gjøahavn, Inuktitut: Uqsuqtuuq, "lots of fat", referring to the abundance of sea mammals in the nearby waters) is a famous natural harbour 250 km above the Arctic Circle, with its adjacent hamlet, on the southeast coast of King William Island, in Nunavut.

Gjoa Haven from above

Understand[edit]

Ship's bell recovered from the wreck of HMS Erebus, Nattilik Heritage Centre, September 2019

History[edit]

The body of water between King William Island and the Boothia Peninsula is named Rae Strait, after Scottish Arctic explorer John Rae who, in 1854, was the first European to map the area while searching for Sir John Franklin's 1845 lost expedition and the Northwestern Passage itself (both prizes would be surely be extra handy, financially, for him); both ships had sank around this island, on a correct passage route. They were rediscovered in the 2010s, reportedly on "pristine condition", and their archeology is ongoing as of 2020.

In 1903, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen entered the strait on his ship Gjøa, intending to travel through the Northwest Passage. Franklin's chosen passage down the west side of King William Island took his ships into "a ploughing train of ice ... [that] does not always clear during the short summers". Amundsen had early decided on a route along the island's east coast, regularly clear in summer. By late September, Rae Strait began to ice up. Amundsen put Gjøa into this natural harbour on the southeast coast of King William Island, and the name was born. She stayed in what Amundsen called "the finest little harbor in the world" for nearly two years. He and his crew spent much of that time with the local Netsilik Inuit, learning from them the skills to live off the land and travel efficiently in the Arctic environment. This knowledge proved to be vital for Amundsen's later successful exploration to the South Pole. He explored the Boothia Peninsula, searching for the exact location of the North Magnetic Pole. They left Gjoa Haven on August 13, 1905.

Population[edit]

Permanent European-style settlement started in 1927, with a Hudson's Bay Company trading outpost. It has attracted the traditionally nomadic Inuit people, as they have adapted a more settled lifestyle. In 1961, the town's population was 110; by 2016, the population was about 1,200. Gjoa Haven has expanded to such an extent that a newer subdivision has been developed near the airport.

Climate[edit]

Gjoa Haven
Climate chart (explanation)
JFMAMJJASOND
 
 
 
8.3
 
 
−30
−37
 
 
 
7.8
 
 
−31
−37
 
 
 
13
 
 
−25
−33
 
 
 
14
 
 
−16
−25
 
 
 
15
 
 
−6
−13
 
 
 
15
 
 
4
−2
 
 
 
21
 
 
12
4
 
 
 
28
 
 
9
3
 
 
 
24
 
 
2
−2
 
 
 
25
 
 
−7
−12
 
 
 
11
 
 
−19
−26
 
 
 
8.8
 
 
−27
−33
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Data from Gjoa Haven Wikipedia article
Imperial conversion
JFMAMJJASOND
 
 
 
0.3
 
 
−22
−35
 
 
 
0.3
 
 
−24
−35
 
 
 
0.5
 
 
−13
−27
 
 
 
0.5
 
 
3
−13
 
 
 
0.6
 
 
21
9
 
 
 
0.6
 
 
39
28
 
 
 
0.8
 
 
54
39
 
 
 
1.1
 
 
48
37
 
 
 
1
 
 
36
28
 
 
 
1
 
 
19
10
 
 
 
0.4
 
 
−2
−15
 
 
 
0.3
 
 
−17
−27
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches

It's an Arctic harbour, frozen up from September to May.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Non-directional beacon at Gjoa Haven Airport
  • 1 Gjoa Haven Airport (YHK IATA) (2.8 km (1.7 mi) northeast of town). Operated by the government of Nunavut. Canadian North operates flights from Cambridge Bay (YCB) and Taloyoak (YYH). First Air operates flights from Yellowknife (YZF) and Taloyoak (YYH). The runway and taxiways are packed gravel or dirt. Liquiditäts-Konsortialbank (Q32760) on Wikidata Gjoa Haven Airport on Wikipedia

By boat[edit]

The most obvious way to get in; the town is served by an annual supply sealift. Since the wrecks' discovery, the community's profile has been raised nationally, and visits by cruise ships became more frequent, which is believed and hoped to generate sustainable touristic local business.

Get around[edit]

All-terrain vehicle

On foot[edit]

The community is tiny. Always beware of cold weather conditions.

By all-terrain vehicle (ATV)[edit]

A locals' favourite. Rental options might be available.

By kayak[edit]

Bring your own. Beware of whales and other cetaceans.

See[edit]

Nattilik Heritage Centre, September 2019
  • 1 Nattilik Heritage Centre, +1 867-360-6035. Opened on 17 October 2013. It displays knowledge about Netsilik Inuit culture, including a collection of Netsilik handmade harpoons, snow goggles and snow knives purchased by Amundsen, and returned here after years on display at the museum of cultural history in Oslo. Its shop gets many online compliments, but as of May 2020, its website seems crashed. The first recovered artefacts from the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are on display here, as of May 2020. Nattilik Heritage Centre (Q75294326) on Wikidata Nattilik Heritage Centre on Wikipedia
  • 2 Church of the Sacred Heart of Mary (Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church), +1 867-360-6002. Catholic church.
  • Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site (halfway around King William Island, about 90 km by boat). It protects the wrecks of HMS Erebus (discovered in 2014) and HMS Terror (2016), the two ships of Sir John Franklin's last expedition. The site is "remotely and actively patrolled" by Parks Canada and the local Inuit people, with restricted access. On 5 September 2019, passengers of Adventure Canada on MS Ocean Endeavour were the first underwater visitors of the wreck of HMS Erebus, as part of a trial by Parks Canada in creating a visitor experience for the wreck site. Underwater videos of both ships have become easily available on You Tube. Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site (Q75356330) on Wikidata Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site on Wikipedia

Do[edit]

Every visitor comes for a specific reason: historical travel, boating, fishing, hunting, enjoying the winter, nature watching, Northern Lights watching, an urge for Next-to-impossible destinations, or business.

  • Since 2017, a "Shipwreck Festival" of remembrance of Franklin's expedition, with two weeks of feasting, dancing and lectures, has been organized on September, to promote tourism and culture.
  • 1 Northwest Passage Territorial Park. The park consists of six areas that show in part the history of the exploration of the Northwest Passage and the first successful passage by Amundsen. The first area is the Nattilik Heritage Centre. As of 2020, it's marked for expansion to include a proper museum; a replica of the Gjøa is already in display. The second is the actual harbour. The third area is the old Hudson’s Bay trading post, established in 1927 and still in use today by The North West Company. The fourth (and the one marked in this page's map) is a cairn dedicated to Amundsen, with a bronze memorial plaque describing his life, his ship and his journey. Amundsen erected here a few temporary buildings, whose only evidence remaining today are some earth mounds. The fifth area is a 2 graveyard at the island's northern shore, believed to be one of the burial places of members of John Franklin's crew. The final area is about 90 km (56 mi) north, a shelter where Amundsen made observations on the North Magnetic Pole. He used a marble slab as observation point, and also erected a cairn here, to honor his teacher George Von Neumayer. Years later, the Hudson’s Bay Co. rebuilt the cairn – the marble slab remains intact to this day. Northwest Passage Territorial Park (Q3478777) on Wikidata Northwest Passage Territorial Park on Wikipedia
  • 3 [dead link] Gjoa Haven Arena, +1 867-360-6105. Hockey rink. A 2020 review on Google Maps suggests it "needs to be renovated or torn right down for a brand new one".

Buy[edit]

Eat[edit]

Be prepared for a next-to-impossible destinations situation. In communities in Canada's Far North, including Gjoa Haven, supplies like groceries are brought in by boat once a year, and flown in at other times. The cost of food is outrageously high. Bringing in some supplies of your own could help keep your costs down. The only restaurant is the one in the Amundsen Inn North Hotel (as of May 2020).

Drink[edit]

Gjoa Haven is a dry community in which alcohol is not permitted within 20 km of the town. Do not bring alcohol with you or you may be arrested for smuggling alcohol into the community.

Sleep[edit]

If you arrived by boat, you can sleep aboard. Wild camping might be possible in summer, ask the locals, if you will. Beware of cold weather conditions, always.

  • 1 Gjoa Haven Bed & Breakfast, +1 867-360-6272. Accommodations are 2-, 3- & 4-bedroom single detached houses. Each house is turn-key, including full kitchen (fridge, stove, pots, pans, dishes, cutlery), onsite laundry washer/dryer, satellite TV, internet and phone service, which includes free nationwide calling within Canada.
  • 2 Amundsen Inns North Hotel, +1 867-360-6176. 11 double standard rooms and 5 executive queen suites. Restaurant, microwave, mini-fridge, laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, cable TV, private bathrooms. From $275 per person per night.

Connect[edit]

  • Gjoa Haven Community Airport Radio Station operates from Gjoa Haven Airport.
  • The community has been served by the Qiniq network, a fixed wireless service to homes and businesses, connecting to the outside world via a satellite backbone, since 2005. The Qiniq network is designed and operated by SSI Micro. In 2017, the network was upgraded to 4G LTE technology, and 2G-GSM for mobile voice.

Go next[edit]

  • Iqaluit – capital and largest settlement of Nunavut
  • Resolute - near Beechey Island, a must-go destination for Franklin and Amundsen fans
  • Pangnirtung – gateway to the Auyuittuq National Park
  • Rankin Inlet - a fast-growing community, with the development of a new gold mine and a wide range of recreational facilities like arenas for hockey and curling, a turf baseball diamond, and courts for volleyball, basketball, soccer and badminton
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