Cape Dorset

Cape Dorset


Also known as ‘Kinngait’ in Inuktitut, this ancient artistic community is a main stop for arctic cruise ships.

Inhabited by native peoples for three thousand years, Cape Dorset is situated on Dorset Island, adjacent to Foxe Peninsula at the southwestern tip of Baffin Island.

It is world-renowned for the quality of the artwork produced by its visual artists. Blessed with breathtaking arctic landscapes and an amazing abundance of inspiring arctic wildlife, Dorset Island and nearby Mallikjuaq Territorial Park are great places to view, draw and photograph migratory caribou, seabirds, whales, seals and walruses.

‘Kinngait’ is a popular destination for naturalists and art lovers who come here each year to experience the Inuit culture, to enjoy the treasures of the place and chat with the local artists.

Cape Dorset
ᑭᙵᐃᑦ

'Mountains'

Population

1,236

Ethnic Distribution

91% Inuit

Languages

Inuktitut, English

Location

Longitude 90° 51’ W
Latitude 63° 22’ N
Elevation 8m

Topography

Cape Dorset is situated on an island where, at low tide, you can walk to the mainland. Dorset Island itself is fairly flat ground with some rolling hills.

Weather and Climate

Current Weather in Cape Dorset

Cape Dorset
1° C 1° C

Overcast Clouds

1° C

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Cape Dorset enjoys long sunny days from May through August with temperatures around 10°C on average, peaking at 20°C occasionally.

Fall weather is variable, usually around 5°C, mostly sunny, but sometimes foggy with heavy rains. The snow begins to accumulate in November. The coldest months are January, February and March when the temperature can drop to –40°C. The snow normally starts to melt in April.

Average Temperature in Cape Dorset
January -25oC February -26oC
March -22oC April -14oC
May -6oC June 2oC
July 7oC August 6oC
September 2oC October -4oC
November -12oC December -20oC

History

Cape Dorset is the place where several archaeological sites of the ancient Dorset people (called ‘Tuniit’ or ‘Sivullirmiut’ in Inuktitut) were discovered that date back to 1000 BC. The more advanced Thule ancestors of the Inuit people eventually displaced them.

Scholars believe that the Dorset Culture people were perhaps the first North Americans ever encountered by Europeans who visited Baffin Island sometime before 1000 AD.

The Vikings called them ‘Skræling.’ Like the ancient Norse seafaring people of Greenland, the Dorset people became extinct by 1500 AD. However, mystical traces of them still remain here today.

Cape Dorset was named so by the British explorer Luke Foxe, after his sponsor Edward Sackville, the Earl of Dorset, in 1631. Before it was ever called Cape Dorset, the local Inuit people had always known this unique location as ‘Sikusiilaq’ in Inuktitut, referring to the area of seawater nearby that remains ice-free all winter.

The Hudson Bay Company (HBC) founded a trading post here in 1913.

Inuit people traded stretched furs, tanned skins and ivory narwal tusks for supplies like tobacco, ammunition, kerosene, flour, tea and sugar.

In 1947, an HBC supply ship called the RMS Nascopie ran aground off the shores of Dorset Island. Before it sank completely, the resourceful local Inuit people salvaged its supplies and retrieved wood from the ship to construct their homes.

At some point during the 1940s, the great Inuit photographer Peter Pitseolak acquired his first camera here from a Catholic missionary.

Cape Dorset has since become a world-famous centre for Inuit drawing, printmaking and carving.

In 1957, the Canadian artist, author and filmmaker James Archibald Houston (nicknamed ‘Saumik’ in Inuktitut, ‘the left-handed one’) established a graphic arts workshop here. Its print program was modelled after Japanese ‘Ukiyo-e’ (浮世絵 —’pictures of the floating world’) workshops. This art studio experimented with etching, engraving, lithography and silkscreen printmaking techniques.

Between 1959 and 1974, Cape Dorset artists produced more than 48,000 limited edition prints. Famous artists from Cape Dorset include Pudlo Pudlat and Kenojuak Ashevak. Canadian postage stamps and a Canadian quarter (25 cent piece) have featured Ashevak’s distinctive drawings of snowy owls.


Activities and Wildlife

Dorset Island and nearby Mallikjuaq Island waters and fertile terrain support many forms of arctic wildlife, including herds of caribou and walrus, pods of seals and beluga whales, occasionally a migrating bowhead whale passing by and sometimes a wandering polar bear or two.

In July, when wildflowers dapple the tundra valleys with vivid colours, when seabirds return for their nesting season, the local people will travel to hunting camps situated along the nearby shorelines, as they have done for centuries.

The well-trodden trails of Dorset Island and Mallikjuaq Island will take you to these special wildlife-viewing sites. Visitors enjoy trekking through the rolling hills to secluded waterfalls and crystalline lakes, pausing sometimes in ancient coastal places to sit in the bright sunshine and watch ice floes slowly drifting by.

After hiking, boating, skiing, snowmobiling or dog sledding, a visit to ‘Kinngait’ would not be complete without also experiencing its potent visual arts scene!

Arts and Culture

Cape Dorset is world-famous for its great artworks.

It has justifiably been called the most artistic community in Canada, with some 22% of its labour force employed in the visual arts.

Printmaking, drawing and carving are the primary economic activities here. Founded in 1959, the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative is the best venue to view these beautiful works and meet with the famed artists themselves. Kinngait Studios, which house the co-op’s graphic arts program, produce a highly acclaimed print collection each year. Cape Dorset is fondly known locally as the true ‘Capital of Inuit Art.’

West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Limited
Cape Dorset, NU X0A 0C0
Ph: (867) 897-8827
Fax: (867) 897-8049


Parks

Mallikjuaq Territorial Park
Mallikjuaq means ‘big wave’ in Inuktitut, an appropriate name for an island where rounded rock hills and low tundra valleys resemble giant rolling waves. While magical Mallikjuaq Territorial Park gets its name from its gentle topography, its mystical spirit comes from its eternal wildlife and ancient human history. Located a mere forty-five minute walk from Cape Dorset, here in this park you will find a host of ancient Dorset archaeological sites, with stone structures dating back three millennia.

It is a special place of great solace and natural beauty.


Visitor Information

Mallikjuaq Park Visitor Centre
Ph: (867) 897-8996
Fax: (867) 897-8475

Offices of the Hamlet of Cape Dorset
Ph: (867) 897-8943
Fax: (867) 897-8030
Email: info@capedorset.ca

www.capedorset.ca


Arctic Bay

Arctic Bay


Arctic Bay is a vibrant, traditional community located in the northwest corner of Baffin Island. This safe harbour hamlet is situated upon a south-facing gravel beach on Adams Sound, which feeds into Admiralty Inlet, draining northwards to Lancaster Sound and the Northwest Passage.

Inhabited by nomadic arctic peoples for 5,000 years, it is also named ‘Ikpiarjuk’ which means ‘the pocket’ in Inuktitut, referring to the way the site is surrounded by protective hills on three sides.

Its sheltered shores and steep cliffs provide nesting habitat for many unique species of High Arctic birds and its sea waters are home to narwhals and bowhead whales. Every year in the spring a popular dog sledding race takes place between Arctic Bay and Igloolik that draws the best teams from across Nunavut.

Arctic Bay
ᐃᒃᐱᐊᕐᔪᒃ

'the pocket'

Population

750

Ethnic Distribution

95% Inuit

Languages

Inuktitut, English

Location

Longitude 85° 10’ W
Latitude 73° 02’ N
Elevation 31m

Topography

The dramatic terrain around Arctic Bay is comprised of scenic geological formations, with hoodoos, flat-topped pillars of stone and sheer 183 metre (600 foot) red rock cliffs. Repeated ice age glacial erosion created deep valleys and beautiful fiords, including nearby Admiralty Inlet, which is the longest fiord in the world.

Weather and Climate

Current Weather in Arctic Bay

Arctic Bay
2° C 2° C

Broken Clouds

2° C

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Arctic Bay enjoys constant 24-hour sunshine from May 6 to August 6.

Summer temperatures range from 0°C to 15°C. Protected from strong north winds, Arctic Bay enjoys a surprisingly stable climate. Fall and spring weather is variable, with temperatures between 0°C and -30°C. The snow begins to melt in May, but the sea ice doesn’t break up until the end of July. Winter temperatures hover around -35°C yet can sometimes drop to -50°C on very rare occasions.

Average Temperature in Arctic Bay
January -29oC February -30oC
March -28oC April -20oC
May -11oC June 0oC
July 5oC August 2oC
September -6oC October -15oC
November -23oC December -27oC

History

For 5,000 years the nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors of the Inuit people came to this place especially for a valuable raw material. At nearby Uluksan Point, located at the mouth of Arctic Bay, slate is found that was ideal for making the ‘ulu’ — woman’s knife.

  • Paleo-Eskimo Culture: 2500 BC to 1500 BC
  • Pre-Dorset Culture ('Saqqaq'): 2500 BC to 500 BC
  • Dorset Culture ('Tuniit' or 'Sivullirmiut'): 500 BC to 1500 AD
  • Thule Culture (Proto-Inuit): 1000 AD to 1600 AD
  • Inuit Culture (Eskimo): 1600 AD to present-day

In 1872, a whaling ship called the Arctic, captained by William Adams from Scotland, passed through and gave the area its English names, Arctic Bay and Adams Sound. In 1911, Captain Bernier of Canada arrived here in his sailing vessel, also called the Arctic, to establish and proclaim sovereignty over the High Arctic islands of this region. Norway was trying to claim the archipelago for itself. Bernier left behind some historical markers in this area — a wooden cross, several cairns, painted rocks, a lead plaque and a grave.

The Hudson Bay Company built a trading post here in 1926, but closed it down the next year. Until it reopened in 1933, local Inuit were forced to travel 240 kilometres (149 miles) to Pond Inlet or 425 kilometres (264 miles) to Igloolik to conduct trade. Reverend Jack Turner opened an Anglican mission in 1937 at nearby Moffat Inlet.

In 1941 a joint Canada-US weather station was built here that operated for twenty years. It is the oldest building still standing.

The first school was erected in 1959. Medical facilities and public housing units were constructed in the 1960s. The Government of Canada would not provide social assistance money to nomadic Inuit families living out on the land, so most local people settled into the community during the late 1960s, with the last family moving off the land in 1971. The hamlet of Arctic Bay was founded in 1976.

On October 15, 1976, a lead-zinc-silver mine opened 32 kilometres (20 miles) from Arctic Bay at the small community of Nanisivik. It was the first mine in the world north of the Arctic Circle.

The road between Nanisivik and Arctic Bay is the only highway in Nunavut and the only road in the territory that connects two communities.

The Nanisivik mine closed down in 2002 and its community was completely dismantled. Expansion of the Arctic Bay airport was begun in 2008. Until the new airport opened in 2011, large aircraft used the Nanisivik airport, which is now mothballed.


Activities and Wildlife

Each year when the seaways are open, tourists arrive on High Arctic and Northwest Passage cruise ships to experience the sights and sounds of Arctic Bay, sampling the local cuisine, meeting artists, acquiring carvings and other handicrafts. The sheltered harbour is ideal for yachts in the summer.

Marine mammals to view near here include bowhead whales, narwhals, seals and occasionally polar bears. There are arctic hares, arctic foxes, lemmings and marmots.

Dozens of species of migratory High Arctic seabirds such as thick-billed murres, snow geese, kittiwakes, ivory gulls and Ross’s gulls have breeding grounds in the vicinity that are very active in the summer. Hiking, camping and fishing are popular local activities in nearby Sirmilik National Park. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and dog sledding tours are other fun things to do. Traditional Inuit games, competitions, dances and community feasts take place here each spring in conjunction with the annual dog sledding race between the communities of Arctic Bay and Igloolik.

Arts and Culture

Arctic Bay artists and seamstresses produce high-quality marble carvings, ivory sculptures, traditional clothes and other fine crafts and artworks that can be viewed and purchased directly from the talented local artists themselves. The Qimatuligvik Heritage Organization, which is run by the hamlet and open year-round, is an excellent venue to learn more about the local Inuit culture, with a diorama display plus arts and crafts gift shop.

Qimatuligvik Heritage Organization 
Ph: (867) 439-8077
Email: heritage_ab@qiniq.com


Parks

Sirmilik National Park
Arctic Bay is near the western boundary of Sirmilik National Park. This huge park represents the Northern Eastern Arctic Lowlands Natural Region and portions of the Lancaster Sound Marine Region.

It features beautiful landforms and superb wilderness hiking and camping sites.

Sirmilik comprises three separate land areas: Borden Peninsula is an extensive plateau dissected by broad river valleys. Oliver Sound is a long, narrow fiord with excellent opportunities for boating, hiking and camping.

Bylot Island is a spectacular area of rugged mountains, glaciers, coastal lowlands and seabird colonies.


Visitor Information

Qimatuligvik Heritage Organization
Managed by the Hamlet of Arctic Bay.
Ph: (867) 439-8077
Email: heritage_ab@qiniq.com

Offices of the Hamlet of Arctic Bay 
Ph: (867) 439-9917
Fax: (867) 439-8767
Email: recep_ap@qiniq.com

Offices of Sirmilik National Park
Ph: (867) 899-8092
Fax: (867) 899-8104
Email: sirmilik.info@pc.gc.ca