Kekerten Territorial Park is an historical reminder of the European and American Arctic whaling days of long ago. Located on Kekerten Island, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Pangnirtung, the park area was first used as a whaling station when Scottish whaler William Penny charted the island in 1840. Soon afterwards, the entire Cumberland Sound area became a major whaling destination for the British and the Americans. Advanced knowledge of whale migration patterns and arctic survival techniques made the local Inuit people essential allies in the commercial whaling industry.
Nowadays, a pleasant three-hour boat ride will take you from Pangnirtung to Kekerten Park where you can explore the historical remains of this bygone era, which are all described in detail with signage along an interpretive trail.
Special features of the site include the foundations of storehouses built in 1857, large cast-iron pots once used for rendering whale oil, blubber-hauling pins, plus the surviving remnants of an antique whaling ship which are all displayed with information panels detailing this skeletal replica of an old Scottish whaling station.
A walkway through the park links various historical elements, each of which has its own informative signage. Visitors must follow the boardwalk while touring the stations, whaler’s graveyard and the whale spotting lookouts. Nunavut laws and common sense require that artifacts — including rocks, vegetation, antlers, bones and animal parts, or human remains — not be disturbed or removed from the site.
Guides and staff at the Angmarlik Visitor Centre in Pangnirtung are well prepared to answer questions about Kekerten. Visitors may wish to purchase the Kekerten Historic Park Guide Map, which is also available at the Angmarlik Visitor Centre. The guidebook describes the history behind the site and the features at the park in more detail.
Angmarlik Visitors Centre — Pangnirtung
Ph: (867) 473-8737
In the late spring, from early May to mid-June, the most popular way to reach Kekerten Island from Pangnirtung is by snowmobile, although dog sledding and cross-country skiing are also very enjoyable ways to get there. Regardless of the mode of transportation, visitors should be prepared for unexpectedly cold temperatures and strong winds, which will require several layers of proper arctic clothing. Ice conditions can be very uncertain during the latter weeks of June and early July, so it is best to be guided by local Inuit experts who are well versed in sea ice travel. Polar bear activity is unpredictable near Kekerten, so polar bear safety rules should be observed at all times when visiting the island.
Getting to Pangnirtung
Both First Air and Canadian North offer regularly scheduled flights to Pangnirtung from Iqaluit.
Getting to Kekerten Territorial Park
Summer travel to Kekerten from Pangnirtung is normally done by boat, but usually no earlier than July 15 as sea ice often lingers this late in the year. Once the ice clears, boat trips to the park are possible until late September, when the sea slowly begins to ice up again. A boating roundtrip excursion to Kekerten — with sufficient time to enjoy the park — takes about 12 hours.
Camping is not permitted inside the historic site, but there is camping available outside the historical area. There is also a cabin located at the park for shelter in an emergency. Winter and spring excursions to Kekerten Territorial Park by ski, dogsled or snowmobile take more time.
For more information, check the Nunavut Parks website.