Located 12 kilometres (seven miles) west of Iqaluit, near Peterhead Inlet, lies the tiny, rocky island of Qaummaarviit — which means ‘the place that shines’ in Inuktitut. This lovely park is rich in archaeological artifacts dating back to the Thule culture that demonstrate the inventiveness and adaptability of this remarkable people. The rocky landscape of the island is broken up by patches of lush vegetation containing the remains of 11 sod houses that give the visitor a clear idea of the living conditions on the island at the time of the Thule people. Touring ‘the place that shines’ makes for a great day trip into the ancient past.
Thule Culture (Proto-Inuit): 1000 AD to 1600 AD
Inuit Culture (Eskimo): 1600 AD to present-day
Numerous artifacts, including over 3,000 tools and 20,000 bones excavated from the tundra by archaeologists demonstrate what life may have been like at Qaummaarviit. Far from the bleak existence many people might envisage, Qaummaarviit’s inhabitants thrived. Sled runners and a variety of dog harness equipment suggest that Qaummaarviit’s hunters were capable of travelling great distances over sea ice in search of game. Although evidence of skin boats is less abundant, thousands of sea mammal bones suggest that qayaks and umiaks were used repeatedly to hunt a variety of seals and whales. Household artifacts such as hide scrapers, awls, needles, ulus and soapstone lamps show of the vital role that women played, while toy weapons, tools and dolls demonstrate the central importance of children to the ancestors of the Inuit.
Informative signage along the pathway through the park provides visitors with detailed historical and cultural information. To learn more about the archaeological features of Qaummaarviit Park, visit the Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre in Iqaluit.
Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre
Ph: (867) 979-4636
Fax: (867) 979-3754
Getting to the city of Iqaluit
Both First Air and Canadian North offer regular service to Iqaluit from Ottawa and Rankin Inlet. First Air also offers service from Montreal.
Getting to Qaummaarviit Territorial Park
Qaummaarviit is accessible by ski, dogsled or snowmobile in the winter months and by boat during the open-water season. However, since the island park is 12 kilometres (seven miles) from Iqaluit, it is recommended that visitors take advantage of local outfitting services. Travelling there by snowmobile and qamutik, which is available through outfitters, is much quicker thereby significantly decreasing the duration of the trip. Skiing to the park and back takes a full day, depending on experience and ability.
The north end of Frobisher Bay between Iqaluit and Qaummaarviit is subject to tides of up to 12 metres (39 ft.) which can affect travel in any season. In the winter and spring this means there is a large expanse of rough ice to climb to get to the island. Later in the spring the tides affect both the amount of surface water on top of the ice and the amount of open water near the shore. The sea ice breakup usually takes place around mid-July, but ice is still floating in the bay in the early open water season.
Strong onshore winds can trap even the most experienced boaters. Most local outfitters use seven metre (24 ft.) freighter canoes or Lake Winnipeg boats powered by outboard motors that are designed to transport heavy loads over long distances. Boat travel to Qaummaarviit from Iqaluit takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the tides and the wind. Camping on the island is not permitted.
For more information, check the Nunavut Parks website.