Herschel Island lies in the Beaufort Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Ocean has forty percent of the earth’s sea ice, known as "pack ice." Permanent pack ice lies about 90 kilometers north of Herschel Island. The pack ice moves slowly in a clockwise direction, following the "Beaufort Gyre." In summer, large ice floes often drift near the island and can be seen from the hills near Pauline Cove.

From November to July, Herschel Island is locked in ice---there is no distinction between the island and the mainland. The average temperature in winter (October to May) is -27 to -30 degrees Celsius (-17 to -22 Fahrenheit), but can get as low as -50 (-58F).

Strong winds and low temperatures create very severe conditions at the island. When moving air is colder than skin temperature, humans lose heat. This is called wind chill. The "rule of thirty" says that at -30 degrees celsius, with a 30-mph wind, exposed flesh will freeze in 30 seconds.

Summer temperatures average 6 to 7 degrees celsius (43 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit), but can reach as high as 30 degrees (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
Herschel Island lies in the Beaufort Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Ocean has forty percent of the earth’s sea ice, known as "pack ice." Permanent pack ice lies about 90 kilometers north of Herschel Island. The pack ice moves slowly in a clockwise direction, following the "Beaufort Gyre." In summer, large ice floes often drift near the island and can be seen from the hills near Pauline Cove.

From November to July, Herschel Island is locked in ice---there is no distinction between the island and the mainland. The average temperature in winter (October to May) is -27 to -30 degrees Celsius (-17 to -22 Fahrenheit), but can get as low as -50 (-58F).

Strong winds and low temperatures create very severe conditions at the island. When moving air is colder than skin temperature, humans lose heat. This is called wind chill. The "rule of thirty" says that at -30 degrees celsius, with a 30-mph wind, exposed flesh will freeze in 30 seconds.

Summer temperatures average 6 to 7 degrees celsius (43 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit), but can reach as high as 30 degrees (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Polar Island

Herschel Island locked in frozen sea ice.

Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch

© Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch 2001.


Dark house

The Arctic is famous for its 24-hour daylight in summer, but also for its total darkness in mid-winter. At Herschel Island, some light is available even during the long winter nights as moonlight reflects off snow and ice. A long twilight also brightens the polar night.

Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch

© Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Understand the historical purposes for travel to Herschel Island
  • Learn about the physical geography of Western Arctic terrestrial environments like Herschel Island
  • Discover the harsh characteristics of Herschel Island that contribute to its lack of habitants

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