Because of its geography and geology, Herschel Island became a prominent base, crossroads and jumping-off spot in the history of the Western Arctic. Because it had a good harbour in the right location, it became a base for the whalers. Since the whalers had trade goods and required food and clothing, the island became a spot to trade and resupply. This attracted large numbers of Inuvialuit who in turn attracted the attention of other traders and the Church. All of this activity, combined with nearness to the International border, brought Herschel Island to the attention of the Canadian Government, and made it a crucial place to "show the flag."

When transportation and communication made geography less meaningful, Herschel Island faded into obscurity until its harbour was needed once again to support a commercial enterprise, this time oil exploration. Pauline Cove and the waters around Herschel Island were used as a temporary safe harbour for drill ships and other vessels throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Because of its geography and geology, Herschel Island became a prominent base, crossroads and jumping-off spot in the history of the Western Arctic. Because it had a good harbour in the right location, it became a base for the whalers. Since the whalers had trade goods and required food and clothing, the island became a spot to trade and resupply. This attracted large numbers of Inuvialuit who in turn attracted the attention of other traders and the Church. All of this activity, combined with nearness to the International border, brought Herschel Island to the attention of the Canadian Government, and made it a crucial place to "show the flag."

When transportation and communication made geography less meaningful, Herschel Island faded into obscurity until its harbour was needed once again to support a commercial enterprise, this time oil exploration. Pauline Cove and the waters around Herschel Island were used as a temporary safe harbour for drill ships and other vessels throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Aerial view

Many families from the Mackenzie Delta still visit Herschel Island, and one Inuvialuit family has a seasonal home there.

Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch

© Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch 2001.


Oil Rig

Oil rig near Herschel Island.

Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch

© Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch 2001.


Kayaker

In 1987, Herschel Island was designated as the Yukon's first territorial park.

Direction du patrimoine du Yukon

© Yukon Territorial Government, Heritage Branch


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Learn about the physical geography of Western Arctic terrestrial environments like Herschel Island
  • Learn about the unique geological formation of Herschel Island
  • Discover the historical role that Herschel Island’s harbour has played as a prominent base and trading post

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