Rocky tundra landscape in Holman

Rocky tundra landscape in Holman. Photo: Darlene Coward Wight, 2000.

Snow Formation

Snow formation. Photo: Darlene Coward Wight, 2000.

Snow goggles

Before the introduction of tinted sunglasses, the Inuit wore slitted snow goggles to prevent snow blindness when travelling in the brilliant sunlight of spring. © Canadian Museum of Civilization Collection: cat no. IX-C-2846, image no. S89-1832-CD94-686-011.

Sled Dog

Sled dog, Holman. Photo: Darlene Coward Wight, 2000.

Inukshuit on Holman tundra

Inukshuit on Holman tundra. Photo: Darlene Coward Wight, 2000.


The terrain of Holman is Arctic tundra, a treeless landscape characterized by bedrock covered by snow in winter and dotted with short perennial plants in summer. The rocky ground is constantly freezing and thawing, producing cracks where plants take root. Beneath the tundra is permafrost, or permanently frozen ground. The area around Holman is hilly with steep cliffs and bluffs.



Temperatures range between +15 C (59 F) in summer and an average of -30C (-22F) in winter. Snowfall is whipped into drifts by drying winds. The sun drops below the horizon in early December and almost total darkness prevails until mid-January. Leading up to the summer solstice, the days become increasingly longer until the cycle reverses and complete daylight is experienced between May and August.



To adapt to the extreme cold, most Arctic animals have very thick fur. They breed and raise their young quickly in the short summer. The most common land animals found in the Holman area are caribou, musk ox, polar bear, wolves and Arctic fox. Marine animals and fish include seal and Arctic char; walrus and whale are less common in the Holman region. Many species of birds, including ducks and geese, nest in the Arctic in the summer but with the exception of the snowy owl, few stay the winter. The other common animal in Holman is the sled dog.



There are few vertical elements in the Arctic landscape. Until the 20th century there were no permanent buildings in the Holman area; winter snowhouses were replaced in summer by skin tents. A permanent feature that does stand out on the land is the inukshuk, an arrangement of stones often resembling the shape of a human. Inukshuit (plural) have been erected by Inuit for many generations as a communication tool. They act as navigational and directional aids, markers for hunting grounds and caches of food or supplies, and they are used in hunting to lure geese and corral caribou. Inukshuit also act as spiritual or sacred place markers and as strong symbolic reminders of the ancestors who built them and their way of life.



A spectacular feature of northern regions is the display of Aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights. These fluorescent-like coloured lights are caused by the movement of charged particles from the sun toward the earth. As they collide with oxygen and nitrogen in the magnetic field of the earth’s surface, some of the energy is turned into light. The colour of the lights depends on the source and altitude of the gasses; for example, high altitude oxygen produces the rare all-red lights while the most common brilliant yellow-green are a result of low level oxygen. In spite of the scientific explanation, the Northern Lights remain a mysterious and awe-inspiring sight and have long been a source for folklore, stories, and art.

Sled dogs on horizon

Sled dogs on horizon.

Snowmobile coming in from the bay

Snowmobile coming in from the bay.


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