Discover our community
The community’s Northwest Passage Trail is a homage to Gjoa Haven’s history in association with the storied waterway. Based at the southeastern coast of King William Island – 250 km above the Arctic Circle – Gjoa Haven has been prominent in the national news over the past several years due to the discovery of British explorer Sir John Franklin’s lost ships. The HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror became lodged in Arctic ice in the mid 1840’s and eventually sank. It led to the demise of Franklin and his entire crew.
Numerous film crews and a growing number of curios cruise ship passengers have subsequently made their way to Gjoa Haven to learn more about the extraordinary findings.
Gjoa Haven’s Nattilik Heritage Centre is a trove of Inuit history, making it a must-see attraction. The facility, which opened in 2013, exhibits Inuit tools such as a snow knife, used to make igloos; a kakivak, a spear used for fishing; and a seal indicator, a long, curved bone placed in a seal’s breaking hole that will get pushed upwards and give Inuit hunters advanced notice when their prey come up for air.
A belt made of bone fragments and sinew is on display. It was worn by a shaman, an Inuit religious figure. There are also artifacts from Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, including a bow and arrow that he had acquired through trading. Amundsen, captain of the vessel Gjoa, and his crew spent 1903-1905 in the community, leaving the name Gjoa Haven as a legacy. There are Inuit who can trace their lineage back to the Norwegian visitors.
In the years that Amundsen lived among the Inuit, they showed him their survival skills and command of dog-teams. He traded metal objects for Inuit cloths and traditional tools. After he departed, he became the first European to sail through the Northwest Passage in 1906.
A cairn in tribute to Amundsen stands near the harbor which the Norwegian captain described as “the finest little harbor in the world”.
Arctic char run in late August and early September. For visitors with the time and ambition to go farther afield, there’s a fossil site less than 10 km from the community where remains of sea creatures can be seen. Three kilometers to the west of Gjoa Haven, you’ll find rock shelters believed to once belong to the Tunit, or Dorset people, legendary giants.
Gjoa Haven is an alcohol prohibited community, meaning no alcohol is permitted.
Community supplies are brought in once a year by sea lift ships. Perishable goods and other items can be flown in. Regular air service is provided by Canadian North ATR.