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Gjoa Haven


Gjoa Haven is located on the southeast coast of King William Island at the heart of the Northwest Passage. It is also called Uqsuqtuuk which means ‘place of plenty blubber’ in Inuktitut. The name Gjoa is named after Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen’s ship during his expedition through the Northwest Passage. While docked there over the winter, he noted that it was ‘the finest little harbour in the world’.

In 2015, after years of fruitless searching researchers acted on the oral traditions of the Inuit of Gjoa Haven and found the remains of Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1845 expedition. They found the remains of his two boats, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror preserved in the arctic waters off Gjoa Haven. You too can take part in this epic search that shaped much of modern day Nunavut. In Gjoa Haven you can speak with the holders of Inuit oral tradition and add your name to the centuries old list of arctic explorers.

Essential experiences in Gjoa Haven include:

  • Exploring the Northwest Passage Territorial Trail and see how this community is central to the ongoing saga of the passage
  • Seek out a true arctic wildlife experience, looking for caribou, muskox, and migratory birds
  • Experiencing a vibrant, welcoming Inuit community


Gjoa Haven is a community that is closely tied with the saga of the Northwest Passage. Its storied history includes contact with Scottish explorer John Ross and his crew in 1829 who were trapped in ice. It was because of the assistance of the local Inuit that they survived. Gjoa Haven was also the location of the ill-fated John Franklin expedition in 1845. John Franklin and his crew perished without ever finding the Northwest Passage.

It was Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen who founded ‘Gjøahavn’, noting it was the ‘finest little harbour in the world; He successfully traversed the Northwest Passage as the first explorer in 1906 due in large part to the local Inuit people who taught him how to survive in the Arctic.

The permanent community was founded after the Hudson’s Bay Company opened a trading post in 1927, which was followed by Roman Catholic missionaries. In the 1950’s, the population was only 110 people but has grown steadily with the establishment of schools, a nursing centre, and other essential services.


The Northwest Passage Territorial Trail will provide you with an amazing overview of the ancient and modern history of Gjoa Haven. You will see the signs of how Inuit once lived in the area, and how their interaction with the land continues today.

Today the community is a vibrant one, and still closely connected to the history of the the Northwest Passage. It is a popular destination for Arctic history buffs.