Gjøa Haven is a popular destination for fans of arctic history. The name honours the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who wintered here on the Gjøa Expedition. He called the place 'the finest little harbour in the world.' Amundsen and his men spent two years at Gjøa Haven, and they were busily engaged in collecting scientific data. Hunting caribou and exploring the surrounding area varied their work routines. When Amundsen arrived, there was no European settlement here. But he was in contact with the local Inuit and he learned a lot from them about survival and travel in polar regions.
The local Inuit people, the Netsilik Inuit, are direct descendants of the ancient Thule people and they have lived in the area for over a thousand years. The John Ross expedition of 1829-1833 had previously visited this region and the ill-fated John Franklin expedition of 1845 perished nearby, so Gjøa Haven is often visited by arctic history buffs. ToDay the settlement is known for its vibrant arts and crafts scene, where carvers are famous for their renderings of shamanistic faces and talented seamstresses produce beautiful articles of Inuit clothing. It is also home to excellent cultural venues including the Heritage Centre, the Hamlet Centre and the Northwest Passage Territorial Trail.
In the warm months when the tundra is covered with flowers and the sea is open, numerous arctic birds nest nearby, including loons, geese, ducks, terns, jaegers, plovers, snow buntings and snowy owls. A handsome herd of muskoxen lives on the island and there are some caribou too. When we arrive, we will be warmly welcomed to 'the finest little harbour in the world.'