In Search of Ancient Artifacts on Somerset Island

Imagine setting foot on a barren landscape, no human life in sight.  Ahead of you are vast stretches of rolling tundra, with Muskox strolling along the horizon.  Your guide summons you over to a bone sled that’s has been discovered, abandoned between 500-1,000 years ago.  Despite your surroundings, you haven’t stepped back in time. It’s 2017, and you’re exploring the remote and untouched Northwest Passage, 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

In examining the artifacts found on Somerset Island, history is pieced together right before your eyes.  Wildlife walks free, unbothered by the occasional small group of humans in awe.  Daily excursions are a fusion of history, adventure and unique wildlife observation.

Study the crumbling remains of homes, built by the Thule people in the 13th century. The Thule were a nomadic culture, and built both summer and winter homes based on where the hunting could be had.  The winter sites were built higher inland, with a complex system of connecting tunnels.  Summer sites are still found scattered around the Cunningham Inlet, their close proximity built by the Thule for the purpose of hunting belugas each summer.

Today the belugas remain, but are observed rather than hunted in the Cunningham Inlet. Observe, paddleboard or kayak alongside friendly and curious beluga whales, who come to the Cunningham Inlet every summer to molt their skin and feed their young. Relish Canadian history with a visit to the Hudson’s Bay trading post on Port Leopold, complete with old fox traps and trading relics.  The most northerly of all HBC trading posts, the post was active from 1937-1948 and the trading store and manager’s residence remains.  Rotting furniture has been left behind, an eerie snapshot of a once-forgotten time.

Adventures abound at Arctic Watch, all centered around this unique and remote region. Stroll the tundra or zip through the sands on an ATV, passing 1,000-year-old historical sites and timeworn animal skulls.  Pass snow-white polar bears, strolling the expansive land in search of a snack.  (Keep your hands inside your vehicle at all times!) Watch for Arctic Fox, muskox and countless bird species.  Despite the seemingly barren landscape, land-based wildlife exists here and is well worth the wait.

Daily explorations are satiated by gourmet, Canadian-inspired fare, and evenings are punctuated with tales of Arctic explorations.  The Arctic Watch team is run by the Weber family, famed Arctic explorers. Patriarch Richard Weber has been honored with the Order of Canada, having completed over 60 Arctic, North and South Pole expeditions.  Matriarch Josée Auclair is a former professional skier for Team Canada, and has led women’s polar treks to the North and South Pole.  Sons Tessum and Nansen are Arctic explorers, athletes, photographers and expert guides.  At Arctic Watch you’ll experience true Northern hospitality from Arctic experts, unrivalled adventures and memories to last a lifetime.

If you’re looking to explore the Arctic in style, check out Arctic Canada; North of Extraordinary.