Banks Island Attractions
This, the most westerly island of the Canadian archipelago, covers an area of 70,028 sq. km (27,038 sq. mi.), somewhat less than the Republic of Ireland. North to south it measures about 400 km (250 mi.) between latitudes 71° and 74° 309 north. Its coasts other than the north are free of ice in summer. In contrast to most islands on the archipelago there are very few fiords along its coastline, and the interior is not boldly formed, the landscape being in the main gently undulating with broad river valleys. Banks Island possesses rich tundra vegetation, home to many animals, especially 25,000 musk-oxen (Ovibus moschatus), the largest population of these all together anywhere in the world. The south-western part of Banks Island, equal to about one-third of the whole, is a bird sanctuary. About 100 km (60 mi.) of the Thomsen River can be navigated by raft.
Ikaahuk Sachs Harbour, Canada
Although it had been used for hunting for perhaps 3500 years it was not until 1929 that Banks Island had a permanent settlement, when three Inuit families put down roots in Ikaahuk on the north-western tip of the island. Its "European" name derives from the Canadian Arctic expedition of 1913-15 led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, whose ship was called "Mary Sachs". Ikaahuk is a starting point for excursions. Banks Island Museum provides information on the history and archaeology of the island. There are flights to Ikaahuk from Inuvik.
Archeological digs in the region around Umingmak ("musk-oxen") by Shoran Lake revealed stone tools and weapons as well as bones from the Pre-Dorset culture c. 2000-1500 bc, some of them decorated with cult and mythological scratch-drawings. It has also been shown how, for the Inuit, the arrival of the Europeans in the 19th c. marked the start of their own "Iron Age". Having hitherto led a completely self-sufficient life, they integrated the new material with their traditional tools.
Aulavik National Park
Situated in the north of Banks Island, Aulavik, with its numerous musk-oxen, was only designated a National Park in 1994. During the summer months it is home to a large proportion of Canada's snow geese. A completely intact tundra flora is still to be found here.This extremely remote park attracts adventurers looking to hike/backpack, or paddle the Thomsen River. There are no services within the park so visitors are expected to be experienced in the outdoors and self sufficient.Visitors get to the park by chartering and aircraft, usually from Inuvik. You will need to apply for an aircraft landing permit in order to be able to land at Aulavik.