Hall Beach * [pop: under 600]
by Lyn Hancock
Hall Beach is the kind of community you don’t find featured in many tourist brochures. Spread along a series of exposed sand and gravel beaches on the shore of Foxe Basin, and backed by a soggy carpet of lakes and tundra ponds, the place can seem rather desolate.
Yet despite its bleak facade, Hall Beach can be a rich experience for tourists. My most treasured moments in Nunavut took place here: drifting through a maze of ice sculptures at the floe edge, watching walruses and polar bears; trooping down to the beach to greet hunters bringing in belugas; and warming my hands in the body of a whale.
History & Wildlife
While most communities in Nunavut grew around trading posts, whaling stations or seasonal hunting and fishing camps, Hall Beach was created instantly when a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line site was built here in 1957 to help monitor Canadian air space in the Far North. Today the community is home to a North Warning Radar site, a technologically advanced model of the DEW Line.
Modern artifacts such as these stand in stark contrast to the piles of stone and bone strewn over gravel beaches at both ends of town, evidence of the Thule-culture Inuit and earlier Dorsetpeoples. Tent rings, food caches, grave sites, qarmait (sod houses) and semi-subterranean houses are found to the north of the community at places called Qimmiqturvik and Nappaqut.
Resting on raised beaches at the southern end of town are many Thule winter houses. Still visible are the flagstone floors, stone sleeping platforms and massive bowhead whale skulls that form doors, rafters and walls. Blocks of sod that once covered roofs lie fallen on the ground.
Early contact between Inuit and outsiders was sporadic but intense. Explorers William E. Parry and G.F. Lyon were the first Europeans to visit the area in 1822-
23 while wintering their ships at Igloolik. In the 1860s, American explorer came to this region briefly and traveled with Inuit; HallBeach and HallLake bear his name. In 1912 Alfred Tremblay, a French Canadian prospector with Capt. Joseph Berniers Pond Inlet expedition, spent some time in the area and in the 20s members of the Fifth Thule Expedition arrived to document the life of the local Inuit.
In the 1950s and 60s Inuit moved from surrounding camps to work and settle around the DEW Line site.(Sanirajak, meaning one that is along the coast in Inuktitut, refers to the broad region encompassing HallBeach). Yet, despite the rapid changes that have occurred since those years, HallBeach remains one of the most traditional communities in Nunavut.
Hall Beach: Land & Wildlife
Opportunities for birdwatching in HallBeach are endless. In the late spring and summer dozens of species of ducks, geese, swans and other waterfowl migrate north to nest on the many tundra ponds behind the community. Visitors will spot common eiders, long tailed ducks ( formerly known as oldsquaws), geese, tundra swans, phalaropes, gulls and, in high lemming years, snowy owls. Peregrine falcons can be found in hilly areas on the far side of the lake.
The tundra is also a paradise for botanists and photographers. Though sparse, the soil produces carpets of moss, lichens and ground-hugging flowers such as arctic cotton & heather, mountain avens, moss campion and lots of louseworts and saxifrages. Residents rave about the spectacular sunsets of early spring and late fall, which are accentuated by the flatness of the landscape.
Visitors will spot common eiders, long tailed ducks ( formerly known as oldsquaws), geese, tundra swans, phalaropes, gulls and, in high lemming years, snowy owls. Peregrine falcons can be found in hilly areas on the far side of the lake.
*Reproduced from the Nunavut Handbook