To the north, a deep bay forms a natural harbour that shelters the village from fierce arctic winds. Winter ice breaks up relatively early, making the area accessible to game and ideal for hunters. The crushed remains of ancient seashells throughout the area attest to the retreat of glaciers from the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago.
Countless surrounding lakes and mountains are the natural habitat of ptarmigan, arctic hare and foxes. Islands to the north are summer refuge to many species of birds. But the steady currents of Hudson Bay favour the proliferation of both marine wildlife and terrestrial flora, too. In winter, for instance, residents practice a unique method of harvesting mussels, piercing holes in the ice and inserting a hooped net at the end of a pole to harvest the delicacy.
Incorporated as a community in 1976, the history of Akulivik goes back thousands of years, although it wasn’t until 1750 that the nearby island was named in honour of Sir Thomas Smith, a merchant, the first Governor of "The Company of Adventurers," and the discoverer of the North-West Passage.
In 1922, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post on the site of today’s settlement, which four years later was moved to a more accessible point on Qikirtajuaq. Over time, groups of Inuit gravitated toward the post, which became their summertime home until it closed in 1952, driving the once-nomadic groups to settle permanently in Puvirnituq, the next closest commercial outlet.
But the displaced people never forgot their little village on the peninsula. Beginning in 1973, many families returned there to rebuild the historic settlement of their ancestors.
If you visit during the spring, take a guided day trip to Smith Island where you will see both Canada and Snow Geese returning from their annual southern migration.
Photo credit : Mathieu Goupil