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The Yukon's Arctic Coast

The Yukon's Arctic Coast - satellite view

    The information that follows has largely been reproduced from the 1968 edition of "Pilot of Canada," published by the Canadian Hydrographic Service. As such, it cannot be used for current navigation - it is posted for historical interest. Satellite images and other details have been added to enhance that information where appropriate, but in some cases the added details may cause some contradictory information. Clicking on each satellite image, including the one above which shows the entire Yukon Arctic coast, will open an interactive map at Google Maps.

    This document begins with general information about the Yukon's Arctic coast, then continues with detailed information about navigating the coast by boat. You can go directly to some of the major points:

Beaufort Sea and Contiguous Mainland Coast of Canada.

    The Beaufort Sea forms a part of the Arctic Ocean and is a wedge-shaped area bounded, on the south, by the northern coasts of Alaska and Canada and, on the east, by the most westerly of the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

    The northern limit of the Beaufort Sea is a line from Point Barrow, the most northerly point of Alaska, to Lands End (Lat. 76° 22' N., Long. 122° 36' W.) on Prince Patrick Island; the eastern limit is formed by the coast of Prince Patrick Island from Lands End to Griffiths Point, thence by a line to Cape Prince Alfred, the northwestern extremity of Banks Island, thence by the west coast of Banks Island to Cape Kellett, and thence by a line from Cape Kellett to Cape Bathurst (Lat. 70° 35' N., Long. 128° 01' W.) on the mainland coast. Amundsen Gulf extends eastward from the southeastern side of the Beaufort Sea.

Depths. - The deepest soundings obtained in the Beaufort Sea are in its western part where depths of just over 2,000 fathoms (3,657m) have been measured about 130 miles northward of the Alaskan coast. Further eastward the depths decrease and the maximum at the southeastern end of the Beaufort Sea, about half way between Banks Island and the mainland coast, is about 250 fathoms (457m). Off the Alaskan coast the continental shelf has an average width of about 30 miles and shoal water, with depths of less than 6 fathoms (11m), extends from 5 to 10 miles offshore. Further eastward along the Canadian coast, between Herschel Island (Lat. 69° 35' N., Long. 139° 05' W.) and Cape Bathurst, a relatively shallow coastal shelf, with depths of under 30 fathoms (54m), extends from 50 to 70 miles offshore and most of this coast is fringed with an extensive area of shoal water. To the westward of Banks Island, Stefansson found that the continental shelf was about 100 miles in width.

Currents. - In the Beaufort Sea currents appear to be irregular and unpredictable, and dependent almost entirely on the prevailing winds. Storkerson, of Stefansson's 1913-18 expedition, drifted on an ice floe for six months between April and October 1918 in the central part of this sea, about 150 to 200 miles northward of the Alaskan coast. During this period he found that his drift was always governed by the wind and, although the total distance drifted was about 440 miles, he ended up within 70 miles of his starting point. Westward of Banks Island Stefansson found some evidence of a permanent drift to the southward.

    Along the coastal areas the currents are generally weak and irregular and, as elsewhere in the Beaufort Sea, appear to be dependent on the prevailing wind, with wide day to day variations. Under sustained winds, the currents may occasionally attain a velocity of 2 knots.

Ice Conditions and Navigation. - Throughout the year the greater part of the Beaufort Sea is filled with the heavy floes and pack ice typical of the Arctic Ocean. The mainland coast from Point Barrow eastward to Amundsen Gulf and the west coast of Banks Island lie exposed to this moving pack. Inshore of the main pack, the fast ice is only a few miles wide along the Alaskan coast but it extends from 10 to 30 miles offshore in the vicinity of the Mackenzie delta.

    This ice may be expected to loosen and break up towards the end of July and except in bad ice years, naviation should be possible along this coast throughout August and September. In severe ice years, however, the navigation season may not open until well into August and ice may form again early in September. On the other hand, the season has commenced in some years as early as late July or closed late in October. In fact, the seasons and ice conditions vary greatly from year to year, depending mainly on the prevailing winds in any particular summer.

    Westerly winds bring the Beaufort Sea ice in to the land and if they prevail throughout much of the summer, it will be a bad ice year when even shallow-draught vessels may have great difficulty in forcing a passage along the coast. Easterly or northeasterly winds carry the main pack away from the land and in some years have been known to drive the Beaufort Sea ice so far offshore that a direct passage could easily be made from Point Barrow to Cape Bathurst. Eastward of Herschel Island, Larsen reports that on several occasions he made the passage through to Amundsen Gulf and onwards, without seeing a piece of ice from late July to the first week of September. In some years, however, he found Mackenzie Bay packed with ice until late August and in order to get eastward, he had to work well towards the head of the bay to circumvent it.

    Where shallow water extends seaward for miles, as it does off much of the north coast of Alaska, one is sure to encounter grounded floes early in the season and during the entire season, if the Beaufort Sea pack is near the coast. Medium and giant floes, particularly those which are heavily hummocked, often ground in 10 fathoms (18.3m) of water, some in 9 fathoms (16.5m), some in 8 fathoms (14.6m) or less. Depending on the winds and orientation of the 6-fathom (11m) and 10-fathom (18.3m) curves, some areas will be more affected than others.

    When these grounded floes are encountered and the ice fields are against them, it will be necessary to decide whether to try and run on the shore side of the floes or work the ice on the seaward side since heavy grounded floes close together are almost impossible to work; they are several years old and have been formed by ice tenting and rafting under pressure during the winter. These grounded floes can be good or bad. They are good if there is onshore pressure and a vessel is on the shore side of a floe grounded in an area where the bottom gradient causes the floe to ground some distance from the beach. Then, if there is manoeuvring room and 6 or 7 fathoms (11m or 12.8m) on the shore side, there will be some protection and if the draught of the vessel is not too great, it may be possible to navigate along the shore with this protection for long distances. This was the usual practice of the whalers making a passage to the eastern part of the Beaufort Sea and to Amundsen Gulf. On the other hand, there may be few floes of deep draught and in this case they will push into shallower water, to the 6, 5 and 4-fathom (11m, 9.1m and 7.3m) curves and perhaps force a deep-draught vessel aground. Also, on some sections of the Alaskan coastline the bottom gradient between the 4-fathom (7.3m) and 10-fathom (18.3m) curves is so steep that the heavy floes may be very close to the 4-fathom (7.3m) curve and a vessel of over 20 feet (6.1m) draught cannot remain inside them. On such sections of the coast deep-draught vessels will be compelled to move further offshore into ice which may be under pressure from onshore winds.

    In most years the ice is too close to the north coast of Alaska to permit an ice-free route direct from Point Barrow to Cape Bathurst. It thus becomes necessary to edge along the coast between the ice and the minimum safe depth in which the vessel can navigate, following the least hazardous route which can be found. With deep-draught vessels and ice near the shore, it is probable that the best route will be inside the 10-fathom (18.3m) curve from Point Barrow to about Long. 150° W., and then proceed outside the 10-fathom (18.3m) curve.vMedium and shallow-draught vessels can follow the inshore route further eastward, almost as far as Barter Island (Lat. 70° 07' N., Long. 143° 40' W.), taking advantage, in places, of the shelter afforded by the islands lying off parts of this coast. In Larsen's opinion the most difficult part of the eastward voyage is over when Barter Island is reached and, from here, it may be possible to shape a direct course for a position about 5 miles north of Herschel Island.

    From a position in Lat. 69° 42' N., Long. 139° 00' W., about 5 miles northward of Herschel Island, supply vessels making for Amundsen Gulf and areas further eastward have, under favourable conditions, been able to follow a fairly direct route, on a course of 077° for about 134 miles to a position in Lat. 70° 12' N., Long. 132° 40' W., and then on a course of 074° for a further 83 miles to a position in Lat. 70° 35' N., Long. 128° 42' W., about 14 miles westward of Cape Bathurst.

    However, in some years the ice may extend into Mackenzie Bay in a V-shaped tongue along Longitude 137° W. Attempts to cut across this tongue of ice can be very difficult as the outflow from the Mackenzie River keeps the ice close-packed. If the depth of water permits, a vessel should work southward around this tongue and up the eastern side of Mackenzie Bay where, however, great caution must be used to avoid grounding in the shallow water which extends many miles offshore in that area.

Local Climate of the Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf.

Pressure. - The weather in this area is affected by centres of low pressure moving into the Arctic from the west. These lows may have originated in the North Pacific, or may have originally formed as far away as the North Atlantic and then circled the pole as they moved eastward along the Eurasian coast (Fig. 13 in Vol. I). Centres of high pressure form over the polar sea during all seasons. In most cases those moving over the Beaufort Sea will continue to move south- eastward up the Mackenzie Valley, but less frequently highs will become station- ary over the Beaufort Sea (Fig. 14 in Vol. 1). The general circulation resulting from these migrating pressure centres is rather indefinite in summer but becomes definitely southeasterly in autumn (Figs. 9-12 in Vol. I). Mean pressure during the navigation season is 1012 mb.

Winds. - Winds from the east and southeast are the most frequent, but those from the west and northwest are almost as common. Winds from the other four points are relatively rare except near the coasts where the terrain may have a direct influence on the wind direction. Gales will, on the average, occur on 3-4 days per month over the Beaufort Sea. In Amundsen Gulf, gales normally occur on one day per month in July and August and increase in frequency to 3-4 days per month later in the season.

Temperature. - July is the warmest month of the year with the mean temperature for the month varying from less than 40° F. over the Beaufort Sea to near 50° F. on the mainland coast. While frost usually occurs in July, tempera- tures lower than 30° F. are unusual. Temperatures of 80° F. or more may occur on the coast but over the water the variation from the mean temperature is not nearly as great. In August the general features of the temperature are the same as for July except that the values everywhere are about 3° F. cooler. During September the mean temperature begins to fall more rapidly and the mean for that month is near freezing over all this area. Unusually high temperatures near 60° F. may occur in this month, but the temperature may also fall to near 10° F. In October the mean temperature is about 17° F., days with above freezing temperatures become infrequent and below zero temperatures may occur (Figs. 17-20 in Vol. I).

Precipitation. - Monthly precipitation averaged over the area is about 1.0 inches in July and decreases to 0.7 inches by October. It is greater in the eastthan the west during all months. The frequency of occurrence is about one day in three. In July snow falls on two days per month over the Beaufort Sea but is not likely in Amundsen Gulf. By September the possibilities of days with rain or snow are about equal. Rain will fall on the average during one day in October.

Clouds. - The frequency of occurrence of low cloud over the Beaufort Sea increases rapidly in spring and reaches a maximum in the period July-October when overcast skies occur, on the average, on 25 days per month. Normal sky conditions over Amundsen Gulf are overcast on three days out of five in July and increasing to three out of four in September and October.

Fog and visibility. - Heavy fog normally is observed at Barrow, Alaska, on 13 days in July, 9 in August, and 4 in each of September and October. Farther east along the margin of the Beaufort Sea at Herschel Island fog occurs on 7 days in July, 5 in August, 2 in September and on an average of less than one in October. On the usual route along the shore lead the frequency of occurrence of fog will be as great or greater than at these sites on shore. At Holman, the only observing station on the shores of Amundsen Gulf, the normal number of days with fog are: - 6 in July, 4 in August, 2 in September and 1 in October.

Climatological table. (click on it to enlarge it in a new window)

Climatological table for Herschel Island, Yukon

Mainland coast.

    The north coast of Alaska extends from Point Barrow (Lat. 71° 23' N., Long. 156° 28' W.) to the 141st meridian (West) which forms the boundary between U.S.A. and Canada. Eastward of the 141st meridian, the mainland coast is formed by the Yukon Territory as far as Longitude 136° 29' W. and thence by the District of Mackenzie, part of the Northwest Territories, as far as Longitude 102° W.

    A general description of the physiography of the mainland coast of Canada, as a whole, is given in Chapter I of Volume I of this Pilot. A detailed description of the north coast of Alaska will be found in the United States Coast Pilot of this area and will not be included in this Pilot.

    From Demarcation Point, which is situated about 612 miles west-northwest- ward of the point where the 141st meridian cuts the coast, the distance to Cape Bathurst is about 275 miles in a direct line. Between Herschel Island (Lat. 69° 35' N., Long. 139° 02' W.) and Cape Dalhousie, some 200 miles in a direct line east-northeastward, the coast recedes to form a great embayment, at the head of which the Mackenzie River flows into Mackenzie and Kugmallit Bays, while the eastern portion of this coast, between Capes Dalhousie and Bathurst, is indented by Liverpool Bay.

    A coastal plain, widest in the vicinity of Point Barrow, extends eastward to the Mackenzie Delta, narrowing to a width of 10 to 20 miles along the Arctic coast of the Yukon where it is backed, from west to east, by the British Mountains, the Buckland Mountains, the Barn Mountains and the Richardson Mountains at distances of about 15 to 30 miles inland. Between Demarcation Point and the Mackenzie Delta, this plain is characterized by stretches of low coastal cliffs, 20 to 40 feet (6.1m to 12.0m) high, and shallow water extends for some distance offshore. Numerous broad, braided streams meander through this waterlogged plain and at their mouths build up deltas, sandspits, lagoons and low alluvial islets which serve to hold in check the ocean which elsewhere is continually eroding the coast.

    The Mackenzie Delta stretches eastward and northeastward from the Richardson Mountains (Lat. 68° 20' N., Long. 136° 50' W.) and is formed of a maze of alluvial banks and islands, separated by meandering channels, all of which may considerably alter their shape and orientation over a period of years as the result of spring floods and the consequent re-disposition of the river sediments. The delta is tree-covered almost to the coast and is very low-lying for the most part but some of the islands at its northern end rise to heights of about 100 feet (30.5m), and immediately eastward of the delta, the Caribou Hills rise to at least 500 feet (152.4m). All the numerous entrances to the Mackenzie River are shallow and the shoal water extends some distance seaward.

    Eastward of the Mackenzie Delta the low coastal plain extends towards Cape Bathurst and the off-lying Baillie Islands, and is bordered by extensive shoals, spits and sandbars. The coastline in this sector is extremely complex as a result of the gradual sinking of this heavily lake-strewn, almost level area. Low conical hills rising to 100 or 200 feet (30.5m or 61.0m) at a few places, a short distance inland, form the only distinctive features from seaward.

Coast. - Demarcation Point to Herschel Island.

    Demarcation Point (Lat. 69° 41' N., Long. 141° 18' W.) is the western extremity of a 2-mile long finger-like projection, extending westward from the northeastern side of Demarcation Bay.

    From Demarcation Point, the coast consisting of steep, narrow sand beaches, rising from 20 to 30 feet (6.1m to 9.1m), is backed by tundra containing small ponds and braided streams.

    The 5-fathom (9.1m) line is close to, and parallels the coast at a distance of 3 cables, thus permitting small boats to navigate close offshore.

    The U.S.A.-Canada boundary monument, in the form of a 4-foot (1.2m) obelisk, is situated 6½ miles east-southeast from Demarcation Point, and about 100 feet (30.5m) inland from the steep sand beach.

    Clarence Lagoon, four miles east of the international boundary monument, is almost landlocked, but for a small entrance 2½ cables wide. It is fed by water from the Clarence River and Craig Creek and another unnamed stream, which drain the surrounding swamp land. The water in the lagoon is muddy and shallow with a depth of 8 feet (2.4m). Anchorage about 2½ miles north of the lagoon, in 11 fathoms (20.1m), indicates a sand and mud bottom.

    The coast from Clarence Lagoon to Komakuk Beach, 13 miles eastward, has a swampy nature for about 2 miles inland to the foot of the British Mountains which rise to a height of 6,564 feet (1,996.7m). Various small streams have their outlets along this coast, among which are the Backhouse River and also Fish Creek which discharge through several braided streams in the vicinity of Komakuk Beach.

Komakuk Beach

Komakuk Beach, Yukon - satellite view

    Komakuk Beach (Lat. 69° 36' N., Long. 140° 11' W.), about 7 miles eastwards from the Backhouse River, has a good landing beach and can be identified by the conspicuous buildings in its vicinity.

Conspicuous buildings. - Tower. - oil tanks. - A group of buildings, the most conspicuous of which is a dome, is situated close inland from the western end of the beach. A tower with a height of 300 feet (91.4m) and surmounted by a flashing red light is situated at the southwestern end of the buildings; three oil tanks are situated at their eastern end. This complex was a DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line) Auxiliary site, BAR-1. A NWS site (North Warning System) was established October 1990, and DEW operations ceased on August 4, 1993.

Landing beach. - The beach, about 300 feet (91.4m) deep, is composed of fine shingle and sand, with a gradient of about 1:7, and is suitable for dry-ramping an L.S.T. A prepared road leads to the beach.

Depths. - Dangers. - The average depth along the beach is 24 feet (7.3m) but is shallow for a short distance offshore at its western extremity. There appear to be no dangers in the recommended approach.

Anchorage. - Anchorage has been obtained in good holding ground between half a mile and one mile offshore. The anchorage is unprotected and, when there is no ice offshore, winds between east and west, through north, can create a heavy swell and breakers along the beach. On occasions when the anchorage becomes untenable, shelter should be sought in Thetis Bay at Herschel Island.

Tides. - Under normal weather conditions the tide appears to have a range of about 2 feet (0.6m).

Radio beacon. - An aircraft radio beacon, situated in Lat. 69° 36' N., Long. 140° 10' W., transmits a characteristic of "AJ" on a frequency of 388 kcs.

Airstrip. - An airstrip, having a length of 534 cables, is situated between the buildings and the beach.

Fresh water. - A supply of fresh water is available at a freshwater lake about one mile southwestward of the buildings.

Directions. - From a position in Lat. 69° 38' N., Long. 140° 14' W., a course of 155° will lead to the centre of the beach which lies about 042° from the tower, the best landmark for navigational use.

    Deviations from this approach will often be necessary in order to avoid the ice which remained in the area after break-up. In 1959, a bad ice year, an L.S.T. had to run parallel with the shoreline at a distance of about 250 feet (76.2m) for almost a mile, in 16 feet (4.9m) of water in order to approach the beach behind a 40-foot (12.2m) ridge of hummocked fast ice.

    The coast easterly from Komakuk Beach to the vicinity of Herschel Island is striated by many streams, the mouths of which are fronted by Nunaluk Spit, a long narrow spit lying about 3 cables offshore and extending 10 to 12 miles parallel to the coast. The Malcolm River and Firth River discharge through extensive deltas near the eastern extremity of Nunaluk Spit.

Herschel Island

Herschel Island, Yukon - satellite view

Herschel Island (Lat. 69° 35' N., Long. 139° 02' W.), 20 miles eastward of Komakuk Beach, is about 9 miles east-west and, at its broadest north-south, about 7 miles. It has sliding mud cliffs and consists mainly of rolling hills from 300 feet (91.4m) to more than 500 feet (152.4m) high, intersected by small stream valleys; a maximum elevation of 596 feet (181.7m) is reached in the central part of the island. The hills are covered with tundra with sparse patches of dwarf willow from 6 to 8 inches high. The northern side of the island is conspicuous, consisting of steep, dark, muddy silt cliffs rising to a height of about 400 feet (121.9m).

    On the west side of the island, a 3-mile long sand spit, Avadlek Spit, extends southwesterly terminating in Welles Point. Orca Cove, lying between Avadlek Spit and the southwestern side of the island, is entered between Welles Point and Lopez Point, 2 miles eastward. The passage between Herschel Island and the mainland has depths of less than 6 feet (1.8m) and is generally not used except by native schooners. Vessels drawing less than 5 feet (1.5m) can, however, navigate this passage if the recommended track is followed. Thrasher Bay, lying close eastward of Lopez Point, like Orca Cove, is too shallow other than for use by small boats.

    Osborn Point, the southern tip of the island, is a sandy spit lying within one mile of the mainland and forms the southwestern entrance point of Thetis Bay. There are two small islands and a rock with less than 6 feet (1.8m) of water, lying off the southern tip of Osborn Point, which constrict the passage between Osborn Point and Calton Point three-quarters of a mile southward. Thetis Bay is the open bight entered on the southeastern side of the island between Osborn Point and Simpson Point, 5 miles northeastward.

    Pauline Cove, in the northeastern part of Thetis Bay, has the settlement of Herschel situated on the low spit forming its southern side.

Transportation. - Communication. - Supplies and mail are received by boat from Inuvik during the navigation season. Mail is also brought to the settlement by charter flight and R.C.M.P. patrols.

Landing beach. - The beach on the north side of the spit is fine gravel and makes a good landing place for small boats and seaplanes. There is deep water close up to the beach 2 cables west of the R.C.M.P. detachment; in calm weather ships drawing up to 13 feet (4.0m) can berth at the beach with a gangway ashore. No jetties exist.

Anchorages. - Thetis Bay offers a good anchorage in depths of 4 to 6 fathoms (7.3m to 11.0m). There is good shelter except from between east and south but little protection from drifting ice. Small ships can anchor in Pauline Cove in a depth of 242 fathoms (4.6m), soft mud. It is sheltered, except from the southwest but the holding ground is not very good.

Fresh water. - Fresh water can be obtained from small lakes in the hills northeast of the settlement.

Ice. - Break-up usually occurs in the first week of July and freeze-up in the last week of September.

Weather. - See Climatological Table above.

Directions. - Approach from the westward is around the north side of the island. Collinson Head, 262 feet (79.9m) in height, is a cliffy headland at the southeastern extremity of the island, and may be rounded at a distance of 5 cables in 5 to 6 fathoms (9.1m to 11.0m).

Mackenzie Bay is a deep indentation in the south shore of the Beaufort Sea, between the northern point of Herschel Island and an unnamed point about 3 miles south of Pullen Island (Lat. 69° 43' N., Long. 134° 23' W.).

    The western shore of the bay trends south-southeastward parallel to the Barn Range and Richardson Mountains which rise to heights of from 4,500 to 6,500 feet (1,371.6m to 1,981.2m) about 30 miles inland.

    A coastal plain, rarely more than half a mile wide, occurs in most places along the coast. For most of the distance, a rolling plateau rises abruptly from the coast, or from the coastal plain where it is present and, gradually rising to a height of over 400 feet (121.9m), extends inland to the north face of the mountains.

Coast. - Herschel Island to Shingle Point.

    From Herschel Island the coast trends 13 miles in a south-southeasterly direction to Stokes Point.

Depths. - Dangers. - Along most of this section of coast relatively deep water can be found close to the beach, depths of between 3½ and 5½ fathoms (6.4m and 10.0m) being found 1½ cables offshore along the coast for 5 miles north-northwest of Stokes Point.

Ptarmigan Bay, one mile southward of Osborn Point, provides the only anchorage between Pauline Cove and Phillips Bay, 20 miles southeastward.

    The eastern side of the bay is formed by a 3-mile long spit with Calton Point at its northern end. This projection is formed of sand and gravel with a discontinuous cover of driftwood. A prominent 40-foot (12.2m) hill stands in the middle, which may be the only part of the spit above water in a heavy storm.

    Depths. - Depths of 5 or 6 feet (1.5m or 1.8m) exist in the outer part of the bay.

    Anchorage. - A fairly good anchorage can be obtained in about 5 feet (1.5m) of water in the lee of the hill; however, the bay is not easy to enter in bad weather and a boat would do better to seek shelter at Pauline Cove in adverse weather conditions.

    Fresh water. - Drinking water is obtainable near the cabins at the head of Ptarmigan Bay.

Roland Bay, 8 miles south-southeastward of Calton Point, penetrates the coast to a depth of 2 miles in a southerly direction.

Stokes Point

Stokes Point, Yukon - satellite view

    Stokes Point (Lat. 69° 20' N., Long. 138° 42' W.) is situated 5 miles south-east of Roland Bay. It is a low point that can be identified by the buildings nearby. The buildings provide a good radar target, although it is reported the buildings blend into the background, making them difficult to distinguish by eye. This complex was a DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line) Intermediate site, BAR-B. DEW operations ceased in 1963, and an NWS (North Warning System) Short Range Radar site was established in July 1991.

    About half a mile southwest of Stokes Point, the land rises sharply to a hill with an elevation of 118 feet (36.0m), a little below the crest of which are situated the group of buildings. Two oil tanks are situated close eastwards of the buildings and two similar tanks are situated at an elevation of 20 feet (6.1m) behind a landing beach about half a mile southeastwards.

    Landing beach. - A landing beach, suitable for landing craft with a maximum draught of 4 feet (1.2m), is situated close eastwards of the oil tanks referred to above. It is about 500 feet (152.4m) long and about 250 feet (76.2m) deep and composed of small shingle and sand. The near shore gradient is about 1:12 but further offshore it is about 1:15. A prepared road leads from the buildings to the beach.

    Depths. - Dangers. - The 3-fathom (5.5.) contour parallels the shore at a distance of 3 cables between Stokes Point and the landing beach; depths of 3 and 4 feet (0.9m and 1.2m) exist at the beaching area. An extensive shoal, about 2½ miles long north-south and three-quarters of a mile wide, lies 4 miles north-eastward of Stokes Point. Depths of as little as one foot (0.3m) have been found in this area, which has not yet been fully investigated. Apart from the shoal just referred to, there appears to be no known dangers in the approaches to the beaching area.

    Anchorage. - Anchorage can be obtained in about 3 fathoms (5.5m) about 6 cables offshore from the beaching area; the bottom, of light silt, affords poor holding. The anchorage is unprotected; the nearest shelter is to be found at Thetis Bay should this anchorage become untenable.

    Airstrip. - An airstrip, which is no longer maintained, but might be used in an emergency, lies about half a mile southwestward of the buildings.

    Directions. - Vessels should make for a position 3 miles, 000° from Stokes Point on a course of 225° to clear the shoals off the point; from this position course should be altered towards the beaching area, keeping 2 miles offshore.

    When the beach oil tanks bear about 225°, course can be altered towards the beaching area.

Phillips Bay, Kay Point, Babbage River

Phillips Bay, Kay Point, Babbage River, Yukon - satellite view

    Kay Point, 7 miles southeast of Stokes Point, is the northern extremity of a 6-mile long peninsula projecting northward from the mainland. The peninsula has a maximum elevation of 250 feet (76.2m) but Kay Point itself is no more than 20 or 30 feet (6.1m or 9.1m) high.

    A narrow spit extends for 2½ miles southwestward from Kay Point, to form a natural harbour for small boats and schooners. However, local Inuvialuit reported (1963) that this harbour has shallowed in recent years and no longer offers sufficient water for vessels drawing more than 3 feet (0.9m).

    Phillips Bay, rectangular in shape, with Kay Point peninsula forming its eastern limit, lies 4 miles southeast of Stokes Point.

    The Babbage River discharges into Phillips Bay in its southeastern sector, through many low islands formed by the alluvial deposits of the river.

    The main, or eastern, distributary channel is narrow and boats must use extreme caution when entering it, but once inside depths of up to 10 feet (3.0.) can be found. This channel can be safely navigated to the point where it makes its nearest approach to the coast which it parallels.

    The lagoon at the southwestern corner of the bay has depths of between 3 and 6 feet (0.9m and 1.8m) at its entrance and apparently general depths of 3 feet (0.9m) in its southern part. Anchorage for small boats has been obtained in fine weather inside the spit forming the northern side of the entrance. This spit is usually under water in bad weather.

    Depths of 9 feet (2.7m), over a sand bottom, exist 1½ miles northward from the entrance to Phillips Bay.

    Coast. - From Kay Point, the coast fronted by 100-foot (30.5m) bluffs, backed by numerous small ponds and streams, trends southeastward 15 miles to King Point, which is a sandspit forming the seaward side of a harbour for small boats.

    The normal entrance route lies close to the end of the sandspit. Depths within the harbour are remarkably uniform, varying little from 10 feet (3.0m). The master of the Radium Dew, which anchored here in 1963, reported depths of 10 to 12 feet (3.0m to 3.7m) in the entrance with deeper water inside the harbour. Small boats usually anchor either close to the base of the sandspit or off the west mainland coast, depending upon wind conditions. In 1957, there were no permanent inhabitants at King Point, although there was an R.C.M.P. hut near the base of the sandspit, and several deserted log cabins on the south side of the harbour in a belt of driftwood up to 150 feet (45.7m) in width. Bare, forbidding, wave-cut cliffs extend northwest from King Point to Kay Point. The highest cliffs, 180 feet (54.9m) high, are at King Point and make it a prominent landmark. The cliffs are being rapidly cut back at an estimated average rate of one to two feet (0.3m to 0.6m) a year and the sand and gravel from them are washed southeastward to build the sandspit that protects King Point harbour. To the southeast of King Point, the cliffs are generally less than 50 feet (15.2m) high.

    As the cliffs at King Point recede, the sandspit is also being driven steadily southward and the changing submarine topography should be kept in mind by those using this harbour. In 1905-1906, Roald Amundsen with the crew of the Gjoa, wintered at King Point. Photographs taken at this time and compared with the present coast show that the sandspit has been driven landwards some 50 to 100 feet (15m to 30™5). In 1905-1906 the Gjoa was anchored seaward from the sandspit in about 10 feet (30) of water. As the shoreline has retreated, a fairly constant submarine profile seems to have been maintained, with present offshore depths being similar to those of 1905-1906, so that the former anchorage of the Gjoa is now in deeper water. Offshore depths are relatively great in comparison with other areas. Depths increase gradually seaward, reaching about 7 fathoms (12.8m) one mile from shore.

    Continuing 13 miles southeastward to Shingle Point, the land along the coast is level-topped, with mud cliffs rising from a narrow shingle beach to a height of from 100 to 200 feet (30.5m to 61.0m), from which height it rises uniformly towards the 4,000- or 5,000-foot (1,219.2m or 1,524.0m) mountains 20 or more miles away.

    Notable features on this stretch of coast are three or four immense mounds standing on a nearly level space in a break in the high banks between King Point and Sabine Point 7 miles to the southeast. They are 20 to 40 feet (6.1m to 12.2m) high and their conical summits are at least 100 feet (30.5m) above sea level. Sabine Point is reported to be low and inconspicuous.

Shingle Point

Shingle Point, Yukon - satellite view

    Shingle Point (Lat. 69° 00' N., Long. 137° 21' W.), on the mainland, is formed by bare sandy bluffs 50 to 80 feet (15.2m to 24.4m) high, and rises steeply behind a 2-mile-long sandspit extending easterly. This spit forms the seaward side of a sheltered harbour for small boats drawing less than 5 feet (1.5m). Depths in the outer or eastern part of the harbour are between 6 and 7 feet (1.8m and 2.1m); in the inner part, between 3 and 5 feet (0.9m and 1.5m). It should be emphasized that the depths may be appreciably affected by high winds.

    Shingle Point on the spit now has no permanent residents, although it was once the home of many Inuvialuits with, at times, trading facilities and a school. It now serves as a summer fishing camp used by the Inuvialuits and there are many buildings.

    Fresh water is obtainable from the creek entering the drowned valley at the base of the spit.

    Small boats approaching Shingle Point from the east usually sail between Escape Reef and the coast in depths of 7 to 10 feet (2.1 to 3.0m). The approach from the west can be made parallel to the spit and one cable offshore in depths of 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3.0m). Depths under 5 feet (1.5m) may be encountered near the eastern end of the spit.

    Depths. - Danger. - Depths southeast of Shingle Point are less than one fathom (1.8m). Escape Reef, a sandy above-water shoal 1½ miles in length, lies about 4 miles east of Shingle Point. Depths between Escape Reef and Shingle Point spit are probably less than one fathom (1.8m). Depths of less than 12 feet (3.7m) exist up to 6 miles northward and eastward from the reef.

    Trent Bay (Lat. 68° 58' N., Long. 137° 12' W.), a minor indentation of the coast, is situated between the mouth of the Blow River and the mouth of Walking River 3 miles northwestwards. The land in its vicinity rises fairly steeply from the shoreline to about 150 feet (45.7m) and is deeply ravined in places. The bay can be identified by the buildings in its vicinity.

    Conspicuous buildings, tower, oil tanks. - About 22 miles southwards of Walking River is a group of buildings, the most prominent of which is a dome, situated at an elevation of about 160 feet (48.8m). Close southward of the buildings is a conspicuous tower, surmounted by a flashing red light; on the northern side are two oil tanks; two similar tanks are situated on the beach one mile north-northeastwards. This complex was a DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line) Auxiliary site, BAR-2. DEW operations ceased in June 1989, and a NWS site (North Warning System) was established at that time.

    Landing beach. - A prepared gravel ramp with deadmen embedded in it, is used by barges which lie alongside in between 5 and 6 feet (1.5m and 1.8m) of water.

    Depths. - Shallow water extends for a considerable distance to seaward of the beaching area. Soundings on the recommended course of 218°, which leads to the beach oil tanks, decrease gradually from 6 feet (1.8m) 3 miles offshore to 4 feet (1.2m) 5 cables from the tanks. Note. - Strong easterly winds lower the water level in this area; strong westerly winds have the opposite effect.

    Anchorage. - Good anchorage can be obtained in 8 feet (2.4m) on the southern side of Escape Reef. A more sheltered anchorage can be obtained inside Shingle Point spit though in much shallower water.

    Discoloured water. - Discoloured water in this area is due to alluvial content carried by the westerly current produced by the Mackenzie River.

    Tides. - Currents. - The normal range of tide appears to be about 2 feet (0.6m) though this may vary widely. A current with a constant westerly set, apparently due to the outflow from the Blow River, has been noted between half a mile and 2 miles offshore.

    Winds. - Observations over an eight-month period indicated winds predominantly from the southwest and northwest. While strong winds (in excess of 30 knots) occurred in both of these quadrants, the greater percentage were from the southwest.

    Airstrip. - An airstrip, at the 140-foot (42.7m) level, parallels the head of Trent Bay about half a mile inland. A lighted wind cone, showing a flashing green light, and a shelter hut are situated at its northwestern end.

    Radio beacon. - An aeronautical radio beacon, transmitting the characteristic "UA" on a frequency of 221 kcs, is situated in Lat. 68° 56' 41" N., Long. 137° 13' 06" W.

    Fresh water. - Fresh water is obtainable from a lake about 3 miles southwards from the beach which is connected to it by a prepared road.

    Directions. - From a position about 2 miles 090° from the eastern extremity of Escape Reef, a course of 218° leads directly to the landing beach. The beach oil tanks, in line with the western tangent of a curve in the road behind them, make a good transit for use in maintaining the recommended course.

Coast. - Shingle Point to Pullen Island.

    Ten miles southeastwards from Shingle Point the Blow River enters Mackenzie Bay through the several channels of its delta. It rises about 55 miles south-southwestwards, in the Richardson Mountains and is joined by Rapid Creek about 5 miles from the coast.

Whitefish Station

Whitefish Station, Yukon - satellite view

    Whitefish Station (Lat. 68° 54' N., Long. 136° 54' W.), a small whaling station, is situated on the western side of Shoalwater Bay. Whitefish is the local name for the white beluga whale. The campsite, which has no structures other than drying racks, is occupied by a few Inuvialuit families in July and August.

    Anyone seeking to enter the station will find the approaches very shallow - there is less than 5 feet (1.5m) a cable or so offshore - and the channel difficult to locate as there are many channel mouths and bays along the coast which are similar in appearance. The channel leading to the station is about 75 feet (22.9m) wide and has 8 to 10 feet (2.4m to 3.0m) of water in it and any boat that enters can safely tie up alongside its banks. The flow through the channel is usually to seaward but it may reverse and flow sluggishly upstream, such reversal not necessarily coinciding with the tide which has a range of about one foot (0.3m). The flood plain of the nearby Blow River is only about 4 feet (1.2m) above sea level and is littered with driftwood to a height of 2 feet (0.6m); the entire area may be inundated during the storms which occur in late summer and early fall.

    Fresh water. - As the water in the channel is brackish, and that in nearby lakes may also be brackish if recently flooded by storm waves, it is possible to obtain fairly good drinking water from a large lake about 3 miles upstream.

    Shoalwater Bay, lying between Whitefish Station and Tent Island, 6 miles eastward, is full of rocks and shoals. Depths of 6 feet (1.8m) exist one mile offshore and extensive mud flats border the shore.

    Moose Channel of the Mackenzie River flows into Shoalwater Bay and, in\ the spring when the water is high, is the channel most frequently used by vessels bound for Aklavik from the westwards. Vessels with a draught greater than 4 feet (1.2m), should not attempt this channel except during the few days in the spring when the water is high. The coast in this part consists of steep banks of black earth with a general elevation of from 60 to 80 feet (18.3 to 24.4m), rising in places to a height of 250 feet (76.2m). A level, grassy plain with many small lakes, retreats from these banks to the foothills of the Richardson Mountains 25 miles inland.

    Tent Island, lying at the entrance to Ministicoog Channel, forms the eastern entrance point of Shoalwater Bay. Several small ponds are situated on the island.

    Radar reflector beacon. - A radar reflector beacon is situated on the most westerly point of Tent Island.

Mackenzie Bay

Mackenzie Bay, Yukon & NWT - satellite view

    The Mackenzie River enters the southeast sector of Mackenzie Bay and spreads out into a great fan-shaped labyrinth of channels and islands which, at its outer limit, has a width of about 90 miles.

    The islands of the delta are composed of interstratified sand, gravel and mud, sometimes with interbedded turf. The islands on the west side of the delta are predominantly mud; the central islands are mostly sand; those on the east side are commonly of gravel with some boulders.

    The inner, or southern, islands of the delta rise about 4 feet (1.2m) above average high water. The outer, or northern, islands are higher. Richards Island, the largest of the delta islands, rises to 235 feet (71.6m) in height and has an undulating grassy surface bordered by clay or sand cliffs and shelving beaches. Garry, Pelly, Hooper, and Pullen Islands, the outermost islands of the delta, though not as high as Richards Island, present an irregular profile and a hummocky appearance.

    On the east side of the Mackenzie delta, southeast of Richards Island, the Caribou Hills parallel the east bank of the East Channel. These hills are rolling and grass covered on top, and rise from 500 to 700 feet (152.4 to 213.4m) above the delta, the greater part of which is wooded.

    Channels. - There are three main channels of the Mackenzie delta, the West, East and Middle Channels. The largest flow of water goes down the Middle Channel. Difficult navigation occurs at the coast where the water spreads out, the current slackens, and immense quantities of mud carried by the river are deposited.

    Fog. - During June, July and August fog is fairly prevalent in this area.

    Ice. - The dates of freeze-up and break-up are widely variable. The navigation season, usually opening in early July and lasting until late September, is sometimes delayed by heavy ice until late August.

    Directions. - Larsen recommends that vessels, making to the eastwards across Mackenzie Bay in heavy ice conditions, should keep well outside of, but in sight of, Garry, Pelly, Hooper and Pullen Islands.

    Caution. - The shallows formed by the alluvial deposits across the mouth of the Mackenzie River extend some miles north of the northern islands of the delta and from Shingle Point on the west to Cape Dalhousie on the east. Great care must be taken in navigating these waters as not only are there many miles of mud flats covered with from 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8m) of water, but the water level is subject to rapid changes, being influenced by the prevailing winds.