Community Feature: Tuktoyaktuk

 February 24, 2019
Posted by smiklosovic
Welcome to Tuktoyaktuk!

As many people have now virtually reached or passed Tuk, this week we are featuring the last community along the Big River route: Tuktoyaktuk!

Tuktoyaktuk (Tuk-tu-yaaq-tuuq) or “Tuk” is located on the shore of the Beaufort Sea. The area is the traditional territory of the whale-hunting Kittegaryumiut Inuit. First settled in the 1930s as Port Brabant by the Hudson’s Bay Company, in 1950 its name changed to Tuktoyaktuk, an Anglicized version of the Inuvialktun word for “place resembling a caribou.” The community was the site of one of the DEW (distant early warning) radar stations during the Cold War. In the 1980s, Tuk was central to oil and gas activities in the Beaufort Sea. 

Roughly 965 people live in the Inuvialuit Hamlet and up until recently the community was only accessible by air in the summer and ice road in the winter. In November 2017, the Inuvik-Tuktoyatkuk 137km-long, two-lane gravel highway opened and became the first all-weather road to Canada’s Arctic Coast.

If walking or driving to Tuk, one of the most prominent features you’ll notice as you approach the community, besides the breathtaking tundra landscape, are pingos! They look like small, volcano-like hills sticking up from the tundra. Pingos are formed when water freezes into ice and expands within layers of permafrost. This expansion pushes the tundra up, forming a mound. Pingo comes from Pingu, the Inuvialktun term for small hill. Traditionally, pingos were used to assist with navigation. There are almost 1,400 pingos around Tuk, 8 of which are protected within the Pingo Canadian Landmark. Pingo Canadian Landmark is home to the tallest pingo in Canada and the second tallest in the world, Ibyuk Pingo. Ibyuk stretches 300 metres across at its base and measures an impressive 49 metres in height.

Pingos in the distance on the tundra landscape.

For the most northerly community on mainland Canada, Tuk has seen some interesting visitors over the years including: Queen Elizabeth II; Canadian Prime Ministers; rock bands like Metallica, Hole, Moist, Cake, and Veruca Salt; and reality TV personalities Jesse James and Ice Road Truckers.

Tuk has five Walk to Tuk teams this year: Tuk Treckers, Tuk Hikers, Tuk Trekkers, Tuk Psuktunga, and Tuk Kids.

For more information about Tuktoyaktuk, check out the Hamlet’s website or visit the Spectacular NWT website.