Herschel Island

Between the 1890s and the early 1900s Herschel Island had an estimated population of 1200 people. The population consisted of the local Inuvialuit people who had lived on the island for over 1000 years and Americans involved in the whaling industry. There was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police presence from 1904, an Anglican mission, warehouses, a Hudson Bay Company trading post, homes and an assembly hall.

As a result of the collapse in the whale oil market in 1907, due to its replacement by petroleum oils and the use of whalebone for women’s stays becoming unfashionable, Herschel Island went into decline. The RCMP did not leave the island until 1964. The Inuvialuit people moved over to the Mackenzie Delta on the main land and the last permanent inhabitants left in 1987.


Today Herschel Island is listed on the World Monuments Fund as one of the 100 most endangered sites.

In 2007 UNESCO listed it as an endangered environment. The island has no bed rock and the underlying permafrost is melting as a result of global warming. The reduction in pack ice and early melting in fast ice is resulting in wave action from Arctic storms that are becoming more severe and frequent, eroding the island. Erosion is occurring in some areas at the rate of 3 meters a year. Some of the remaining historic buildings on the island have been moved back from the encroaching rising sea levels and erosion