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Sirmilik National Park of Canada

Visitor Safety

Planning a safe visit to a national park

Sirmilik offers spectacular scenery, wildlife, and opportunities to experience Inuit culture and learn about northern places. But there are a host of dangers associated with travel in this northern wilderness. The remoteness of this area and limited rescue capabilities increase the risk of the challenging natural hazards. All visitors must be prepared to deal with extreme and rapidly changing weather, unpredictable river crossings, high winds, and travel in polar bear country. You must be self-reliant and responsible for your own safety.

Psychology of Survival

Survival can be more dependent on the person than the situation. If you become lost or injured, you have a better chance of surviving if you remain patient, calm and confident. Survival under difficult conditions also depends on how well you are prepared for your trip. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

If you are planning a backcountry trip in Sirmilik, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have experience in wilderness travel?
  • Are you prepared to travel in polar bear country and willing to accept the risk?
  • Do you have the first aid and wilderness survival skills required for self-reliance?
  • Do you have all the necessary safety equipment?
  • If your own experience or training is limited, will you be travelling with others who have adequate experience or training?
  • Do you have the mind-set that includes judgement, patience and respect for the arctic environment?
  • Are you willing to reassess and possibly change your goals if necessary?
  • Do you have time and provisions for unexpected delays such as: waiting out inclement weather or high rivers, boat shuttles held up by rough water and/or tides, delays in scheduled airline flights? Trying to stick to a tight schedule is an invitation for frustration and accidents!

If you are planning a ski-tour, glacier trip or climbing expedition:

  • Are you able to navigate by map and GPS in a whiteout?
  • Do you have the training, experience and equipment to assess avalanche conditions, make sound route choices and carry out self-rescue procedures?
  • Do you have the training, experience and equipment required for safe glacier travel and crevasse rescue?
  • If technical climbing, are you prepared for self-rescue? Technical rescue equipment and personnel have to be brought in from outside of Nunavut.

If you are planning a boat or kayak trip:

  • In the arctic the extremely cold water kills quickly. Will you bring a dry suit - an essential for kayak travel? Reduce the risk of immersion in all your activities as the consequences of any accident are very serious.
  • Are you extremely experienced in your chosen activity? The high arctic is no place to learn new skills.
  • Can you cope with fast changing weather? Wind and currents can quickly whip waves into rough water.
  • Is your group large enough, with enough boats or kayaks to offer assistance if an accident occurs and members of your group need to be rescued?
  • Are you comfortable with bracing, manoeuvering, surf landing and launching and self-rescue techniques?
  • Can you interpret marine charts and tide tables and use them to identify marine hazards?
  • Can you travel on a bearing and use triangulation to establish your position?
  • Can you navigate in fog?
  • Are you able to estimate the speed of a current and estimate ferry angle under varying conditions?

Carefully consider the information provided in the pre-trip planning and registration package, and contact us if you have any questions.

If you have any doubts about your skill level, consider visiting Sirmilik National Park with a licensed guide or outfitter. An experienced guide or outfitter knows what it takes to travel safely in this area and will provide an opportunity to learn more about the natural and cultural heritage.