Blacklead Island Whaling Station National Historic Site of Canada

Blacklead Island, Nunavut
Historic image of the Blacklead Island Whaling Station showing the original semi-subterranean Thule houses, 1903. © Natural Resources Canada \ Ressources naturelles Canada, 1903.
original semi-subterranean Thule houses, 1903
© Natural Resources Canada \ Ressources naturelles Canada, 1903.
Historic image of the Blacklead Island Whaling Station site, 1903. © Library and Archives Canada \ Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, A.P. Low, 3406600, 1903.Historic image of the Blacklead Island Whaling Station showing the original semi-subterranean Thule houses, 1903. © Natural Resources Canada \ Ressources naturelles Canada, 1903.Panoramic view of the entrance to Blacklead Island, 1903. © Library and Archives Canada \ Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, A.P. Low, 3203732, 1903.
Address : Baffin Island, Blacklead Island, Nunavut

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1985-06-17
Dates:
  • 1860 to 1860 (Construction)
  • 1860 to 1921 (Significant)
  • 1895 to 1895 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Inuit  (People, group)
Other Name(s):
  • Blacklead Island Whaling Station  (Designation Name)
  • Inukjuak Cemetery  (Other Name)
  • Norris Island  (Other Name)
  • Umanaqjuaq  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 1984-054, 1983-040, 2009-CED-SDC-035

Description of Historic Place

Blacklead Island Whaling Station National Historic Site of Canada is located on Blacklead Island in Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Blacklead Island was used by the Inuit as a winter camp and for whaling, and later by Europeans. Situated in the south of Cumberland Sound, the site is comprised of three archaeological sites on the Blacklead, Niantilik and Cemetery Islands, the shipwrecks off Aagotirpazask Island, and the archaeological site at the forks of Ptarmigan Fiord. Official recognition refers to the five nodes, which together make up the site.

Heritage Value

Blacklead Island Whaling Station was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1985 because: it represents whaling in the Eastern Arctic as one of the most important whaling stations and vessel wintering sites in Cumberland Sound from the 1860’s until the early 20th century; it includes a good example of a contact-period Inuit village, illustrating the impact of the whaling industry on the economy and culture of the Inuit.

Blacklead Island Whaling Station was the site of two permanent whaling outposts dating from the middle of the 19th century. Similar sites were established at roughly the same time at Kekerton Island, and on Hall Peninsula, Baffin Island. An Anglican mission was built at Blacklead in 1895. In 1921, the Hudson’s Bay Company built a post at Pangnirtung and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police post was established two years later. As Inuit communities living at Blacklead and at Kekerton began to congregate at Pangnirtung, the whaling stations were eventually abandoned.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 2009.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage character of the site include: its location in the southern end of Cumberland Sound, in Nunavut; its setting on Blacklead, Niantilik and Cemetery Islands near Aagotirpazask Island and the forks of Ptarmigan Fiord; any elements of interior features that remain in situ; the viewscapes to and from the various locations of the site.

The integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains that may be found within the site in their original placement and extent, specifically: any remains at the Fort of Ptarmigan Fiord, including semi-subterranean Thule houses, quarmats, tent rings, wrought iron hooks, square nails, and iron debris; any remains at Aagotirpazask, including planks, timbers, wooden pegs, and iron plate; any remains at Cemetery Island, including graves and markers; any remains at Niantilik, including tent rings and quarmats, whale and walrus bone, meat caches and stone cairns scattered cultural remains such as tin cans, crockery, glass bottle fragments; any remains at Blacklead Station, including seven large oil settling tanks, stone foundations of the Anglican Mission and the Scottish outpost, the ruins of a landing-ramp and a coal storage building.