You are here

Whale Cove

Whale Cove

Kivalliq School Operations (KSO)



Inuit and their predecessors have travelled and lived in the vicinity of Whale Cove since the pre-Dorset period (2500-500 BC). The Inuktitut name, Tikirarjuaq, means “long point.” The official community name, Whale Cove, reflects the abundance of beluga and other whales that congregate in the area, which attracted the attention of whalers and traders. Europeans first visited the area in the 1600s as part of the search for the Northwest Passage. Explorers Thomas Button and Luke Foxe both stopped in the area during their expeditions. Although the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post further down the coast, it was the federal government that encouraged Inuit to move into the area during the “starvation period” of 1957-58. As a result, Inuit in Whale Cove originate from three different Inuit groups in the region, bringing with them three distinct Inuktitut dialects. Whale Cove was incorporated as a Hamlet in 1976. It is located approximately 75 kilometres south of Rankin Inlet and many residents travel between the communities using a winter road on the sea ice.

The Government of Nunavut (GN) Employee Orientation website offers an excellent collection of material on the general history of Nunavut, together with an overview of Inuit culture and history and an explanation of how Inuit cultural principles are being incorporated into government operations and services. We recommend exploring this site once it is available again after their restructuring, for now you can try the general GN site for information.


Life in Whale Cove reflects that of most small Inuit communities today, in which modern telecommunications and technology, such as televisions, the Internet and high-performance snowmobiles, coexist with subsistence hunting and fishing. Residents maintain traditional skills, such as sewing clothing in both modern and traditional materials, and move with the seasons to harvest resources from the land and sea, such as berry-picking and gathering mussels. Whale Cove has extensive social and family connections with the other Hudson’s Bay coastal communities nearby, Rankin Inlet and Arviat.

Two churches are located in the community that is visited by their respective clerks during certain times of the year. The priest from Arviat visits Saint Esprit Roman Catholic Mission, while Christ Church is a part of the Arviat Anglican Church parish.

Whale Cove shares many of the language characteristics of Rankin Inlet. There are several different Inuktitut dialects because people have come to the community from different areas of the Kivalliq region and there is also a long history of European contact. Although the majority of people would consider Inuktitut to be their mother tongue, English tends to be more commonly used. You can expect most public events and meetings to be conducted in both languages, but you should not expect general Inuktitut conversations to be translated automatically just because an English speaker is present. Because of the variety of Inuktitut dialects, if you have been speaking Inuktitut in another community you should be prepared to learn dialectal differences and have local residents correct your usage occasionally. The Inuit language (Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun), English and French are all official languages of Nunavut, so you have the right to request government services in the official language of your choice.

Although the 2011 Census did not obtain any data from Whale Cove, the Nunavut Economic Developers Association indicates that 60% of the population is under 25.


Given that it is a small community where a large percentage of the population is very young, the economy of Whale Cove is primarily based on providing goods and services within the community and on traditional economic activities, such as wildlife harvesting and arts and crafts. The community also supports a small tourism industry and is a base from which to reach Iqalugaarjuup Nunanga Territorial Park.

As in many Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Whale Cove, and cash supplies can often become very limited. The Co-op offers “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store and to cash cheques for a service fee, etc. The Co-op allows cash withdrawals through Interac, cash supply permitting. Interac and credit card services are available at most retail stores. It is highly recommended that newcomers establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly since postal service can often be delayed when bad weather disrupts transportation.


There is abundant wildlife around Whale Cove. In addition to seals, beluga whales and bowhead whales, one can see walrus and polar bears. Arctic char and lake trout can be caught locally, and the summer season sees the arrival of a wide variety of birds, including geese. Small game, such as Arctic hare, ptarmigan and fox, among other species, are found nearby, and residents travel inland to hunt caribou.

Further Reading: 
  • Bennett, John & Susan Rowley, eds. Uqalurait: an oral history of Nunavut. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.
  • Dorais, Louis-Jacques. The language of the Inuit: syntax, semantics and society in the Arctic. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.
  • Eber, Dorothy Harley. When the whalers were up North. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989
  • Fossett, Renee. In order to live untroubled: Inuit of the Central Arctic, 1550-1940. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2001.
  • Issenman, Betty Kobayashi. Sinews of Survival: the living legacy of Inuit clothing. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997.
  • MacDonald, John. The Arctic sky: Inuit astronomy, star lore and legend. Iqaluit & Toronto: Nunavut Research Institute and Royal Ontario Museum, 1998.
  • McGhee, Robert. The last imaginary place: a human history of the Arctic world. Toronto: Key Porter Books, Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2004.
  • Morrison, David and Georges-Hébert Germain. Inuit: glimpses of an Arctic past. Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1995.
  • Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. The Inuit way: a guide to Inuit culture, rev. ed. Ottawa: Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006.
  • Tester, Frank James and Kulchyski, Peter. Tammarniit (mistakes): Inuit relocation in the Eastern Arctic 1939-63. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1994.