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CYFB - Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada Print E-mail

Iqaluit October 2005The Iqaluit airport got its start with the arrival of the American Air Force during World War II.  The first air strip was built on an island about 28 nm south of the present day community. That island is still know locally as Mialigaqtaliminiq or the "place where the Americans lived".

The island proved too small, and the resulting airstrip too short.  So, acting on the advice of local Inuit, the Americans scouted another location further up Frobisher Bay. Thus, construction began on the airport as part of the Crimson Route, a plan to build a series of airstrips for ferrying aircraft from Canada to England during World War II.  Jack Crowell was one of the US airmen involved the establishment of the Frobisher air base.

Though the airport didn't see active use during the War, it quickly became a hub of activity for Cold War surveillance. The community grew up around the base, and became known as Frobisher Bay.  The Pinetree Line, of which Frobisher Bay was a key part, established monitoring facilities across the Canadian north.  This Google Earth file gives you a view of all of the various North American Radar defence system locations.  The Pinetree Line presence also kept YFB a busy airport for the US and later Canadian Airforces. Visit the Pinetree Line website archive for an impressive collection of photos and articles about the military aviation history of the Iqaluit airport. And this site, called Listening to Our Past, features Inuit oral history around the develoment of the Frobisher Bay airport.

In 1958, the Canadian government considered the small community of Frobisher Bay, with its military base and airport, as a prime candidate for a unique experiment, known these days as "Frobisher Bay, the Domed City of the North".  Here's an article in the Globe and Mail about the plan,  and here's the plan.  It even made the May 1959 issue of Popular Mechanics. It is hard to imagine what life would have been like in this "space age" complex, with the entire town in a series of high rise apartment buildings, powered by its own nuclear generator. The plan was never realized, though one can see its influence in the creation of a complex of connected government, apartment and office buildings built in the 1970s, and still in use today.

The community continued to grow after the military air presence waned in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1987, the Town of Frobisher Bay officially changed the name to Iqaluit.  Iqaluit is the Inuktitut name by which the area was always known.  In Inuktitut, Iqaluit means "fish" or a place where there are many fish.

Iqaluit isn't quite north of the Arctic Circle, so we don't get complete darkness in winter or daylight in summer. Here's a site that provides detailed sunrise and sunset information.

Natural Resources Canada provides a great website to view the evolution of the Iqaluit airport from the 1940's to modern days, including aerial photographs and animations! And here's the link to the Google Earth image of Iqaluit. The City of Iqaluit has current demographic information on their website.  And the Qikiqtani Truth Commission has put together a brief summary of recent Iqaluit history.

Inuit in the region have been using the area for hundreds of years. Evidence of Inuit and pre-Inuit habitation is all around, including tent rings, burial sites, and dwelling foundations.  Qaumaarviit Park, near Iqaluit, contains many examples of early Inuit life in this area.  Evidence of Norse visits has been found near Kimmirut, not far from Iqaluit. The area has been visited by European explorers, such as Sir Martin Frobisher, who lends his name to the Bay.  And the area has hosted whalers and traders over the last hundred years.  Frobisher was rather unfortunate.  In addition to taking back nothing but fool's gold on two expeditions, he also managed to instigate a violent conflict with the Inuit near his mine site at Kodlunarn Island, near the mouth of Frobisher Bay.

This site has a great collection of photos taken in and around Iqaluit. And Iqaluit resident Ron Wassink's blog has some good photos and stories about life in and around Iqaluit.

Click on Iqaluit - CYFB on the menu at the left for Airport, Tourism, Outfitters and other information.




Last Updated on Saturday, 09 January 2016 02:22
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