U.S. delegation visits Goja Haven and Kugaaruk in the Arctic

U.S. delegation visits Goja Haven and Kugaaruk in the Arctic


In August 2018, passengers of the Russian-flagged Akademik Ioffe cruise ship arrived in the community of Kugaaruk after being urgently transferred by zodiac to the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, a sister vessel of the Akademik loffe, which ran aground in the Gulf of Boothia on August 24th.  Approximately, 160 crew and passengers were on board, including American citizens.  Six were polar science students from the University of Illinois Chicago.  Other passengers were oceanographic and climate researchers from other institutions, including 37 scientists from the University of Rhode Island.

As part of the U.S. Mission to Canada’s responsibility to help Americans in distress, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa and U.S. Consulate General in Quebec City, which includes Nunavut as part of its consular district, helped gather information regarding the Akademik Ioffe’s situation and the health and status of the American passengers.  Early April, two of the officers involved – Michael Barkin, Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs from Embassy Ottawa, and Quebec City Consul Michael Agner – as well as other Consulate team members, traveled to Gjoa Haven and Kugaaruk to meet Mayors Joanni Sallerina and Canute Krejunark, economic development representatives, RCMP officials, and search and rescue teams.

In Gjoa Haven, discussions touched on the anticipated rise in tourism as Nunavut develops Gjoa Haven as a major site centered around the wrecks of Sir John Franklin’s expedition, the Erebus and the Terror.  In Kugaaruk, the delegation listened to local officials’ “lessons learned” regarding the rescue of the Akademik Ioffe passengers In both communities, the delegation also discussed social and health issues faced by the resident population, and presented Mission Canada’s Public Diplomacy programs, including Youth Ambassadors, to promote Inuit youth participation.

The delegation visited local schools, clinics, heritage centers, learning about the incredibly rich and diverse Inuit culture, with its deep connection to the land and sea.  Our delegation was honored to be invited to local ceremonies featuring country food, throat singing, and drum dancing.

Thank you to everyone for the amazing trip and warm hospitality!  We look forward to meeting with you again and appreciate all of your shared wisdom.