NWT Ice Patch Monitoring Project (2012)

Tom Andrews (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2012-011)

Research in the high alpine was severely restricted this summer due to a record snowfall the previous winter. Even by mid-August, all locations we regularly inspect were still deeply buried under a thick bed of winter snow. As a result, we abandoned our regular survey and focused our efforts on assisting Todd Kristensen with his excavations at nearby O’Grady Lake.

The abundance of snow provided a new source of possible site locations, however. Three snow patches are visible in Figure 1. The central ice patch is KhTe-2, a site that has produced a complete arrow dating to 400 ± 90 cal. Yr BP (see Andrews et al. 2012), had completely melted out by 2011 (see Figure 2). We removed an ice core from the site in 2007 that exhibited several stratified layers of caribou dung, the earliest dating to 3500 ± 110 cal. Yr BP, suggesting that it had been relatively stable for nearly four millennia (see Meulendyk et al. 2012). In August 2012, not only was it completely covered in snow again, two other patches, not visible at this time of year in previous years, were noted on lower slopes north and south of it, suggesting that these might be fossil patches exploited sometime in the ancient past. We hope to explore these locations in a future year.


  • Andrews TD, MacKay G, and Andrew L. 2012. Archaeological Investigations of Alpine Ice Patches in the Selwyn Mountains, Northwest Territories. Arctic 65(5):1-21.
  • Meulendyk T, Moorman BJ, Andrews TD, and MacKay G. 2012. Morphology and Development of Ice Patches in Northwest Territories, Canada. Arctic 65(5):43-58.

(Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre)