Herschel Island (Lat. 69° 35' N., Long. 139° 02' W.), 20 miles eastward of Komakuk Beach, is about 9 miles east-west and, at its broadest north-south, about 7 miles. It has sliding mud cliffs and consists mainly of rolling hills from 300 feet (91.4m) to more than 500 feet (152.4m) high, intersected by small stream valleys; a maximum elevation of 596 feet (181.7m) is reached in the central part of the island. The hills are covered with tundra with sparse patches of dwarf willow from 6 to 8 inches high. The northern side of the island is conspicuous, consisting of steep, dark, muddy silt cliffs rising to a height of about 400 feet (121.9m).
On the west side of the island, a 3-mile long sand spit, Avadlek Spit, extends southwesterly terminating in Welles Point. Orca Cove, lying between Avadlek Spit and the southwestern side of the island, is entered between Welles Point and Lopez Point, 2 miles eastward. The passage between Herschel Island and the mainland has depths of less than 6 feet (1.8m) and is generally not used except by native schooners. Vessels drawing less than 5 feet (1.5m) can, however, navigate this passage if the recommended track is followed. Thrasher Bay, lying close eastward of Lopez Point, like Orca Cove, is too shallow other than for use by small boats.
Osborn Point, the southern tip of the island, is a sandy spit lying within one mile of the mainland and forms the southwestern entrance point of Thetis Bay. There are two small islands and a rock with less than 6 feet (1.8m) of water, lying off the southern tip of Osborn Point, which constrict the passage between Osborn Point and Calton Point three-quarters of a mile southward. Thetis Bay is the open bight entered on the southeastern side of the island between Osborn Point and Simpson Point, 5 miles northeastward.
Pauline Cove, in the northeastern part of Thetis Bay, has the settlement of Herschel situated on the low spit forming its southern side.
Transportation. - Communication. - Supplies and mail are received by boat from Inuvik during the navigation season. Mail is also brought to the settlement by charter flight and R.C.M.P. patrols.
Landing beach. - The beach on the north side of the spit is fine gravel and makes a good landing place for small boats and seaplanes. There is deep water close up to the beach 2 cables west of the R.C.M.P. detachment; in calm weather ships drawing up to 13 feet (4.0m) can berth at the beach with a gangway ashore. No jetties exist.
Anchorages. - Thetis Bay offers a good anchorage in depths of 4 to 6 fathoms
(7.3m to 11.0m). There is good shelter except from between east and south but
little protection from drifting ice. Small ships can anchor in Pauline Cove in a
depth of 242 fathoms (4.6m), soft mud. It is sheltered, except from the southwest but the holding ground is not very good.
Fresh water. - Fresh water can be obtained from small lakes in the hills
northeast of the settlement.
Ice. - Break-up usually occurs in the first week of July and freeze-up in the
last week of September.
Weather. - See Climatological Table above.
Directions. - Approach from the westward is around the north side of the island. Collinson Head, 262 feet (79.9m) in height, is a cliffy headland at the
southeastern extremity of the island, and may be rounded at a distance of 5 cables in 5 to 6 fathoms (9.1m to 11.0m).
Mackenzie Bay is a deep indentation in the south shore of the Beaufort Sea,
between the northern point of Herschel Island and an unnamed point about 3 miles south of Pullen Island (Lat. 69° 43' N., Long. 134° 23' W.).
The western shore of the bay trends south-southeastward parallel to the
Barn Range and Richardson Mountains which rise to heights of from 4,500 to
6,500 feet (1,371.6m to 1,981.2m) about 30 miles inland.
A coastal plain, rarely more than half a mile wide, occurs in most places
along the coast. For most of the distance, a rolling plateau rises abruptly from the coast, or from the coastal plain where it is present and, gradually rising to a height of over 400 feet (121.9m), extends inland to the north face of the mountains.
Coast. - Herschel Island to Shingle Point.
From Herschel Island the coast trends 13 miles in a south-southeasterly direction to Stokes Point.
Depths. - Dangers. - Along most of this section of coast relatively deep water can be found close to the beach, depths of between 3½ and 5½ fathoms (6.4m and 10.0m) being found 1½ cables offshore along the coast for 5 miles north-northwest of Stokes Point.