An Igloo and a Caribou: Nunavut MLA, Companions Hunkered Down to Wait for Rescue

The Canadian Press, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

An Igloo and a Caribou: Nunavut MLA, Companions Hunkered Down to Wait for Rescue


Missing Nunavut MLA back in office after rescue

--

IQALUIT, Nunavut - Lost on the tundra and low on fuel, Pauloosie Keyootak knew there was only one thing he could do to keep himself, his son and his nephew alive.

"I built an igloo with a small knife," the 62-year-old member of the Nunavut legislature said following his rescue Thursday night after eight days lost on the land.

Keyootak, his 16-year-old son Atamie Qiyuqtaq and nephew Peter Kakkik, 47, were spotted by a Twin Otter search plane well south of their intended route between Iqaluit and Pangnirtung. They were flown by helicopter to Iqaluit, where they were found to be in good condition.

Keyootak was back in his legislature office Friday and happy to explain in halting English -- his first language is Inuktitut -- how he and his companions became disoriented and kept themselves alive for more than a week in one of the most forbidding environments on Earth.

The trio set off from Iqaluit March 22. They were intending to snowmobile the 300-kilometre overnight trek to Pangnirtung. From there, they were to head up the Baffin Island coast to Qikiqtarjuaq, one of the communities in Keyootak's riding.

The trip, 11 hours in good weather, is well-travelled and studded with shelter cabins along the way.

But it also crosses rugged terrain, twisting along jagged coastlines and climbing over mountain passes.

And the weather wasn't good.

"We were in a kind of blizzard," Keyootak said. "That's why I got lost. I lost the trail road. I turned in the wrong direction between here and Pang."

Instead of heading northeast to Pangnirtung, the travellers were riding south down the shore of Frobisher Bay. By the time they realized their mistake, they didn't have enough gas to retrace their tracks.

With no communication equipment, there was nothing to do but hunker down in the high winds and -30 C temperatures and wait for help.

"My son and nephew, they got a caribou," said Keyootak. "That's how we survived -- the meat from the caribou."

After a few days, the igloo began to break down, so Keyootak built another and the vigil resumed.

They had a few supplies -- a camp stove, some fuel, tea, sugar. …

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