Sunday, 15 March 2009

Polar Bear Problems

Sunday I headed out on the sea ice around Qikiqtarjuag to see if we catch a seal. Seal hunting is a very controversial subject and I am keen to see this important aspect of Inuit life.

We headed out in good weather by snow mobile. There are two different ways of hunting seals here, one involves placing nets under the ice and the other is hunting with a rifle. Today we would use a rifle and look for a seal hole which seals use to breath through the ice.

We quickly found a seal hole along a large crack in the sea ice and quickly got to work. The wind had increased heavily and the wind chill was more then a little freezing. Billy my guide and local vicar, took up a stance to the side of the hole. It was an amazing site as Billy completely froze to the spot, not even moving his feet to keep warm. I took the snow mobile and drove in a large circle around Billy hoping to bring the seal towards his seal hole. A seal could have a number of such holes and this occasion we didn't get a seal.

We moved on again and quickly came across a seal hole that had been devastated by a polar bear. The snow was red and the remains of a seal near by. In that moment it became very clear how adapted a polar bear is to survival here. We were having trouble trying to find seal holes due to the amount of snow on the ice and the wind but of course the polar bears sense of smell helps it locate seal under the snow and ice.

We found lots of evidence of polar bear including far to many fresh tracks to count. This was an area I was planning to ski through on my expedition but after seeing the remains of the seal and the number of tracks I am now looking at changing my plans. Food for thought, we didn't catch a seal but we did asses the polar bear threat, so it was a very worthwhile day.

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