Preparations are well underway for Baker Lake’s first ever bowhead whale hunt later this summer.
“We’re moving along. Everything is all in place now,” hunt captain Philip Putumiraqtuq told Kivalliq News.
Twenty hunters and seven boats have been selected to take part in the hunt.
Last week, Baker Lake’s hunt plan was approved by the Kivalliq Wildlife Board. The plan was originally to travel up the coast toward White Island, near Coral Harbour. However, due to ice conditions on Hudson Bay, the route has been altered.
“Now we’ll maybe be closer to Naujaat. The closest we had thought about was Harbour Island, about 45 minutes away from Naujaat. The second option is close to there,” said Putumiraqtuq.
Once they decide on a final location, the men will head up the coast and camp out on the land for as long as it takes to harvest a bowhead.
The departure date will depend on changing ice conditions, but Putumiraqtuq said the team hopes to leave by the end of July or early August.
Putumiraqtuq, a board member of the local hunters and trappers organization and the Nunavut Wildlife Board, was chosen as the captain of the expedition by his fellow hunters in May. Although he does not have a lot of experience harvesting whales, he is a seasoned hunter.
“I have mixed feelings. I’m excited mostly,” he said. “It’s a learning experience.”
Putumiraqtuq said the Baker Lake team has been coordinating with veteran whale hunters from Naujaat and Coral Harbor to help arrange the logistics for the trip.
“The former bowhead hunters from Naujaat have been giving instructions, so that’s been a big help. They mentioned what to be aware of, how wild it might be,” said Putumiraqtuq.
One of the biggest concerns is the presence of polar bears that have been spotted in the proposed hunting grounds.
“We’re just trying to set up a camp where there’s not too many bears,” Putumiraqtuq said.
Fortunately, a wildlife officer from Whale Cove offered last week to travel with the team to be a polar bear monitor.
“He found out that we had a hunt going on so he wanted to contribute. It will be a little more secure,” Putumiraqtuq said.
The community hosted a bingo last month to raise money for equipment and supplies for the hunt. As of press deadline, the hunters were still waiting on their harpoon guns, harpoons and survival vests.