A missing Cape Dorset hunter is presumed dead and a search for him is now a recovery effort.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre withdrew its planes and crews and a Coast Guard ship was called off after they and local volunteers scoured shorelines and cabins along Negus Bay, about 10 km northeast of Cape Dorset, on Thursday but found no sign of the missing man.
“Survivability at this time of year is about three to four hours, so if they went into the water around midday on Tuesday, we’ve actually extended the search several times past what the models say the chances of survivability are,” said Major Mark Gough, senior public affairs officer with Maritime Forces Atlantic Headquarters.
Two of the man’s hunting companions were located Wednesday – one found alive, the other was dead.
A local searcher rescued one of the hunters on shore Wednesday afternoon. The man, who had been wearing a flotation device, was taken to the local health centre for an assessment.
Mayor Timoon Toonoo confirmed that the rescued hunter’s health is fine.
“He’s all right,” Toonoo said. “He’s at home with his family.”
But the impact of losing local residents is devastating.
“It’s really stressful time for the community,” said Toonoo, who added that he suspects Cape Dorset volunteers will continue the recovery effort for the missing man’s body, but it will be up to the search and rescue coordinator to decide that.
The hunters were travelling in a 6.7-metre freighter canoe that capsized, according to Gough. The air temperature was around -1 C during the search on Wednesday and Thursday, he noted.
Among the survival factors that searchers consider are water temperature, air temperature, currents, tides, whether or not the missing individuals were wearing flotation devices and the age of the individuals.
With the men a day overdue to return home, Emergency Measures Organization Nunavut called upon the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre to assist in the search as of Wednesday morning. A Hercules plane, a Cormorant helicopter and a Coast Guard ship were all dispatched. A Twin Otter with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, based in Iqaluit, was already in the air by that point.
On Wednesday evening, one of the hunters was spotted from the air, but he was deceased. Community members in boats recovered his remains, said Gough.
The decision to stop using military resources in trying to find the third hunter has to be made based on “clinical” factors, Gough said.
“This is really, really tough on everybody,” he said. “Unfortunately in the ocean in the Arctic, it’s such a large area.”