It is a great pleasure to temporarily replace Eric, France, Léonie and Aurore on Vagabond for a few months. “I hope you know how to do everything well by now?” asked us Léonie before she left. We are now all set and our daily life is at the same pace as life in the north.
October is a month of narwhal and polar bear hunts in Qikiqtarjuaq: every day, a dozen of hunters’ boats are on the water to look for the sea unicorn. There was seven left on the yearly quota when we arrived, there is only one left today. The whole village breathes with the hunters. Three narwhals were caught close to the boat, we joined the hunters’ team when they got to shore and watched them cut up the carcasses long after sunset. Six boats, a dozen of men and women of all ages busy around the three whales, cutting up maktak (skin and 1cm of blubber) and the meat; “we leave the rest for the polar bears – very skinny those days – or for other people from the village that have dog teams”. The way the meat is divided tells a lot on the way of living here: once the close family and relatives of the main hunter have enough, he then invite through the local radio station all the community members to come and help themselves at his place. A little bit for everyone, always thinking of the ones in town that have less to eat.
The village have the right to hunt five polar bears this fall (total quota per year is ten). The hunters get their names picked up, a few are chosen by chance every night. Once the meat is all ready and divided, they start to prepare the skin, huge task that we witnessed during an evening night at some friends in town.
Each visit to the village allows us to meet a little more the community members, exchange and share with them. “Do you know Léonie?” are asking us her school friends. They are intrigued by this boat that will stay all winter! We now have visits on board, we share a coffee, having conversation in English or in Inuktitut always helped by the famous international sign language!
Hunting season will be over in the next few days, and it will start again in January with potentially a few more polar bears.