Week 11 Land of Polar Bears

Date Posted: 5.11.2009
Location: 67º33'N 63º0'W
Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, Canada
Weather Conditions: Sunny, 19°F (-7°C)
Pretty much any street you choose to walk on in Qikiqtarjuaq – you will see a polar bear! Polar bear skins hanging or stretched out for drying that is, not one walking down the street of course (though in the fall we are told they walk both outside and in town). The skin hanging out right across the street from where we are staying was Brad’s first bear. Brad is eight years old! Jason who has helped us a great deal right from
we pulled the sleds into the community is Brad’s father, who took him
hunting. He is obviously proud, but what makes him proud is the fact
that Brad is learning how to live off the land as is the Inuit tradition; 
“If you know who your parents and grandparents are and what they
did, you have your culture” says Jason. Brad’s best friend is 12 years
old, and he too got his first bear this year!


Jason has a 9-5 job in the community, but when he is not working he can be found out hunting, “…by the end of the hunting season I have usually spent all my vacation days” Jason grins.  What he hunts supplies the family with meat so that they do not have to buy expensive meat in the store. And, since he is a good hunter they get more than what they need which they then share with the Elders in the community. Nothing goes to waste from what is hunted. They might sell the skin from the polar bear brad shot, but they are eating the meat and being that it is Brad’s first bear, they are cleaning out the cranium to have as a keepsake. The claws also might be used for carvings!

(Left) Cool message from local students: We can change the world with our two hands!

    polar bear hides

It was Jason’s hunting allowance. Each community in Nunavut is given a quota that they can hunt in a year, which has been decided to keep the polar bear population healthy. Qikiqtarjuaq received an allowance to hunt 30 adult and single polar bears this year, 15 in the fall and 15 in the spring. The Hunters and Trappers Organization is in charge of the allowances and in Qikiqtarjuaq they then have drawings to decide who can go hunting. When Jason’s name was drawn he then has 24 hours to hunt the bear. No bear – and a new drawing is held. You have to be 16 years of age to enter in the drawing, but when you get it you can pass it on to anyone in your family.


Explore Qikiqtarjuaq and the island it is located on which is about 12 by 8 miles (16 by 12 kilometers). Can you figure which way we are going next?

The area around ‘Big Island,’ which is what the community’s name translate to in English, has one of the highest polar bear populations in the world, and is one of the most important polar bear denning areas—areas where polar bear give birth. It makes sense. Because of the strong ocean currents in the Davis Strait there is lots of early open water and that is great for seal hunting, just like the bears prefer it. That said, the locals in the community do talk about how they think it is getting more and more difficult for the bears. They find that more bears are skinnier than how it was in the past and the believe it is probably because they are constantly on the hunt for food.  The number of bears that actually come into or very near the community are more and more now with the changes lately.

Disko, Mikkel and teens at the Inuksuit School!
Have you done any cool projects on polar bears or climate change? Make sure to share in the Climate Zone – and don’t miss this week’s chat! Join Brian Young from TerraCycle on Wednesday May 13 at 1 PM CT to figure out different ways you can be part of the solution to climate chaos! Oh, and don’t forget... If you are a ‘teen’ vote! vote! vote! to help us out in bringing adventure learning expeditions to classroom worldwide (and you) by going to www.at15.com and cast your vote for GoNorth! You can do it every day! And if you are not a teen, but you know a teen you can tell them to vote too! They vote goes on until May 15th and frankly we need your vote!!! As of today we are behind with 70 votes to both of the two other organizations we are competing with... Do you know 70 other teenagers? ☺

Watch what the young students at the school thought about our tent!
  Watch what they think about getting in the sleeping bag then!

About 550 people live in Qikiqtarjuaq. "Ki-kik-TAAK-jo-ahk" ... The students at the local Inuksuit school really tried to get us to be able to say it right, but whenever we think we are getting the hang of it, one of them will spit it out and we are just blown away by how wrong we are still saying it! But we did have a blast at the school with the students talking about what we are doing and how it is so important for the rest of the world to hear what climate change is to them, how they are affected and what they think about the future - both good and bad! As usual, Disko stole the show! Actually, Disko might be more than busy the next few weeks as we set out from here. Not only will he be back in the harness to lead the team much of the way, we sure hope he keeps an eye open for polar bears like he has in the past.


Aaron and Chris in the Airport with their dogsledding tans!

One of the last things Aaron did before he and Chris departed from the land of the polar bears was to once again ensure that all measures are in place to prepare us for any polar bear encounters. Qikiqtarjuaq was the final destination for the two of them on the GoNorth! Nunavut 2009 expedition and it was more than sad to see half of our team take off. They are already greatly missed. But they were missed at home too! After quite the journey back hopping from airport to airport for 3 days (!!!) they were welcomed back in the arms of their loved ones with fanfare.

 Watch Chris and Aaron take to the sky from Qikitarjuaq!
     Listen to how Aaron and Chris spent their time in Iqaluit on their way back home.


Polar Husky Superstar Hershey
This week’s first Polar Husky Superstar, Hershey, is a guy of little fanfare, but another Polar Husky veteran who has had plenty encounters with polar bears in the past to know what they are all about. While Hershey has never faced a polar bear head-on, we have no doubt he would stand his ground. Hershey is tough. A hard puller by heart, Hershey has great technique and a work ethic to match it; and the old warrior he is, he demands respect. Getting to be a seasoned man who by now is easily outweighed and outpaced by almost any guy in the Kennel, he still seems to out-tough most of them when push-comes-to-shove.

  The Polar Huskies are howling to go!



    Polar Husky Superstar Chitwa
This week’s other Polar Husky Superstar Chitwa, is one that has been reminded lately that he has a lot to learn by Hershey. Chitwa is the youngest Polar Husky out here and this is his first adventure learning expedition. Very shy with new people, Chitwa is actually a pretty fiery guy who likes a lot of action! He was running next to Sable and Goodie in wheel for some time, but he is a bit afraid of Sable and we thought it maybe would be good for him to have a little less strict ‘lesson plan’ than that of Sable’s, so we decided to give him a day with his best friend Tucker. Well, Chitwa had a blast and that didn’t last more than one day, since we do need to get some work done around here too! But he sure had fun. Now, he has been running in wheel with Hershey and he has been hard at work ever since... and with alert and happy a hunter as he is. Who knows, maybe he will be the first to spot any polar bears as we set out on the trail again!