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MLA rescued from the Arctic after nine days

Nunavut MLA and family lost for nine days in the Arctic

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Friday, April 1, 2016, 6:47 PM - Nunavut MLA Pauloosie Keyootak is lucky to be alive after being lost in the tundra for 9 days with his son Atamie Qiyuqtaq and nephew Peter Kakkik.

The trio was found Thursday by a search and rescue group aboard a plane.

"I prayed to be found. I prayed and prayed and I yelled 'Amen!' and then I heard a plane," Keyootak told the CBC.

"They found me and I couldn't stop crying."

Keyootak, 62, Kakkik, 47, and 16-year-old Qiyuqtaq departed Iqaluit by snowmobile last Tuesday. They were expected in Pangnirtung the following day, but never made it. 

File photo.

File photo.

A search began Sunday. The group was located 183 km south of Iqaluit in Baffin Island, although they had planned to travel north.

Keyootak says the group got lost because of bad weather and a faulty GPS app on a smartphone.

The men were travelling for about three days before they realized their GPS wasn't working, while temperatures dipped as low as -30oC at night.

The first night, the group took shelter in a cabin.

After that, Keyootak built igloos.

"My son and nephew caught a caribou and used the skin to sleep on," said Keyootak. "We had no tents."

The men shared two sleeping bags and lived on the two caribou they were able to hunt.

In addition to the cold and lack of resources, Keyootak says the family was stalked by a wolf.

"A wolf started coming around — it was stressing me out at night — we were too afraid to go outside," Keyootak recalls.

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"It was very close. You could hear it howling. It was right on our trail, focused on us."

Six spotters aboard a plane eventually found the group -- no small feat, considering they had been lost for nine days, amid two fierce storms.

"I'm so sorry to so many people who worked so hard," said Keyootak, adding that anyone who goes on the land should pack a SPOT device, a satellite phone or a GPS device.

Hunter Tootoo, Nunavut's MP and the federal fisheries minister, greeted Keyootak when he arrived at the legislature in Iqaluit Friday. 

"It just shows the knowledge that Inuit have to survive out there on the land is very important and it surely paid off in this instance," he told reporters.

Source: CBC


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