For any other group, surviving more than a week stranded in Canada’s remote and frigid north would have been a nightmare. For three hunters, it could almost be described as a vacation—albeit a dangerous one. Seasoned angler, hunter, and all-around outdoorsman Pauloosie Keyootak was hunting with his 16-year-old son and 47-year-old nephew near Pangirtung in Nunavut when they ran into a snowstorm and was left disoriented. With dwindling supplies, the three spent 8 days in the wilderness, surviving on caribou that they had shot and escaping the cold through self-made igloos. According to rescue personnel, there was little doubt that they would be found alive.
“We knew if we found them we were pretty sure they’d be alive. It was just finding them,” search-and-rescue leader Ed Zebedee told The Star.
His confidence in the men was well-founded. At the age of 62, Keyootak knew the land well. He had planned on reaching Qikiqtarjuaq by snowmobile within 15 hours after leaving Iqaluit on March 22. Unfortunately a snowstorm diverted the hunters south into a remote area near the shore. By the time the hunters realized that they were headed in the wrong direction, there was not enough fuel for them to return. Instead, they huddled down and made a plan to stay alive until rescuers could find them. With only a small knife, Keyootak was able to build two igloos while the others tracked down and killed a caribou. The hunters were also well prepared, and lived in relative comfort in comparison to most people who find themselves in a similar situation. They had a camp stove, sleeping bags, some leftover fuel, and even tea to warm themselves up.
When Zebedee found them last Thursday, he remarked that the hunters were in good shape.
“Honestly I walked over and gave Pauloosie [Keyootak] a hug. There wasn’t much said. I just gave him a hug,” Zebedee told the CBC.
The hunters were tired, hungry, and a little thirsty, but otherwise in good condition. They were taken to a hospital in Iqaluit by aircraft and discharged within hours of their arrival.
Keyootak is a member of the Nunavut Legislature and a father of four.