A Cambridge Bay elder and hunter is warning travelers of open water at Kingayok, at the southeast corner of Victoria Island.
Jimmy Haniliak, an experienced guide and an active member of the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization, as well as a member of the ground search and rescue team for the past 50 years, says he has noticed some alarming changes in the area of the last several years.
“In the past five to eight years I have noticed changes in the water level with record breaking high and low tides, rivers getting lower, formation of ice coming later and later, currents getting stronger, causing major movements of the pressure ridges in the winter season,” said Haniliak.
“There has never been open water in that area before other than slush in the spring time but never open water at this time of the year.”
In the late 1960s he often travelled with his parents to Wellington Bay and up Ferguson River in a 20-foot canoe powered by a 25-horse power motor.
“There was no problem back then as water levels were high, but nowadays it is a different story with some areas of the river only one foot deep,” he said.
Haniliak has travelled these routes all his life as did his parents and grandparents. He has a cabin that is located on the mainland and to get there he travels the Kingayok route. He recalls a trip he took one spring on his snowmachine, hauling supplies to his cabin.
“I dropped off supplies and returned to Cambridge Bay to pick up more supplies, couple days later travelling back to my cabin using the same route, I crossed over the pressure ridge like I usually would by Kingayok and slush had formed on the other side of the ridge causing my snowmachine to sink into three feet of slush and water.”
He was surprised at how quickly things had changed in two days.
“Nowadays it’s unpredictable out there,” he said.
Haniliak said he feels the currents in the summer around the south shore of Victoria Island and the north shore of Kent Peninsula seem to be getting stronger.
“One time travelling with a boat towards Cambridge Bay, it seemed that the current was pushing the boat more to the east, making the trip longer than usual,” said Haniliak.
“The currents are so strong that even in the winter season it causes deep cracks and crevasses in the hard-packed snow on the land.
“Climate change is here and changes are happening so quick, constant monitoring of the land, water and ice needs to be happening and we are lucky to have the High Arctic Research Station here to help us monitor the changes to the North. I myself do not want to be travelling on the land alone like I did before and urges hunters to travel in pairs and never to travel in the dark.”