The recent tragedy involving the party of three who went missing after snowmobiling out of Dettah for Lutsel K’e earlier this month once again reminds us of the risks that go with travelling on the land.

A variety of SPOT satellite GPS devices.
image courtesy of SPOT LLC.

Our hearts go out to the communities and families impacted by the loss of Samuel Boucher, Cammy Boucher, and Jake Gully as much of last week was stressful and emotionally draining for everyone who knew them or who was involved with the search.

At press time, only the body of Samuel Boucher has been recovered after search crews found debris around a large lead of open water on Great Slave Lake.

The circumstances remind us that even for experienced outdoorsmen such as Boucher, that the land and waters of the Northwest Territories can be very unforgiving to travellers.
This is both due to the vast expanse of wilderness, the changing and unpredictable climate and the difficulties of finding help if one were to get into trouble.

The RCMP were not able to provide information by press time about the total number of people who have gone missing and/or perished in the wilderness over the past five years, but there is much information that people should keep in mind when planning to travel on the land and especially during this time of year.
Perhaps most important is to have an alerting device handy, such as a Garmin InReach or SPOT device, that can be tracked by satellites whenever travelling outside of cellular mobile range.

Speaking with Tom Girrior of the Yellowknife Search and Rescue this week, there is much for people to remember when going out on the land, but what might not be obvious is that such a device is not just for users with knowledge of the land but for outsiders trying to reach them if trouble ever strikes.

“Many may go out on the land on a regular basis knowing the area they are going to be and they may think they don’t need alerting technology,” he said. “If there is ever a problem, the technology is going to get people to you.”

These devices are not necessarily cheap so it is important that communities have them on hand so they can be made available to community members heading out onto the land.
Girrior also notes that having a plan, sharing that plan with a family member or someone you know well, and following that plan is critical.

“You don’t want to go to Hidden Lake (near Yellowknife) and then suddenly decide that going to Tibbitt Lake and down Cameron River is something you want to do,” Girrior notes.
Finally, it should be noted that the pace at which climate change is impacting the land can worsen safety conditions when off-grid. Police noted this as being the case with deteriorating ice conditions posing a serious challenge during the recent ground search.

Expectations regarding ice have changed drastically over the past couple of decades and ice is melting at a faster pace.
Northerners have also seen in High Level this past week that dry conditions can seriously exacerbate campfires and quickly lead to extensive damage to lives, property and resources.

We wish our readers a positive and safe time while hunting, fishing, travelling or otherwise just out enjoying the wonderful but sometimes treacherous Northern wilderness.

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