'He's knowledgeable and he can survive.'

Igloolik holds out hope for lost hunter


Searchers in Igloolik aren't giving up hope for Enoki Kunuk, the 81-year-old elder who hasn't been seen since he went caribou hunting June 1.

Igloolik mayor Paul Quassa said that while the ground search was bogged down because of melting snow, the arrival of a Twin Otter airplane from Rankin Inlet last Friday boosted spirits in the community.

But even though a long-awaited stretch of clear weather allowed the aircraft to search 80 per cent of a targeted area north of Gifford Fiord between June 23 and June 25, no trace of the elder was found. The airplane has now left the community, Quassa said.

"We seem to be grounded because we're out of air support now," he said.

Local volunteers had been searching the area by land, but the land is no longer passable by snowmobile, the mayor said. A few parties of searchers remain on the land and will continue to search the coastline, but melting sea ice is limiting the amount of territory they can cover.

Spotters in the search planes "could see goose eggs" on the land and found no trace of Kunuk, leading searchers to believe he's no longer in the area, Quassa said. Renewed efforts will focus on the Baffin Island coast southwest of Mary River.

Nevertheless, Quassa said he still believes Kunuk will be found.

"The community is still very hopeful to find him," he said, adding the elder was born in the Gifford Fiord area where the search is concentrated and is very much at home on the land. Kunuk was also travelling with a kamotiq loaded with supplies.

"He's knowledgeable and he can survive," Quassa said.

Igloolik's search and rescue committee dispatched four snowmobiles June 9 joining two members of Kunuk's family who began looking the day before. The next week, two aircraft from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., joined the search but were grounded by bad weather.

Those planes went home late last week, said Const. Michael Seidemann of the Igloolik RCMP.

Quassa said the local Emergency Measures Organization would likely make a decision about continuing the search by this coming weekend.

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