Hunters survive ordeal after walrus capsizes boat near Sanirajak

3 Sanirajak hunters rescued after 6 hours on capsized boat

A group of hunters near Sanirajak, seen in this file photo, survived six hours atop their overturned boat Saturday after a walrus capsized it. (File photo)

By David Lochead

Three Sanirajak hunters survived a harrowing weekend incident where a walrus capsized their boat, leaving them stranded on the water for about six hours, Ammituq MLA Joelie Kaernerk said in the legislative assembly Monday.

“Was I ever relieved,” Kaernerk told Nunatsiaq News, of his reaction on learning the hunters had survived.

“If they were lost, that would be a big loss for the community.”

Joey Sarpinak, John Kirk Sarpinak and Sandy Siakuluk were on a hunting trip at the floe edge of Sanirajak on Saturday when a walrus capsized their boat, Kaernerk said.

A sudden move by the walrus flipped their boat and left the men stranded on the water for approximately six hours, until they were able to crawl over thin ice to a search-and-rescue team, he added.

Kaernerk said he learned of the situation the day it happened. He was in Iqaluit, but maintained communication from back home to stay updated.

The three men stayed atop the tipped-over boat as the water froze around them, Joey Sarpinak detailed in a Facebook post.

The hunters had shot a walrus three times and were going to harpoon it because they thought it was sinking. But then the walrus unexpectedly lunged at the boat, he said in his post.

Nunatsiaq News was unable to contact Joey Sarpinak on Monday.

As it was getting dark, the three hunters were able to crawl over the thin ice to walkable ice, where a search-and-rescue team had arrived to help them, Kaernerk said.

None of the hunters appear to have suffered permanent injuries from their ordeal, Kaernerk said, as temporary frostbite seems to be the only injuries they sustained.

He said there should be celebrations in the community after the three hunters were able to survive.

“I just want to say thank you so much to my community for working together and supporting each other,” Kaernerk said.

He confirmed it was one of the hunters’ birthday the day after the rescue.

The search and rescue members who helped the three hunters are currently training on the land and could not be reached for comment, said Maj. Trevor Reid, a public affairs officer at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ont.


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(2) Comments:

  1. Posted by Putting this out there on

    So glad they are all safe and OK now. I sure hope we can learn a few things from what happened, things they did right, things they did wrong, and what could they have done differently to help others in the future if in the same situation also get home safe.

    Is there gear or knowledge they could have had that would have helped getting to thick ice sooner? Since Hunting aiviq from boats this time of year is going to happen and the risk is always there. how can it be done as safely and successfully as possible?

    • Posted by ArrowJohnny on

      I think the answer your looking is; Just don’t go?
      Sure food costs are crazy, but to go out in a lil boat, it’s different then going for fresh Shrimp’s, or fresh Pop’s. At least have one guy on standby, not all in the boat’s. Atti!


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