The Kimmirut, Nunavut, search and rescue committee is ready to begin looking once again for the community’s mayor, who failed to return from a hunting trip in late November.
Maliktoo Lyta, a member of the SAR committee, said they hope to find the remains of Jamesie Kootoo, 67, or even his snowmobile and equipment, which could provide clues about what happened to the man.
“Our community hasn't been cheerful,” he said in Inuktitut. “We want to find him, and it's hard going, not being able to find his remains.”
Kimmirut, home to more than 400 people, lies on the southern coast of Baffin Island, about a 30-minute plane ride from Iqaluit.
Kootoo, an experienced hunter and a Canadian Ranger, went hunting for caribou by snowmobile Nov. 26, 2011 and was expected to return the same day.
Unpredictable weather and poor snow conditions hampered an intense and extensive search. Other communities raised money and sent volunteers to help Kimmirut's searchers as the effort went on for many weeks.
Lyta describes Kimmirut's terrain as rough, hilly and riddled with rivers making searches difficult, and sometimes ultimately unsuccessful.
Mark Pitseolak knows how deceiving the terrain can be. In the 1980s he found a gun and the remains of two boys who went missing in the early 1940s only a few kilometres from Kimmirut.
“There was no doubt that these were theirs, and my body just heated up with warmth all over when I found their old tools,” he said in Inuktitut.
Pitseolak said he is hopeful that even if the searchers aren't successful right away, someday people will find out what happened to Kootoo.
Searchers are asking for donations to help cover the cost of the search effort, which will include chartering a plane. Nunavummiut can donate through their local Co-op or Northern store, and both stores will waive the fee to transfer the money.
Tommy Akavak, the fundraiser for the Kimmirut search and rescue committee, said they’re also asking for cross-country skis because searchers want to try using them to cover more ground as snow melts. He said they would be used by searchers closer to the community or carried in the qamutiks of searchers’ vehicles.
Nunavut Tunngavik and First Air helped SkIqaluit gather six pair of skis and send them to Kimmirut along with skiing instructor Denis Thibeault.
“It isn't what SAR typically uses but they felt this would be the best technique, because we're in the spring time, and where the snow is and where the melts are, that they would be able to do a good, wide-ranging search,” said Anne Crawford, principal secretary for Nunavut Tunngavik.
The search with skis is expected to go on for up to two weeks.