"A plume of red erupts in the grey-blue waters and Martin Shiwak accelerates
his boat to grab the seal he has shot before the animal sinks out of sight.
Shiwak has hunted for years in the waters of Lake Melville, by the Inuit
community of Rigolet in Nunatsiavut.
As he hauls the ringed seal into the vessel, he says he counts himself lucky to
have found one so quickly. “Sometimes you have to drive around here in the boat
nearly all day to find a seal,” Shiwak says. “Nowadays you can’t even afford to
– C$60 only gets you five gallons of gas.”
Nunatsiavut – one of four Inuit homelands in Canada – is where the subarctic
becomes the Arctic. An autonomous region of Labrador-Newfoundland province, it
is located at the extreme north-east corner of North America.
Winter temperatures here can average -30C (-22F) with the windchill, as the
Labrador current brings Arctic ice floes down along the coast, and a host of
marine life from, plankton to polar bears.
From November to June, shipping is impossible because sea ice covers the
entire 9,320-mile (15,000km) coastline, so all food and supplies must be flown
in. In Rigolet, a frozen 1.5kg (3.3lb) chicken will set you back C$25 (£15).
Hunting here is not just a tradition but a necessity.
On the rocky beach, Shiwak butchers the seal with precision, turning the water
a bright crimson as crows caw overhead. As a young boy, he learned to hunt and
fish with his father and grandfather, who in turn had learned these vital
skills from their elders.
It is also how Shiwak learned the core Inuit values of taking only what is
needed, sharing, sustainability and respect for nature – values he is passing
down to his own children. Dane, 13, is at school but Shiwak knows he will want
to be first to hear about the seal.
But while traditional knowledge has allowed Inuit to survive in this harsh
environment for so long, the climatic conditions they rely on are changing
quickly. Since 1950, Nunatsiavut has lost 40 days of ground snow a year. Its
sea ice is vanishing faster than anywhere in the Canadian Arctic.
Normally at this time in November, the shoreline would be covered in ice, and
people would be putting away their boats and dusting off their snowmobiles. In
his lifetime, Shiwak has witnessed the winters becoming warmer, wetter, and
Via Future Crunch
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics