ᑐᕙᖅ

[SEA ICE]

SEA ICE

To travel and hunt safely it is important to know about ice and ice conditions. This is especially true at the times just after freeze-up and just before break-up when the ice is thin. There are also places on the sea ice where it is unsafe to travel at any time of the year. We also have to be very careful when hunting at the floe-edge. Because Igloolik is situated on a small island, almost all travel takes place on the sea. Hunting, fishing and travel to the communities of Ikpiarjuk (Arctic Bay), Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River), Naujaat (Repulse Bay), and Sanirajak (Hall Beach) all involve crossing large areas of sea ice. Except for the short open water season from late July to the end of October, Iglulingmiut travel on the sea ice for most of the year. In earlier times, they even lived on the sea ice during the spring to be closer to good hunting.

LIVING on the SEA ICE

One of the most important ice camps was located just North of Igloolik. The camp was set up near a very long ice ridge that forms every year nearly at the same location. This camp was called Aggiuppiniit, meaning "the ice ridge", where Inuit would hunt seals at a large crack or ice lead known as Naggutialuk. This camp sometimes had up to 100 people living in it. Some elders say that living on the sea ice was warmer than living on the land. They used to get material for their bed platforms on the nearby island of Nirlirnaqtuuq. 

 

A journey over the sea ice near Pond Inlet, Nunavut.

AGIUPPINIIT

Louis Alianakuluk and Aipilik Innuksuk lived in Agiuppiniit as children and share their memories of what life was like in the camp.

AIPILIK INNUKSUK 

on life at the Agiuppiniit camp.

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"WE USED TO LIVE IN A QARMAQ (a sod house), at least this is what we did - I and my adopted parents. I had not lived in an igloo while we were in this area. All we lived in was a qarmaq. Towards the spring, when it was necessary to move close to the floe-edge they would make their dwelling in an igloo at Iglulik [Igloolik Point]. Sometimes, they would go elsewhere, in particular to the landfast ice at Agiuppiniq from Avvajja. This location was suitable for the hunters that would hunt on the ice through seal breathing holes on Ikiq. The place that I refer to as Agiuppiniq is located in this area. When the ice had started to freeze over the first freeze-up stage usually happens among the grounded ice floes where the first floe-edge would be located. We used to make our home just past the area where there is no danger of the ice breaking up and carrying us out to sea. The build-up of pressure ridges, caused by the moving ice before it freezes off Nirlirnaqtuuq, is called Agiuppiniq" (Aipilik Innuksuk IE-004, 1986).

LOUIS ALIANAKULUK

on life at the Agiuppiniit camp.

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Q.  Do you know in the past if the families used to move their camp down there to get closer to the floe-edge?

 

A.  Yes. In my childhood, we used to go to that place, Agiuppiniit. From Avvajja we would go to Agiuppiniit to get closer to the floe-edge, the entire family would move to that area. Agiuppiniit is close to the floe-edge.

Q.  Would you then make a place to live there?

A.  Yes, that would become our home for a while. This happened when the sun was getting higher. The main reason [for living here] was to vary our diet, which otherwise would have consisted mainly of igunaq  [fermented walrus meat]. There would be marine animals such as seals and walruses. Which were mainly the animals that were hunted during that time. So we used to get closer to the floe-edge by establishing ourselves at Agiuppiniit...

TUVAQ

Tuvaq is the landfast sea ice that forms at freeze-up in October and stays until late spring. It is over this ice that most of the travelling is done from Igloolik. Each year the sea ice has features such as ridges, cracks and especially the floe-edge, which form at almost the same places. These places are known and used by experienced hunters.

 

Having a good knowledge of the sea ice and its features involves understanding local land formations, winds, currents and tides. 

Maurice Arnatsiaq on Tuvaq.

EMILE IMARUITUQ 

on the stages sea ice freeze-up near Igloolik.​

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"In the fall when temperatures are getting colder the lakes are first to freeze over. When the sea starts to freeze the first ice formations on the shores are known as qinuaq. This is usually caused by a snowfall that no longer melts and forms into ice when the winds blow it to the shore. So therefore it is called qinuaq. Thus starts the process of ice formation when snowfall, blown by the wind, collects on the shore. When the temperatures are cold the ice will form uniformly, and can soon be travelled on. However, after this ice makes, the temperature could become mild so that this newly formed ice will likely get soft. At the same time, ice that had formed in the areas where there are currents will gradually be thinned from below.  When this happens, the ice is no longer safe to be travelled on in the fall...

TUVAQ MAP

Tuvaq has features that form each year more or less in the same locations. This map marks some of these features near Igloolik.

 

Click right to scroll through the stages of the freeze-up at Igloolik.

AULAJUQ

Around Igloolik, Inuit are used to hunting at the floe-edge and on the moving ice. The dark reflection in the sky of the open water at the floe-edge can be see from far away. This reflection is called tunguniq. The moving ice beyond the floe-edge is a good place to hunt walrus. The moving ice is brought in and taken away again and again by the tides and the wind. In the past, to be closer to the floe-edge the people of the Igloolik area set-up their camps at three main locations: Ugliit, Iglulik [Igloolik Point], and Pingiqqalik.

NOAH PIUGAATTUK

on life at Ugliit and Piniggalik.

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"The remains of the sod houses in Pingiqqalik show that this location used to have numerous inhabitants, as did Igloolik Point and the Ugliit Islands as well. These were the central locations of the Iglulingmiut. In the winter time our only hunting implement used to be the harpoon - our survival depended upon it. There were people who were responsible for caribou hunts in the summertime, but in Pingiqqalik that's the way it was. In Pingiqqalik, the people were much more aggressive in hunting walrus by comparison to those that lived in Iglulik [Igloolik Point]. People from Pingiqqalik were more walrus hunters. I knew it from personal experience. They did not hunt seals as much as those from Iglulik. Iglulik is a good location for seal hunting through ice; for this reason it was used as a central location where people gathered...

AULAJUQ and WINDS

Before going onto the moving ice, or when hunting at the floe-edge, experienced hunters always observe the wind conditions and the tides. Wind direction and strength are important for determining conditions at the floe-edge. When the Uangnaq wind blows, the aulajuq ice is moved away from the floe-edge. When this happens it is a good time for hunting seals at the floe-edge. When the wind changes to Nigiq, the aulajuq comes back to the floe-edge, making it possible for experienced hunters to hunt walrus on the moving ice. Hunting on the aulajuq can be very dangerous because changes in wind direction and tide currents can prevent you from getting back to the tuvaq. 

Maurice Arnatsiaq on Aulajuq.

PIUGAATTUK, 

on hunting and the effects of the winds at floe-edge.

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"The Inuit who hunt marine animals still observe the conditions around the floe-edge. When the wind blows from the direction of the moving ice, it blows with moderate force and with increased velocity at times. If the wind continues to blow the hunters would be discouraged from staying in the area, particularly if the wind came from the direction of the moving ice. If the wind did not subside hunters were discouraged from future hunts. When the winds from this direction subsided (this was before we barometers), they would change and blow from the opposite direction. This would also be followed by winds of moderate velocity...

AULAJUQ and the

FLOE-EDGE

This animation shows the aulajuq ice near Igloolik. The winds will enable different effects on the sea ice in other locations.

AIPILIK INNUKSUK

on the moving ice at the floe-edge near Igloolik.

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"The nature of moving ice is completely different from anything else. What I have mentioned are the places where you can go for safety in which their conditions are different. Sometimes, the ice had broken into pieces and frozen together. In cases like that you are to look for more stable ice, bigger pieces of ice that are solid. It is always like that because the older ice is usually further down. That is how the ice matures because they are behind the new ice that breaks up first. The ice that froze a few days ago drifts away. I heard not too long ago that the moving ice is quite flat because new ice had formed. There was a strong Northwest wind and part of the ice drifted away leaving the area for new ice to form. That is the nature of the ice. The ice conditions are never the same. Sometimes the ice clashes together more than once and breaks itself to pieces then it freezes together quite thick. When there is a South wind, that is the time when you can go on the ice to hunt...

AULAJUQ and the TIDES

The tides and currents as well as the winds cause the aulajuq to move. For this reason, hunters always have to be aware of the tides and remember that tides are strongest during the new moon (taqqiila) and full moon (naaqquruktuq).

ALIANAKULUK, 

on the importance of knowing tidal currents.

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"IF YOU PLAN ON spending day after day on the ice hunting, you must always pay attention to the tidal currents, especially in the winter when the temperatures are extreme. The ice tends to break off and detach itself from the landfast ice. It is dangerous when you do not pay attention; it may even look as if it would not break off. For generations it has been like this: the floe-edge always wants to break off. This is especially the case after the ice has formed at the floe-edge for a prolonged period and there has been no open water. It is said that when it wants to break off, it will break off anywhere it desires, especially when the tidal currents are strong during spring tide, even when it appears to be stable. It has been said that when the floe-edge gets the urge to become open water the ice breaks off" (Louis Alianakuluk IE-477, 2001).

INNUKSUK, 

on the importance of knowing tidal currents.

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"In conditions where the ice is permanently frozen and it is very cold, and the wind has been coming from the northwest, should the wind shift from the northwest to the southeast and the moving ice still has not been broken by the pressure and current, then there is no doubt that it is possible to reach the main ice without trouble. There is absolutely no concern about the dangers regarding the ice. When we lived by hunting alone we always paid attention to every detail and change of the ice conditions. Even today, when someone goes out to hunt near the moving ice they should still pay attention to the ice. In the morning, when it is low tide, the movement of the current will be inwards towards the main ice for the rest of the day. That is what happens sometimes, before the movement of the current is inwards it stays still and there is absolutely no doubt that you can make it to the main ice after hunting on the new ice...

SEA ICE GALLERIES

Check out the many forms of the in the Igloolik area by clicking through the gallery below.