“I thought it was just windy, but [my husband] said it’s a pretty full-blown blizzard right now.”
The Nunavut Quest is a big event in the Baffin region but it was cancelled the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirteen mushers started the race on Monday, to run their dog teams from Arctic Bay to the finish line in Igloolik.
It’s a remote route of more than 400 kilometres, over sea ice and tundra, in sometimes harsh Arctic weather. There are no communities along the way, and seven designated camp spots roughly 50 kilometres apart.
As of Friday, one musher had dropped out of the race because dogs had chewed up his harnesses and lead ropes.
“We’re constantly shifting our plan of events [in Igloolik], in accordance to their anticipated arrival,” Haulli said.
“Sometimes they’re able to try to catch up and run a little further. But for this one, since they’re a little bit more behind, we were suggesting that they can carry their dogs over to the next camp and then they can start their race from there and finish here a little earlier — so they don’t get stuck.”
Two snowmobiles are permitted to travel with each musher, as help and support. The whole crew — mushers, helpers, organizers — camp in the same spot at the end of each leg of the race.
“I’ve been doing it the old-fashioned way. A couple of people have been calling me on satellite phones, rather than texting.”
‘Amazing’ to see people together again
Iqalukjuak said it wasn’t clear even up until a few weeks ago how or if the race would proceed this year. It all depended on COVID-19 and any public health restrictions.
He’s grateful that things eased up enough for organizers to be given the go-ahead. It’s an important way to bring families and friends together again after a couple of years when some have lost loved ones, he said.
“I don’t know how to really explain it. It’s been kind of amazing to watch people get back together again,” he said.
“This is my little brother’s first race. We’re very proud of him,” she said.
The first Nunavut Quest was run in 1999, to mark the creation of the new territory that year. The event was designed to celebrate and preserve the Inuit tradition of travel by dog team.
The winner of the race this year will receive $20,000, while second- and third-place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. Everyone else who finishes will receive $1,000.
“It’s only fair, because they are working very hard. I know it’s tough for them out there,” Haulli said.
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