Braving a cave, Jaypootie's humour and our first day out on the land

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut

Weather: a bracing -28c

Qikiqtarjuaq hunters Pauloosie Kayootuk (right) and Jaypootie Aliqatuqtuq (left). Photo by Eilís Quinn. Today was our first day out on the land in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut. And it couldn’t have been more beautiful. Our guides today were two local hunters; Pauloosie Kayootuk and Jaypootie Aliqatuqtuq. Along with the soundman (Jean), cameraman (Alfonse) and one of our interviewees for the health series, Lavinia Curley, we were six.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, despite how it looks on most maps, Qikiqtarjuaq actually isn’t on Baffin Island, but is a small island in and of itself. The community is huddled on the island’s western shore.

But today, we headed out to shoot some of the landscape that makes this region of Nunavut so spectacular.

Our first stop was a cave on the island’s southeastern tip. Cave located in Qikiqtarjuaq Island's southeast. Photo by Eilís Quinn. And holy crap, it was spectacular. Dozens of pillar shaped rock formations hung from the cave’s ceiling. Deep in the back of the grotto, a wide crevice was filled with rocks that had been pummelled into sleek oval shapes by the summer sea tides.

But even more than the cave’s beauty, what I’ll remember most about today is Jaypootie’s humour.

We arrived at the mouth of the cave and right away, Jaypootie and Pauloosie jumped off their snowmobiles and began prodding and hacking away at the sea ice with sticks to test for thickness and verify where it was safe to walk.

Once they were confident the sheet of ice in question was strong enough to stand on, they’d spring on top of it and jump up and down until the ice heaved like a giant trampoline. Just to make sure it woudn’t give under all our weight.

“Be careful, be careful!,” I would say nervously. “It’s so scary!”


“Don’t worry, you’re thinking like a qallunaat (white person),” Lavinia said stroking my arm and teasing me that I was like a mother hen.

Qikiqtarjuaq jokester Jaypootie Aliqatuqtuq. Photo by Eilís Quinn.

“We’re used to being out on the land and ice.”

Jaypootie however, thought my over-protectiveness was hilarious.

And he spent the rest of the day teasing me about it. Every time we encountered sea water coming up through broken ice, Jaypootie would go over to it, attract my attention and then run around the hole chanting “It’s so scary, it’s sooooooo scary,” until Lavinia and I burst out laughing.




Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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