From Nuluartalik to Aupaluk: Ivakkak did not race due to weather conditions. Ivakkak 2016 aimed to get to Aupaluk safely as the weather was worsening. Camp supplies were not sufficient for the three days of forecasted storms. It was decided by the Ivakkak Marshall and Coordinator that the main goal was to get everyone safely to Aupaluk. Upon that recommendation support crew and mushers assembled a system whereby one skidoo for one team of mushers lead the trail in blizzard conditions, a two-up system.
During the trek to Aupaluk, one team— Billy Cain and Charlie Cain, Team 4— had lost the trail and ended up on the sea ice north of Aupaluk. They built an igloo for shelter from the storm. All other teams made it to Aupaluk. When the coordination team found out that Team 4 did not make it to Aupaluk, immediate rescue efforts were put in place. One rescue team was sent immediately to recover Team 4. The rescue team was a thousand metres away, but could not locate Team 4 due to zero visibility conditions and had to turn back. A second team was sent with the exact location coordinates, but they had turn back as well due to zero visibility conditions. The third and final search team consisted of the following people: George Eetook (the Mayor of Aupaluk), Bobby Gordon, Daavidee Angutinguak, Billy Dan May and Ittuk Akpahattak. This team prepared to go all in to recover Team 4. Johnny Oovaut, the Ivakkak Marshall, led a prayer for the rescue team and Team 4 before their departure.
Team 4 was located on Thursday morning at 4:50 a.m. at Kangirsualuk, in the rough sea ice. The rescue team was 50 feet away from them, but were unable to visibly locate Team 4. The search and rescue headquarters told Team 4 to turn on their skidoo. Upon them turning on their skidoo the rescue team was able to locate them and return them safely to Aupaluk.
Coordinators said that for some it was the worst weather they have ever travelled in – blizzard conditions that were worsening.
With everyone safe in Aupaluk, Ivakkak rested one day during the blizzard. Ivakkak was able to rest in a warm place after such an ordeal. Even water service delivery was interrupted on Thursday.
On the trail to Tasiujaq
On Friday weather cleared with a short window of travel between Aupaluk and Tasiujaq. Teams departed Aupaluk at 9:30 a.m. and arrived in Tasiujaq by 5:30 p.m., approximately 58 miles was travelled that day. Team 4 disqualified themselves in Aupaluk. All 11 remaining teams departed from Aupaluk on a very nice sunny day with blizzard conditions approaching in the evening. Teams were able to make it to Tasiujaq prior to this blizzard.
At the departure from Aupaluk, community members were at the start line, cheering on the teams. “There was very good hospitality and support by locals,” said Jonathan Epoo, the Ivakkak 2016 Coordinator. Thankfully there were high spirits after such an extreme situation. Upon arrival in Tasiujaq, the community welcomed the mushers with two tents set up on shore with hot tea and bannock. A celebratory feast was held at the local school gymnasium. They said the food was amazing, noting that there was quaq.
Today in Tasiujaq there was a blizzard warning, so Ivakkak is staying put, repairing sleds and skidoos. They are waiting for the weather to clear and are all set to hit the trail again. They will have to camp overnight in between Tasiujaq and Kuujjuaq – Kuujjuaq being the Ivakkak 2016 finish line. Right now they are happy to be safe and sound.