What a crazy couple of days . . . January 8 – 10, 2013.
What started out as a small bleep, and appearing as a video on the Internet, quickly grew into a large, and very well covered event with social media leading the way. A pod of approximately 12 killer whales had become trapped in the ice in Hudson Bay, Quebec. And all of them were now taking turns at getting a breath of air from a hole in the ice that was getting smaller by the hour.
Inukjuak, Quebec… a small remote town accessible only by plane, with approximately 1800 citizens who stumbled upon a rather complex situation, and who had urgently requested help from the Canadian government in freeing the killer whales. The Canadian government denied a request to bring icebreakers in saying they were too far away to help.
Inukjuak, is about 900 miles north of Montreal and was ill-equipped to jump into action, however, after a town meeting took the matter into their own hands deciding they would do whatever it took to help the whales. Armed with chainsaws, and unending amount of determination, a plan came together that pales in comparison when one puts into consideration the enormity of the task at hand.
What transpired over the span of 2.5 days wasn’t just remarkable as it was incredibly heart warming. Hundreds, if not thousands of people / volunteers came together with one objective in mind; to do whatever was necessary to not only help free these trapped killer whales from the ice, but to assist the people in Inukjuak, Quebec.
Ironically, a friend, current colleague and board member of Orca Conservancy, Michael Harris and I had a conversation very early on in this situation. I don’t remember the exact wording of our conversation, but he said something along the lines of – – ‘those killer whales may just get themselves out of the mess they are currently in. They are pack hunters, extremely intelligent, and adapt at problem solving…….When the time is right, they will find a way and continue on as they have for many, many years.’
Add to that that following – – ’Life Always Finds A Way.’
This became a tedious situation where many moments were spent literally picking and choosing what information was truly factual before passing it along to be distributed across the Internet, news media, and various groups and/or organizations. Other moments were spent making friends with unfamiliar people, and then coming together to unite over the same goal. Emotions of stress, anxiety, giggles, and even group hugs, were taking place over the Internet and spanned across numerous time zones. Each and every one of us that became involved took the extra steps necessary to make the world a better pace, even if it was for just one day.
Remarkably, the ice bound and trapped killer whales did, in fact, find a way to freedom just as my sage friend mentored me early on, yet the journey all of us took with them was paved with an unbridled amount of good intentions. It was something that I needed to put down on paper (digital at this point), and to do so while the feelings and emotions were still fresh.
Lastly, having had numerous conversations with Petah Inukpuk, Mayor of the remote village of Inukjuak, Quebec there was one conversation in particular that will remain ingrained in my mind forever. Petah had expressed how very touched he was by the outpouring of everyone that was willing to step up to the plate to assist his community in this time of need. In turn, I gave him thanks for caring enough to get the word out, and he chuckled and said to me, ‘you do know that they are a competitor, yes?’.
And, even so, ‘they have every right to live as we do’.
What a profound and yet simple statement from a man with endless wisdom. And, suddenly it dawned on me that we all could learn a thing or two from him, if we are just willing to listen.
The following are some emails that I sent out to various people and/or groups throughout the event. Thankfully, there was a happy ending.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013 @ 11:47p.m.
I just got off the phone with Petah Inukpuk, Mayor of Inukjuak, Quebec.
The community had a town hall meeting this evening and are in dire need of help.
They will be opening a bank account for donations in the morning. Petah will
call me when he has the information, which I will pass around. We are in the
process of creating a donation page on Facebook, and will make this available as
This is a small town of approximately 1800 people, that are not equipped for
something like this. The trapped orca are about 35 – 38km from the town. At the
town meeting this evening it was decided that the town folk, equipped with
chainsaws, will start removing chunks of ice in an attempt to make the hole
larger. What started out approximately 30 x 30 is now the size of a pickup
Kasco Marine, Inc. is on the way to help and will attempt to place approximately
20 – 30 propellers into the water and try to force warmer water to the area to
melt the ice. This will require large amounts of fuel.
Currently, they need generators, chainsaws, and gas. Additionally, transport
vehicles are also needed to get the equipment out to the site. I would guess
food and water as well.
US Coast Guard has shown some interest, and will confirm if they can assist
Will send more information, including contact information as it becomes
available. Again, stay tuned.
Thursday, January 10, 2013 @ 6:39a.m.
Whales have left the initial hole… was told by the command center that they
Confirming if they have in fact found open water, or if they have just located
another breathing hole.
Sorry for the confusion.. stay tuned.
Thursday, January 10, 2013 @ 7:03a.m.
Petah, Mayor of Inukjuak, Quebec just called me to let all of us know, and I quote:
‘We are not worldly people, and our education is not like most… Last night there was a new moon, and the currents in the water was activated and caused an opening all the way to open water. The whales are not trapped, and there is no new breathing hole. It is now up to them to survive, but they are indeed, gone.’
He was also very touched by the outpouring of everyone that were willing to step up to the plate to assist them in this time of need. I gave him thanks for caring enough to get the word out, and he chuckled and said, ‘you do know that they are a competitor, yes?’. And, that even so, ‘they have every right to live as we do’.
I gave him the option, that if by chance they are located somewhere else to give me a call, he obliged but once again said, ‘I am sure that they are gone’.
Personally, I want to thank all of you for doing your part in getting this story out, requesting help, assistance, etc.
This truly was a group effort, and my heart is smiling at how everyone came together on this. What a wonderful group of people!
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Early this morning I spoke to Petah Inukpak, the Mayor of Inukjuak, Quebec and was told by Petah that the whales were gone.
Here’s what Petah had to say:
“Last night there was a new moon, and the currents in the water was activated and caused an opening all the way to open water. The whales are not trapped, and there is no new breathing hole. It is now up to them to survive, but they are indeed, gone.”
He was also very touched by the outpouring of everyone that was willing to step up to the plate to assist them in this time of need.
Throughout the day today there was growing concern that the trapped whales may have left the original spot only to find another hole and ultimately still be trapped. Mayor Inukpak was able to get a twin otter plane to survey the area just to be sure and covered a grid 30 miles x 40 miles.
Upon returning from a 3.5 hour plane ride, Mayor Inukpak felt 100% confident that the whales were able to exit the area, and noted that many of the large open areas would have given the whales not only freedom, but the capacity to hunt if need be.
“Thanks to everyone from the Inukjuak community to the online community for their support.”
I personally would like to thank Elizabeth Batt, Ken Rust with Kasco Marine, Inc. for stepping up to the plate, again, to help save the whales, the board members of Orca Conservancy, Dave Alsup with CNN, and also the hundred if not thousand of volunteers who not only got this story out, but remained diligent throughout the entire process. Every single person today made a difference.
This truly was a group effort, and my heart is smiling at how everyone came together on this. Again, thank you.