Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Tom Naqitarvik killed this double-tusked narwhal in Admiralty Inlet, about 50km from Arctic Bay, July 9.

A tale of two tusks

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Arctic Bay (July 26/04) - An 18 year-old hunter from Arctic Bay who was out on the floe edge at Admiralty Inlet on July 9 didn't realize his narwhal had two tusks until his brothers helped him haul it in.

Once Tom Naqitarvik laid his eyes on those two tusks emerging from that enormous whale head, his first words were: "I'm going to buy a new (snow) machine!"

A narwhal, known as "the unicorn of the sea," is a beautiful and amazing catch for any Northern hunter. A double-tusked narwhal is even more rare and beautiful.

Earlier that day, Tom's snowmachine had fallen through a crack in the ice into the frigid water. Because of that mishap, at the last minute he joined the floe edge tour organized by Sherry McLean of the Midnight Sun Marathon -- a popular race held in the region each summer.

Tom's brother, Ikey, a licensed outfitter, was hired to lead five runners on the tour that day.

Also on the tour was their older brother Moses Naqitarvik.

"It was a nice sunny day," recalled Ikey. "We saw bowheads, seals, a polar bear."

Seeing a polar bear and those bowheads would have been enough to satisfy any visitor to the region.

But the day got even more exciting when Tom suddenly spotted a narwhal in the distance.

He was prepared. He had his rifle and his grappling hooks. He waited by the floe edge with patience and focus.

This approach paid off.

Tom made his move.

Once he shot, then got his hooks into the whale, Moses and Ikey helped him haul it in.

"It was kind of far away when I shot it," Tom said of the narwhal. "I throw my hooks. The narwhal was still alive. The narwhal got scared and swam close to me and it got easier."

"It wasn't the biggest. It was still pretty young," said Ikey. "But it was about 15 feet long and maybe 2,000 pounds."

When everyone saw the double tusks they started celebrating, more so than with a regular catch because of the rarity of the tusks.

The double-tusked narwhal he caught was a young male, which meant the skin was thin and the meat very tasty.

Tom started hunting at age 12, and has caught about two narwhals every year, but never one with two tusks.

$112,500 for double tusks

Naqitarvik heard of a hunter in Iqaluit who got $112,500 for double tusks. He hopes to make that amount of money, too, so he can buy a new snowmachine.

But, he said: "it's not about the money."

He said it's hard to describe what it feels like to make a big catch like that.

"It feels good," he said.

The double tusks may be rare, but the Naqitarvik family's ability to haul them in is not.

Olayuk Naqitarvik -- Tom, Moses and Ikey's father -- has caught three narwhals in his lifetime. "I don't live in the community, but I know that Olayuk is a renowned hunter in Arctic Bay," said McLean.

Feasted on muktuk

Tom is the first of his brothers to catch a narwhal.

As soon as the three brothers brought the whale in, carved it up, and feasted on muktuk, Ikey grabbed his CB radio and announced the catch to the community.

Tom has since stored the tusks at his parents' house and is still cleaning them.

For the family, it is a reaffirmation of their skills at hunting the majestic narwhal.

"Everybody has been talking about it and saying 'Congratulations' to us," said Ikey.