Inuit family on the hunt for seals in the Arctic Circle

"The hunters meet on the icepack at 8 a.m. Noah Metuq and his wife, Alukie, ride up on the snowmobile with the ripped seat. A polar bear tore it up one day when Noah wasn't riding. The temperature is minus 13 degrees and the wind is made of razors.

"A warm day," Noah says with a grin. He is not joking.

The hunters roar off together on their machines, racing from the embrace of Pangnirtung Fjord near their village out onto Cumberland Sound, about 30 miles from the Arctic Circle. Each tows a sled -- a qomatiq -- with needed gear: tools in case the snowmobile breaks down, rifles to shoot the seals, gigs to haul them from the icy water. Lunch. Cigarettes. A sleeping bag, just in case.

Noah, 40, is a short, solid man with few words and a lifetime's experience hunting. His wife is more voluble. Alukie, 33, a woman of many smiles, takes in foster children and has three of her own. She comes on the hunt because "I love it out here," she says. The Inuit couple wear store-bought boots, but she made their other clothing from sealskins and caribou hide, with gloves made of wolf hide -- "the warmest thing you can wear," Alukie says.

As they race, the male hunters stand in the stirrups of the snowmobiles, scanning the ice. They are looking for a small ice dome with a little hole on the surface. It is a seal's breathing hole. When the men find a patch with many holes, recently formed, they have found the seals. The hunters fan out and each stakes out a hole."

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On the Hunt for Seals Near the Arctic Circle (The Washington Post 4/13)