No one could have recognized her! A flagship adventurer from Koh-Lanta filmed in Tomorrow Belongs to Us

No one could have recognized her! A flagship adventurer from Koh-Lanta filmed in Tomorrow Belongs to Us
No one could have recognized her! A flagship adventurer from Koh-Lanta filmed in Tomorrow Belongs to Us

AFP

With Inuit hunters, on the ice and melting ice floe

On the ice floe, Hjelmer Hammeken spotted a ringed seal near its ice hole. Camouflaged in white, it advances slowly in the snow, lies down, waits. When it stamps its feet, the seal raises its head, it pulls. In this lunar landscape, the beast is immediately dismembered. Hjelmer swallows a piece of raw liver while still warm. The hunter’s reward. The scene is banal near Ittoqqortoormiit, near Scoresby Strait, the largest fjord in the world on the east coast of Greenland, on the edge of the Arctic. In this town of 350 inhabitants with colorful houses , all men hunt – bear if they are professionals, seal, narwhal or musk ox if they are amateurs. It is an ancestral way of life that is passed down from generation to generation. But over the past twenty years, climate change and quotas have gradually jeopardized a tradition that ensures the food and financial survival of Inuit families. capture their daily life, a TV journalist and an AFP photographer lived for several days at the end of April with professional hunters from Ittoqqortoormiit. – Hjelmer Hammeken, 66 years old, the legend, witness to climate change – When he arrives by sled to dogs on the ice floe at the edge of the sea, Hjelmer commands respect. He is the greatest polar bear hunter in Greenland: 319 killed in fifty years, seven this year. His reputation dates back to the 1980s. He then set off alone across the glaciers of the fjord, with his dogs, a tent, a few supplies, and could bring back up to three bears at the end of an expedition lasting several weeks. It was the golden age for professional hunters, when bear skins were sold abroad. 2005, quotas were introduced to curb the decline in the number of polar bears. Thirty-five in 2024. And at the end of April, they have been reached. This is why on this day, Hjelmer hunts seals, not subject to quotas. Before his eyes, since the beginning of the century, climate change has slowly but surely done its work in the Arctic, which is warming four times more faster than the world average. “Before, we could hunt all year round,” says the man with the lively gaze and white mustache. “In winter, the ice was harder (…) and the fjord never melted.” Today, the ice is thinner, the pack ice is less extensive and the strait is completely open from mid-July to early September. As he observes the horizon, the young hunter Martin Madsen at his side, the wind rises, the sea is rough. The ice, thinner at the edge of the pack ice, becomes unstable. It risks breaking away and taking them away, it is time to leave. “In August, all the ice floes will have melted, there will be nothing left but the sea, a rough sea”, which will make seal hunting difficult or narwhal (also subject to quotas), continues Hjelmer. As for polar bears, who hunt on the ice floe, he wonders how they will survive. Already in summer, stuck on dry land and hungry, they approach the village. No doubt, in the future, they will migrate further north, according to the researchers. “What will happen in the next 50 years?” asks Hjelmer. – Martin Madsen, 28 years old, or the difficulty of living from hunting -Like every morning, Martin scans the horizon from his window and consults the weather forecast on his cell phone. No fog, bright sun, ideal for hunting. He takes his rifles and leaves for the edge of the ice floe. Other hunters are already in position. With sharp eyes, they look at the reflections of the water under the effect of the wind, sweeping the landscape. Two kilometers from here, three polar bears roam. To attract seals, the Inuit scratch the ice floe with their “tooq”, a long wooden pole, which imitates the sound of pinnipeds when they dig the ice hole which allows them to breathe.When a hunter spots one, he shouts: “Aanavaa!” (pronounce “Anoua”: “Here is a seal!”) and whistles to attract the beast. If he misses his target, the others can then shoot. That day, Martin, black mustache and youthful face, misses his target. The next day, with his 222 mm caliber rifle, at a distance of more than 200 meters, he killed a bearded seal with the first shot in the water, which he then hurried to bring back in a boat before it sank. Pride: “The dogs will be able to eat.” Like Hjelmer, Martin is one of 10 professional hunters in Ittoqqortoormiit, the only ones authorized to shoot polar bears, a title granted if their income comes 100% from hunting. “I hunt since I was a child, I grew up among hunters, my father, my grandfather,” he says. Since the heyday of his elders, the conditions of professional hunter have changed. Not so much in the way of doing things – except the use of mobile phones and satellites on the ice floe or the appearance of snow scooters. But in the possibility of making a living from them. “Today, there’s not much left to hunt,” Martin says. “I don’t like the quotas imposed on hunters.” Bear skin, which can only be sold in Greenland since a European Union embargo in 2008, fetches up to 2,000 euros; that of the seal 40 euros maximum, a price half lower than that charged before the establishment of an embargo in 2009 finally canceled for the Inuit. Return home. Charlotte Pike, Martin’s partner, prepares polar bear soup. Tomatoes, carrots, onions, red curry. “Given the little income that hunting brings us (…) life is very difficult,” says this 40-year-old woman who seeks to welcome tourists at home as an alternative. “Not to mention,” she continues, “everything we hear in the world about the fact that we kill animals, that we should not eat meat… It’s hard for us.”Martin , who never went to school, hopes that their son Noah, eight years old, will not become a hunter himself. – Nukappiaaluk Hammeken, 11 years old, his puppies, his dream – His father Peter is not a hunter professional, he runs a café-restaurant in this village at the end of the world, 800 km from the nearest human colony in Greenland, supplied by cargo ship once or twice a year. But he dreams of being part of this elite who hunt noble prey and which continues to diminish over the years in Ittoqqortoormiit. In Hjelmer’s youth, his great-uncle, “almost every man in the village” practiced professional hunting. Nukappiaaluk had to wait until he was 12 years old before doing his first hunt. To become a professional, he will have to go through a long apprenticeship with the elders. The prerequisite is sled dogs, obligatory for professional hunting. Today, the shy boy handcrafts collars for his nine puppies. “He wants to become a professional hunter, I explain to him how to do it,” says his father, 38 years old. “Hunting (…) is important for the village, for our future.” Within two months, his dogs will be able to start working. Nukappiaaluk will have to learn to train them, to direct them by voice to reach 30 km/h, to be respected – the slightest error can be fatal in this hostile environment. As he will have to learn to understand his future prey, their diet, their habitat, their movements which evolve with the climate and repeat the actions of all generations of hunters before him. “If you don’t know your ancestors, you don’t know who you are,” summarizes his brother Marti, 22.mpr-om-cbw-dp/jnd

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