This week in Newtok, a routine seal hunt took a turn for the worse when four young hunters were stranded far from home.
The hunt started normally enough. Noah Carl, his cousin Eric Carl, Chis John, and Christopher Kassaiuli left Newtok in their boat on Monday afternoon. The hunters are old friends, and range in age from 16 to 20. The seal they killed gave them trouble, but they chased it out to the bay and shot it with a shotgun. On their way home, they beached their boat on a sandbar at low tide.
With no cell reception, they couldn’t call for help. They managed to push their boat back into the water when the tide came in, but by then it was dark and the fog was too thick to navigate. So the men lowered their anchor and curled together for warmth next to their dead seal. Noah Carl says that the night was very cold.
"We just talk about stories all night," he said. "Any kind of stories - about catching the seal or what we do at home."
When the fog cleared the men could see the lights of Newtok and tried to go home again, but their boat hit another sandbar and they were stuck for six more hours.
By Tuesday morning, everyone was looking for them. Noah Carl and Christopher Kassauili’s families alerted the Troopers, who coordinated with the Juneau Coast Guard and Anchorage’s Rescue Coordination Center. As it started to get dark on Tuesday night, the Coast Guard prepared to launch a C-130 aircraft to search for them from the air, which is about when the four hunters finally made it to shore.
Noah Carl says that they’ve already butchered the seal they caught. If his whole family eats it, he doesn’t think the meat will last too long and they’re getting ready to go out on the water again.