Yes, I'm going back to one of my favorite places again...Wakeham Bay. Yes, I did go under the sea ice to pick mussels.
Here's how it happens.
We lived in a beautiful bay that was 24 miles deep and at places 6 or 7 miles wide. There was a very high tide ...40 feet. The bay froze over around the first of December because of the constant wind and high tides. Going in and out of the bay were strong currents...about 12 miles per hour. You wanted to come home when the tide would sweep you in to home. The beach was stony, rocky and covered with huge boulders Some boulders were 10 to 12 feet high. Now you have to remember all these details to get under the ice.
Later in the winter when the ice has become very thick and at high tides is the time to go under the ice. Yes, I know the tide comes in daily . But along with that there are higher tides when lined up with the moon.
When the tide goes out the ice settles on the beach but remember those huge rocks. Well, the ice parks on top of them . The ice sort of drapes over the rocks. What this does is to leave space under the ice around the rock. When there are a number of large rocks in a row it leaves a passageway under the ice.
So very carefully the Inuit choose where to make a hole in the ice. They choose a time when the tide is going out. A hole is made in the ice big enough for a person to go through. Sometimes a ladder is put in the hole for you to get down to the bottom. Then anybody who wants to go down is able to. Sometimes 15 - 20 people are under the ice.
A lantern is used to provide some light. You have a pail and start picking up mussels. Some water drips from overhead. You sometimes go 100 meters under the ice all the time walking on the ground. There is some cracking of the ice.
I will post a video of Lukasi , who you met before talking about the petroglyphs, now taking you under the ice. Lukasi's father , Napaaluk, was the person who took us down in 1967.
Now these were small black mussels and very tough. I didn't like them but, being a prairie boy that's not surprising. The kids would bring up a half pail of mussels to my house and I would give them some money. I didn't eat the mussels.
When I look at this video now I say I would never go under the ice now. In 1967 it was an experience of a lifetime to go under the ice.