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Snowmobiles can only hydroplane like this for so long without sinking - at least for now. - NNSL file photo

Floating snowmobiles needed: NTI

John Thompson
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Mar 28/05) - Global warming means Inuit will need floating snowmobiles one day, says one Inuit leader.

The idea was one of many brought up during a recent conference on how to deal with changes to the Arctic environment that Nunavummiut are already experiencing, said James Eetoolook, first vice president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc (NTI).

Several weeks ago five fisherman in Pangnirtung were forced to abandon their catch and $35,000 in equipment when the sea ice began cracking beneath their feet.

The idea of a floating snowmobile is something often discussed by hunters when they're on the ice, said Juupa Sowdluapik with Cumberland Sound fisheries. He says he'd be interested, provided it allows Inuit to continue hunting as they've done before.

"We've thought of it before, but nobody went ahead with it," he said. He imagines a vehicle with pontoons on the side.

He also suggested small hovercraft could one day be used. "Like James Bond," he said.

Officials at Bombardier, the manufacturer of Ski-Doo, said they have no plans to develop a floating snowmobile at this time.

But Harry Haney, a resident of Rhodes, Michigan, recently designed a snowmobile that floats, which was nominated by Time Magazine as one of the most amazing inventions of 2004.

The Snow-Boat is a cross between snowmobile and aluminum-hulled boat. Although it isn't as fast or manoeuvrable as a typical snowmobile, it floats like a charm and can even ramp itself back onto the ice with skis built into the bow.

Bidding for the invention's patent begins on eBay on April 4.