The ongoing search for the airborne object shot down over Yukon last weekend has brought some excitement — and a bit of uneasiness — to people in one of the nearby communities.
“Well, I’ve been watching it on the news,” said Joanne Buyck in Mayo, Yukon, a village about 400 kilometres north of Whitehorse.
“I just think, well, I’m not gonna worry about it and hopefully whoever is looking into it [will] find out what it is, so it doesn’t disrupt our side of the country — because it is peaceful and beautiful here.”
The object was shot down on Saturday by the North American Aerospace Defense Command and is a “suspected balloon,” Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre said on Wednesday.
The search for the downed object is focused on the area between Mayo and Dawson City, Yukon.
“Last night when I was driving home, I saw this plane light in the sky and right away my reaction was, ‘Oh my God, I wonder if that’s another thing,'” Buyck said.
“I just thought, ‘nah, it’s just a plane, and carried on home.”
Larry Buyck, Joanne’s brother in Mayo, is sceptical that anything will be found anytime soon in the “dense and rugged” country near Mayo.
“With GPS they should have marked exactly where they shot it down in the first place,” Larry said.
“More likely they’ll have to wait till the snow is all gone before they can find anything.”
‘Particularly challenging’ search
The suspected balloon is one of four mysterious objects which have been shot down over North America this month.
Eyre said in a tweet on Wednesday that the search in Yukon was “particularly challenging in the remote, mountainous area with deep snow, risk of avalanche, and harsh weather conditions.”
3/ In Yukon, efforts to locate and recover what we can now characterize as a suspected balloon are particularly challenging in the remote, mountainous area with deep snow, risk of avalanche, and harsh weather conditions.
Roberta Hager, deputy chief of the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun in Mayo, said hearing about the object shot down was “quite concerning.”
“What can you do when things come out of the sky, right? You don’t have anything to protect you … And we really never got any kind of alert or, you know, like saying to be aware of anything,” Hagar said.
Hagar said community members are often out on the land, so it’s a potential safety concern.
On Tuesday, the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun along with the Dawson City-based Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow, Yukon, issued a statement saying they’d had discussions with federal and territorial officials about the incident. The First Nations also called for a “collaborative process to be formalized for any matters of Arctic sovereignty and security.”
“It is imperative the North Yukon First Nations are consulted in all matters that affect our people, lands, waters and skies.”
Other Northern leaders have also weighed in on the Yukon incident.
Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said in a statement on Monday that it “highlights the need for Northerners to be fully involved in discussions surrounding Arctic security.”
Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson hearkened back to the Soviet satellite Kosmos 954, and said the recent incidents serve as a wake-up call to beef up surveillance capabilities in the North.
The Kosmos satellie re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over northern Canada in 1978. Radioactive debris was spread across the eastern part of the N.W.T., the western part of what’s now Nunavut and into northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“These incursions remind us that we’re vulnerable. We are the gateway to North America, and let’s take advantage of this opportunity to focus on the strategic importance of Northern Canada to the continent,” Patterson said.