"They are free, they are gone," Johnny Williams, the town manager, said in a telephone interview. "Last night, the winds shifted from the north. The ice cracked and with the new moon, the ice went. We have open waters on the coastline of Hudson Bay."
He said the whales' escape was a huge relief for Inukjuak. Over the last few days, 80 people at a time had gone out on the ice to watch the whales. "We were all trying to find out how we can save them," he said. "We observed the wind, the moon, everything."
The whales' escape was cause for celebration elsewhere in Canada, where there had been a desperate campaign to push the government to send in ice-breaking ships to crack open the ice and help the animals find open water.
Stranding of killer whales in Arctic ice is relatively unheard of. Williams, who is 69, said in his lifetime he had only ever seen two or three carcasses of orcas before this week.
But marine biologists say killer whales are moving into the Arctic in greater numbers over the last decade as the sea ice retreats due to climate change.
Orcas face no natural predators in the Arctic, putting them at the top of the food chain.