High in the Arctic .. .. Eskimo !!

Life in the arctic @ 50 below zero

Posts Tagged ‘Festivals’

Back to the ocean ice..

Posted by majikimaje on June 14, 2008

Come along for the journey of a lifetime

Welcome, this is the post, This is the story, of;

High in the Arctic .. .. Eskimo !!

 This is a two month long journey, in sub zero temps you would never want to have to deal with. It is very cold, blistering cold with vicious winds. Alaska’s Arctic is unrelenting winds coupled with extreme temps that often reach minus 100 degrees below zero with wind chill.  (30 below W/40 miles an hour winds = 130 below !) You have no idea, what that feels like on your face, when driving into it @ 80 mph !!  On the North side of the beach of Point Hope is glass smooth ocean ice. When traveling to Kupak river, the throttle is full blast!

This ride out to the ocean ice, on this sled is one incredibly rough, ride. Being a pasenger on a sled is the absolute worst place to be. All of the snow and ice that the machine kicks up, ends up on me, the rider, this journey which is about 7 miles, takes, what seems like a few hours to complete, When we finally arrive down at the tent area, I feel like I have just played a game of tackle football, I am so sore all over, from the constant Tigluk Oviok is doing his job, chopping that ice, smoothing out the trail in his area. He is 72 years young in this image.crashing of the sled as it comes down hard on the ocean ice.  The ocean ice, is not smooth, not by a long shot, The terrain is constantly changing, This trail has to be hand chopped using a pick and axe to smooth out this trail by hand,  this man pictured in this image, with the axe, is over 70 years old, chop down the high parts, smooth it all out and fill in the low portions, This is his job all day long, Keep this trail open.  Come along for a journey.   A most wonderful story in a far away unknown forgotten land.   This is very hard work, no easy task to stay out here all day long working, and the only reward or pay is..  ..  ..   that you get to eat ! 

Point Hope Alaska 99766

The oldest continually inhabited settlement or village in all of North America.

 Life can accuratly be traced back to over 3,000 years to this one spot of land, Over 10,000 Inupiaq residents used to inhabit this land and thrived and succeded in a climate where very few people could ever endure. The whaling compaines arrived in full force during the mid 1800’s. Through greed, disease, & mass starvation, the population was reduced to just 190 people. there was no food ! the whaling compaines made sure of that.The village of Point Hope as it is today. The whale population was decimated, the walrus & the Caribou we no where to be found. Gone through greed. When the people of the village turned desperate, The skins were cut off the skin boats and cut up and boiled to make a soup, Lots of people died through that idea, which only make people sick and did not work at all.  Death is no stranger to this village, it frequents this tiny piece of land all to often, so many people that I have been so close to, have passed on so suddenly, most of them from cancer, from the nuclear waste that the government spread all over this area,..  .. (to see what effect it would have on the people, the land and the enviroment).  GOOGLE:   Project Chariot  –   The Firecracker Boys  for a shocking account of how stupid people, can make such bizzare decisions and out right murder over 300 people and no one is held accountable, the government says that is because of the use of tobacco products.  

A huge whaling ship was loaded up with tens of thousands of ivory tusks to ship back to the home port. It did not get very far due to the fact is was so severly overloaded with all that Ivory. The vessel sunk, just a few miles off the coast of Point Hope. In this next image, we are looking ‘south”, the direction we are headed out to the ocean ice pack to the lead opening. Although the image above this text shows no ice, We have land fast ice some eight months out of the year. This is the village of Point Hope Alaska Thanks to google’s eye in the sky, we can see lots up close and personal. Right here on this page.

We are on the south side of the village, headed 7 miles out, on the ocean ice, to gather food, for the next two months. The south side of the image above is at the top of the image, The south side of the image below this text is on the bottom of the image.

The village of Point Hope as seen today

So now you have a good indication of where we are, which way we are headed, lets go, it is 30 – 50 below zero.  April – May is whaling season, today you can use any of the resources of the internet to watch our temps,  It is mild this year, very mild, this presents a problem. We need thick ice, thin ice is dangerous, extremly dangerous! Lets go, and see what happens. During the early 80’s we were located some 5 – 7 mies out on the ocean ice pack. During the 90’s, There was no ice and the Inupiat peoples were whaling from the shore. From 2002 – 2007 we have had the best ice we have seen in decades. Go figure!-?? there is a lot of controversy surrounding the new world order of ‘global warming’. We see the effects here first hand of the fragile tundra sinking due to the melting of the permafrost in all the surrounding regions, it won’t be long before Point Hope is just an island, all of the coastal villages are in grave danger due to erosion of the beaches and the tundra washing away into the sea.A culture map of Alaska But for now, we are headed out here to gather food for the next two months, this spring hunt is always held in April – May, if good ice conditions still exist some familes stay out here as long as possible. Navigatng machinery, equipment & supplies out here is a time consuming slow process, Hundreds of people are moving out here, to set up camps along the edge of the ice, 19 whaling captains, In other posts I have used the number 17 & 18, but as of very recently I have been informed that now as of this hunt in 2008, that Tikigaq, now has  19 whaling captains, Joe Frankson & Elijah Attanganna are the oldest still active whaling captains in the village, Joe is over 70 years young, and still hunts a major portion of the year. He is very agile and quick witted and it is always a great pleasure to greet him.. hello there ‘young man’ ! Joe always smiles and gives me a hearty handshake and a good laugh !  These whaling captains setup a ‘gauntlet’ along the edge of the ice that spans some 10 miles. Each captain is spaced out 1/2 – 3/4 of a mile from each other, Now with modern convieniences such as CB radio & VHF radio’s, everyone is in constant touch with each other, along the ice, back at the tent areas, and even back, into the village, Everyone is aware of everything going on 24 /7 in real  Polar bear attacks can occur at anytime, you must constantly be aware of your surroundings.time.   This makes it much easier when a whale is caught, everyone knows which camp to go to, for the amount of work and celebration will be immense, Here is what the women are up against,  take virtually everything out of your kitchen, that you use for food preparation, serving, & cooking, now add to that, all of the food necessary to feed 12 – 15 people three times each and every day for the next two This is a slow tedious process to haul everything out here, for all the different crews to go whaling.months. This is quite an enormous amount of supplies and materials to move out here, on the frozen ocean ice, to be placed inside of such a tiny tent, to work and prepare meals. All of this material, supplies, and equipment have to be carefully brought down to the different areas, this is a slow difficult process to achieve in sub zero weather. Cracks can and do occur in various places on the ice pack and these huge cracks must be monitored very carefully. It is dangerous out here and the absolute worst thing is to get caught on the wrong side of the ice pack. That can spell disaster. Cracks occur all over the place, some are huge, some are tiny and you can’t see them, the ice is always cracking, that sound is very common out here, but to be alert, watchful and always aware of your immediate surroundings. A whole community, hundreds of people, all working together, independent of each other, doing the exact same things, the exact same way, time tested traditions, thousands of years old, all working together out here,, as ONE, to gather food, No one receives anything other than food. Those that are blessed to receive food, are thankful and share it with others less fortunate.Markers are set up to watch this ice to see if it is moving Everyone depends on everyone else to make sure that the proper job(s) are accomplished. Those that have major cracks in their area(s) have to monitor them and give others the updates of; if this ice is worthy to inhabit or should we move to a different location. Anything can happen out here, at any time, and usually does, in many unexpected, bizzare ways.  Living out on the frozen ocean ice pack, with swift currents running underneath the ice, Cracks in the ocean ice are very; dangerouscan at times present huge problems when we are out here, hunting.  It was on my second whale hunt, when suddendly a boyer came running down to the lead opening, screaming, .. .. “we are not on the ice”.  I looked down at my feet and wondered what the heck he was talking about. I was absolutely clueless as to what that statment meant, then I saw the panic in everyone as they began picking things up and tying hondas together with a rope and throwing them into the water, the hondas float upside down, they are cleaned later, no problem at all.  The umiaq was picked up and moved to a new location and people were put inside and brought to the other side. We were on the wrong side of the ice.  The ice had cracked behind us and no one at the lead opening was aware of this. One member of the crew I was with, looked at me and smiled and said. “how you getting back white man” ?  He was serious and I was scared. Luckily, everything turned out ok.  Such danger is always present out here. In all of the 5 whale hunts I have been on. No fatalaties occured, there were a few instances of people falling into the water, but everyone survived.  Each and every whaling camp is set up identical in each and every aspect, everything is put into the same exact spot or place in each camp site.  In the tents, a sled is placed on the right hand wall, covered with caribou skins to make it much more Home Sweet Frozen Home @ 40 below zerocomfortable and warm(er) for sitting.  Many families stay together out here and set up tents next to each other, to help each other in a more proficient manner.   These women do an incredible amount of work daily and they never complain.  Work so hard, day in and day out and there is no pay for any of this incredibly hard work,  .. .. .. just the right to eat.  That is the only reward !  This is a very unique lifestyle here in the arctic, unlike anything that happens or occurs anyplace in the United States and in very few places all over the entire world.  GLOBAL WARMING means in effect global cooling and severe weather changes are due, and the cold(er) winter weather is headed to Europe and the East Coast of the United States, what does it mean for us up here in Alaska ? time will tell, but cold does not bother us up here, any situation, we are fully functinoning, there is no such thing as a day off from school because of bad weather,  That just never happens here, no matter what the weather.   This is a typical whaling camp for the hunters, this is their home, the women are in the tents doing the cooking all day long, the men are outside constantly 24 / 7 for the next two months, they have no place to go to warm up, This is their home, this is This is a typical whaling camp for the hunters, they sleep outside,right here, for two months.where they hunt, sit, eat, and sleep.  This image was captured at midnight in mid May. From mid may til the end of August will be not see or experience any darkness what so ever, constantly blinding sunlight, the moon and the sun are seen together in the sky  24 / 7 for the next 3 1/2 months. We do have periods of no darkness at all, but we never have periods of 24 hours of full darkness, that doesn’t happen. we always have some light during the day and it is bright enough to read a newspaper outside during the long dark winter months, everyday we get some light, dusk type light, for a couple of hoursAnother typical whaling camp.  The idea of 6 months oftotadarkness and six months of total  light is pure myth !! (for Alaska ).  l  will go into this subject in much more detail later, It is mid May and the midnight sun is visible from now until the end of August. then we finally see darkness again. Then the days start to get shorter by as much as 20 minutes shorter each day. Dec. 21st is of course the worst day of the year for ‘light’, we have only perhaps 2 hours of light. But the summers and the now happening spring hunt is just the most favorite time of the year for sure, the freedom of being out here, is indescribable to impart using just mere words.  This is something that has to be experienced to understand the one-ness these people have with their enviroment and the animals of the sea. Whaling is something that most people will never understand, the need for this particular food.  Three thousands of years have passed with no interuption of these peoples food supply, The late 1800’s were a disaster for these people only because of the greed of the whaling companies, but these people need this food to survive, this is what their bodies crave, beyond anything you or I could ever comprehend or understand. This is their life, their life revolves around the bowhead whale. Every aspect of the year’s events, are for getting ready again to hunt their food.  This hunt occurs only once each year, It is a much anticipated event, and as I Rex Rock, Whaling Captain; Elijah Rock, Whaling Commisioner - ALASKA ESKIMO WHALING COMISSIONhave stated, it takes a whole year, ..  ..  … ‘just to get ready’.  When spring arrives (April) the village is alive with people making the final preparations, time is short. Outside of peoples homes the sleds are being loaded with supplies, The ‘grub’ box is one of the very first things brought down to the tent location, the tent is put up, the sled and the grub box are put into place as well as the home made woodstove. The Arctic kitchen is the first thing to be set up.  Get that wood stove working and begin to melt snow for water to wash, the plywood floor that is placed in the tent. Careful cleaning of everything is necessary to keep everything clean and the working area is constantly being kept clean, sweeping the floor is very necessary but a broom is never used as it is too large.  The preferred method of sweeping the floor is to have a large ‘feather’, or wing from a bird.   This one feather does the job perfectly, it takes up very little room, and is used in all of the camps as the specific tool needed to accomplish this daily task.  Much of what we do in our world does not apply to your world and the same is true of your world, does not apply to our world.  That canvas in the image below is to protect the hunters from the unrelenting north wind, which never stops blowing.  The north wind is the prevailing wind and it blows and blows ever stronger all through the days of the year, Occasionally the wind will shift to south wind, then the ice must be evacuated in a mass panic. A mass exodus, run for your lives, Every whaling camp faces south, everything is in the exact same place in each camp.ice is headed this way and it will run over everything in its path.  When the lead opens many miles out on the ocean ice pack of the Chukchi Sea, in the bering Strait, the opening is just a crack, in time that lead opens and animals begin to migrate through that narrow lead opening. The ice on the other side of that lead opening is moving, rapidly due to the strong ever present north wind. This ice is moving perhaps 10 – 15 miles per hour.  It is very easy to hallucinate out here, watching or staring at that ice, will cause you to fall over.  I was constantly falling over much to the delight of these hunters, I provided much entertainment of a different sort. I am a dumb city boy from Boston, I know nothing about life out here on this ice pack. When you begin to stare at that ice which is moving on the other side of the lead opening, at some point in time, that ice will stop, you will begin to feel the sensation of moving in the opposite direction. I was constantly falling over, much to the amazment of these hunters who just could not stop lauging each time it happened.   There is a lot that goes on out here, that most people just would not understand or comprehend. Sitting, waiting, watching, looking, listening, this is the order of the day, Sit wait watch look and listen and there is much work to be done on the trails and surrounding ocean ice area where the water meets the ice. A smooth ramp for the skin boat to slip into the water is a must to build.  It takes many people many hours to shave that ice at just the right angle, for that umiaq to slide into the water, The umiaq itself must be kept off the ice, to prevent it Luke & Angie Koonuk feeding their crew, down at the lead opening. This is where these hutners stay all day, all night 24 / 7from getting wet or sticking to the ice itself, It is propped up on a block of ice to keep air circulating under the umiag to keep the bottom dry.  This skin is very thin, and it can rip easily on a piece of ice. Six ugruk skins (bearded seal) are used to cover this craft, all hand sewn using a water tight zig zag stitch made using.. .. dental floss because of its much needed strength, Dental floss is used in all sewing of parky’s also, we cannot have a seam rip open out here, at these extreme temperatures. Often the simplest of chores requires immense amount(s) of work. Such as “water”. Several methods are employed to obtain water, way out here in the middle of frozen no where, there is nothing out here, for miles in any direction, what do you need to live and survive out here, in a somewhat normal circumstances?  lots of water for drinking, and washing dishes and cooking and cleaning. Snow is used, it is everywhere, but there are cetain types of snow.  There are over 100 different words in the Inupiaq language for that white stuff.  The correct snow that is used for washing and cleaning has to be a certain type of snow.  It is found by going north of your present location,  Look for clean hard ‘crust’, that is what you break open, and go deep down to find the clean stuff. This is compacted as much as possible for melting, to provide water for washing and cleaning only. Snow tastes like ‘yuk’ when you drink it or mix it with anything, it has an awful taste. For delicious fresh drinking water, we have options. One way, which is extremly time consuming is to take a snow machine 7 miles back to land, 7 miles back to the village, 23 This is one method, 200 mile trip is involed to make this happen, fresh water from the kupak river 100 miles away miles to ada boat, then 50 more miles to the base of he kupak river, going inland about 10 miles with pick and axe or chain saw and cut chunks of river ice, then bring that back down to the lead opening where you started from. That is 200 mile round trip journey.  This is the ‘water’ the elders crave, this is what they have used their whole lives.  Delicious fresh drinkng water can also be obtained, just by taking any huge piece of ice and standing it up. Brush the snow all off the tops and the sides. Let the sun go to work. Wait .. !  As the sun beats down on that piece of ice, it will become clear(er), when it is crystal clear for a good kettle full or more, then walk over with your kettle and chip the ice horizontaly with a pick. fill your kettle, when melted this is what we drink and use for cooking, it is delicious !!  Inupiaq Technology, time tested, many thousands of years. This is a very harsh life-style – culture, the world needs to be educated as to the plight of these indeginous people(s).  Telling people they may not eat, no one, no commisson, no agency, no government has that right !  Japan harvested 1000 whales last year (07)- according to greenpeace in 1982 there were only 250 Right whales left.  Now they are saying that 300,000 whales each year are dying from fishing nets and other accidents of the sea. IN other words they have been lying for decades and breaking the law(s)  to suit their own agenda,  That is what John Denver did.   The world needs to know the truth. The village of Point Hope. 900 people give or take, They are allowed ..  … ten strikes, ten attempts, if you miss, that is a strike. If you harpoon that whale and it gets away, that is a strike,  ten attempts is all they are allowed; to  try and  feed this village.

(07 – 3 small whales) –  06 -nothing) – 08 – one so far from Elijah Attanguanna. & one from Rex Rock

Barrow is much different !

Meanwhile lets go out.. to the ocean ice. and see what is going on, during a two month time period. What do you do ? for two whole months, day and night ? The women sleep, during the night the hunters are always ready, anything can happen at any time. Yesterday, Barrow search and rescue helicopter had to rescue most of the people of Point Hope, the ice cracked in back of everyone, This is extremly dangerous.  Everyone is on the wrong side of the ice !! In other words, the lead is opening and they are all floating out to sea. They have no way to get back to land safely.  Search & Rescue .. .. .. saved the day.

 

 

                                                                                                     

                                                   

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