Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Central Arctic

Hi all, Hope this gives you a feel for what is to come...

The American Arctic has several very different regions.  Most of the old documentaries are of the Central Arctic. That is the place the Berrimilla is about to enter.

 In grade school, every Friday, they showed us films of 'The' 'Eskimo' that lived in small snow igloos, never had to discipline their children, were extremely peaceful never knowing war, and had to hunt all day on these incredibly expanses of unbelievable flat ice to bring home one seal. I would look out the window at these mountains of ice pressure ridges. I knew several older people who were on the last 'raids'. They would sail over to Russia, find a village, kill all the men and steal all the women. Children were negotiable. I remember seeing 3 feet piles of human skulls from a place 60 miles from Nome, from the Russians last 'raids'. Hell; we had several human skulls in our living room. When people went hunting here they would return with many many seals and have tales of the time they got 100 seals. No one knew what a snow igloo was. Igloos here were made of sod. It was so different... where did they come up with this peaceful nomadic non since?

The Bering sea is alive with people, weather, sea mammals, life and death. It is a boiling soup of trouble and food. The Bering sea culture extends to the Mackenzie river. 

The Central Arctic is where one has to spend all ones energy just to stay alive. There are no real storms. The sea ice freezes (relatively) flat. Villages are spread out hundreds and hundreds of miles. There used to be no villages. There is little food. People were nomads and found their food by walking hundreds of miles. Always on the move. Musk-ox on Banks island, caribou on migration hundreds of miles south and west, seals miles out on the ice in the dead of winter, fish in the rivers in the spring... this was the stuff we saw in all those movies. Truly a barren land. I have walked for miles across some of these arctic islands and have not seen even lichen on the rocks. No moss, no grass, no soil in the cracks in the rocks... nothing. There is no erosion on the beaches. In fact, there are no beaches. The water ends, and the shore just goes on and inland. Things do not decay. Artifacts from the Franklin expedition era are still scattered about. We once stopped to make camp at a perfect site. The area was on a glacier rebound, so every 100 years a new level sprang out of the sea. A short walk up the hill we found a camp fire. odd, considering there is no wood. This was followed by 6 to 8 levels of large Inuit type tent circles or rocks in groups of 2 or 3. Above that was 20 levels of very small Dorset tent circles, all singles. This line of tent leftovers represented a couple thousand years of visits. Every stone was in its place.
Everyone left a mark and every mark will stay... This is the Central Arctic. 

The tiny ship from down under will be in the quiet zone... and they will be very very alone, and they will feel the history.

I kind of liked it, after living in the strait.