I flew to Barrow on Wednesday to meet a friend from New Orleans who is leading some meetings at my church. Over the five and a half years that I have lived in Atqasuk a few of my family members have visited me here, but this was the first time that a friend had dared to venture above the Arctic Circle. Needless to say, I was pretty excited! I'm not usually a big fan of air travel, but this flight to Barrow was something I was looking forward to.
If connected on a map, the villages of Atqasuk, Wainwright, and Barrow form a geographical triangle which is the regular flight pattern of the airlines servicing our area. So my flight to Barrow began with a leg to Wainwright some seventy miles away. Flying low, we were graced with sightings of several small herds of caribou and, at one point, we saw a few that appeared to be running away from something. Passengers on the other side of the plane said that a wolf was chasing them. I missed the wolf, but the caribou were really fun to see, running full-stride, almost in unison...very different from their usual quiet grazing.
Wainwright is a coastal village, so much of that final leg of the trip toward Barrow was spent flying along the edge of the Arctic Ocean. The patterns of drifted snow and cracking sea ice were mesmerizing. My photos, taken through an ice-fogged window, don't do justice to the artistry of the wind and the cold.
Although I'm not crazy about flying, I have to admit, that the view from the air is often an inspiration. The advantage of a little elevation affects perspective as nothing else can. The seemingly haphazard arrangement of snowdrifts can be painfully jarring when experienced from the seat of a snow machine, but from the air the obvious pattern makes perfect sense. Arctic wind spends most of the winter cutting and carving, shifting and moulding, piles of frozen moisture. The final product is difficult to fully appreciate from the ground.
As I trudge up and down those challenging drifts that comprise my daily walk, I want to remember, I need to remember, that elevated view and appreciate the coherent beauty of a seemingly haphazard landscape that can only be understood one step at a time.
Another view of the sea ice...
Fuzzy view over my pilot's shoulder...
A smooth landing at the end of a smooth flight...can't complain about that!
Welcome to the Arctic! This space is dedicated to observations and experiences related to daily life in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Atqasuk. Questions and comments are invited. Thanks for visiting! Quyanaqpaq!
nuna:tundra, the land atikluk:snow shirt, parka cover
Interested in Inuit culture? Check out these films...
The Fast Runner is an excellent representation of ancient Inuit culture. The R-rating is for nudity, violence, and some language. Subtitles are utilized throughout. I do not recommend this film for children, but it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the culture. It was introduced to me by an Inupiat woman who raved about it. And I agree!
For a preview, click here.
The Snow Walker is another excellent representation of Inuit culture circa 1940's. This film is rated PG, I'm guessing for language. No subtitles that I remember. It starts a little slow, but gets much better. It will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the survival skills of this culture.
For a preview, click here.
Great For Kids!
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a warm and culturally sensitive story centered on the Inupiat subsistence tradition of whaling. It is available in both English and Inupiaq translation. The illustrations, by Annie Patterson are exquisite and add to the quiet softness that the story inspires.
To order this title on Amazon.com, click here.
The Alaska Geographic series is an excellent informational resource. The edition entitled North Slope Now deals exclusively with this area and even features relatives of my students. Although it was published in 1989, it is still current enough to provide a general understanding of culture, lifestyle, and issues faced by this northern-most region.
To order this title from Alaska Geographic, click here.
More about Kaktovik Disaster of 2005 (from Dec post, "The Edge")