A couple of posts ago, I mentioned making a quick trip to Fairbanks. People up here call it "getting out" when they leave the village or the Slope. It isn't something that I get to do very often, usually just once a year. So my excursion to Fairbanks was a real departure from the ordinary.
Barrow is our nearest Alaska Airlines hub. So if you want to fly anywhere off the Slope, you have to fly to Barrow first. While waiting to go through security and board the plane, I noticed this sign which struck me as really funny...probably an indication that I don't "get out" enough!
I was especially amused by the illustration of a bomb accompanied by the statement that if you are carrying one of these, you should discuss it with an airline representative or return it to your car! Yes, I know that's not what it really means, but it still got me tickled.
Unlike Atqasuk's airstrip which is dirt, the Barrow runway is actually paved with asphalt. However, as you can see, much of the tarmac is covered with packed ice and snow this time of year.
The orange cones mark the path that passengers are expected to follow. Perhaps the cones are also there to encourage caution on the icy surface. I was a little surprised by the absence of gravel or salt (snow melt) on the ground. Maybe they figure that, if you've come this far, you should know how to keep from slipping.
The airplane that I took to Fairbanks was different from those that I've taken to and from Barrow in the past in that it was solely dedicated to carrying passengers and their luggage. What a concept! There was even a first class section! Most of the time, only about half of the available space is reserved for people. The front half of the aircraft is usually loaded with freight and passengers have to board from the back of the plane by way of a narrow, very steep flight of stairs that feel a lot like climbing a rickety fire escape. As you see in this photo, the stairs for this flight were positioned at the front of the plane and were much more passenger-friendly.
Freight is a really big deal on the North Slope. There is a summer barge that carries heavy equipment, vehicles, and other large-scale items to Barrow by way of the Arctic Ocean, but most of the things that people need on a daily basis are transported by air. And that is an expensive process that raises the price of a $3.00 gallon of milk to $10.00 or more.
Sticker shock is just another fact of life in the Arctic.
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")