Around lunchtime, on Monday, the long-anticipated buzz began...
"The sun is here!"
"Can you see the sun?"
"You should see the sun!"
Emails sizzled, hot and fast, across the network.
On-the-ball observers spread the word door-to-door.
Faculty, staff, and students scurried toward south-facing windows, fingers and noses pressed against the glass.
All this...just to catch a fleeting glimpse, to witness that first blazing moment when the earth tilts its head and the sun shimmers a hundred shades of pink and red and yellow and orange upon a canvas of frozen white.
Maybe the angle of rays through miles of atmosphere magnifies the glory.
Or maybe weeks upon weeks of darkness simply exaggerates the effect.
Regardless of the reason, our moment in the sun is dramatic and invigorating.
And the majesty of that moment is...worth the wait.
It seems ironic that our coldest time of year is when the sun is on the rise. At the risk of sounding like an old fisherman telling a tale, I still have to say that this isn't as cold as it's been in years past.
These are tonight's stats with a 9 mph wind:
-43 F (-42 C)
-68 F (-56 C)
I remember school being dismissed a few years ago because, not only was the ambient temperature around -60, the windchill was -84. And I'm sure lifelong residents would have no trouble topping that.
But, forty below seems to be the magic number that brings all things mechanical to a screeching halt. The school bus is relegated to the bus barn because metal parts tend to snap. Bush planes aren't supposed to be in the air at -40 or colder and I can't say I'd want to be on one that was.
Moisture from furnaces crystallizes and hangs in the air like a veil.
Without the buzz of four-wheelers and snow machines, the village might settle into an eerie sort of silence.
In temperatures like these, fabrics containing polyester stiffen and make crinkling sounds when the wearer moves. A group of children in store-bought coats sound like a bunch of potato chip bags being crumpled together.
Nothing silent about that.
Even the snow is noisy...like treading on Styrofoam, it squeaks and creaks with every step.
I just let Rudy out for the last time tonight. When he came back inside five minutes later, his teeth were actually chattering! I had to laugh. It just isn't often that one hears the sound of chattering teeth emanating from a dog.
It seems that Peace and Quiet, those long-standing friends, spend most of the year together. But when the mercury drops to forty below, Quiet looks for some warmer weather.
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")