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Old 03-14-2008, 03:46 PM
Location: Currently living @ the Top of the World in Barrow Alaska
144 posts, read 665,401 times
Reputation: 66



Life @ 50 below zero in the Arctic

I am originally from Boston Mass. My name is David, I moved to Alaska for good in 1981.

I first came to Alaska in 1977 to work on the Trans Alaska Pipeline "TAPS"

I fell in love with the Arctic, and I just did not want to go back to Boston. The peace and quiet of the arctic was a pleasure to enjoy, it was a far cry from the hustle & bustle of noisy, crowded, city life.

what would make a person from the East coast pick up and leave and move 5,000 miles away (as the plane flies) ? It was my job. I was working at a power plant in Everett Mass. Edison Power. this job site was only 7 miles from my home in Dorchester. the four hour drive, in a car was the most frustrating daily event that I just had to get away from. this was insane. when work finished at 4 am it would only take me less than 7 minutes drive to make it home. But driving through the city at the wrong time of day made life unbearable. I quit. I moved to Alaska.

COME ALONG for a journey into the Arctic. from the warmth and comfort of your home or office. I shall take you through most of the coastal villages of the Arctic region from Kotzebue clear up to the top of the world in Barrow.

We will start this photo essay journey in the village of Point Hope Alaska 99766

POINT HOPE: is the oldest continually inhabited settlement or village in all of North America, Life can accurately be traced back to over 3,000 years to this one spot of land.

Most villages in Alaska were founded and established by the Inupiaq people of Point Hope - TIKIGAQ (tick E uck) - Tigara on very old maps. Greenland was founded & established by the exact same people(s).

800+ Inupiaq (in you pack) Eskimos live in this tiny whaling community. Their lifestyle revolves around the Mighty Bowhead Whale. This is the lifestyle / culture of North Americas Oldest peoples.

Point Hope used to have a populaton of over 10,000 Inupiaq Eskimos, and 22 clans - Life was good.

During the mid 1800s the whaling companies arrived. The population was reduced to just 190 people and 2 clans. Due to greed, disease, and mass starvation. The whales, walrus, caribou were decimated in this region leaving no food for the people of this region.

I was sent to this village as an electrician in 1981.. .. .. for just 3 weeks, to wire two construction camps. When the job successfully finished, I quit the company and stayed, that was almost 30 years ago and I am still here.

A few views of this unique area will give you a much better idea of where we presently are.

The village had to be moved during the late 1970's due to flooding, This is the main problem and concern in all coastal villages, flooding and erosion. from the constant pounding of the waves and the vicious winid storms we have up here. now that you can see where we live. We are going out to the ocean ice.. on the south side of the land. Many miles out on the frozen Chukchi Sea.

For the most part, the entire community of well over 700+ people move out here to live, to gather food for next winter. 18 whaling captains and their crews are 1/2 - 3/4 of a mile apart hidden in the ice, waiting for animals to migrate. The tents are for the women, to do all of the incrediblly hard work. some famlies stick together out here. The tents are 1/2 of a mile in BACK of the hunters on much safer ice. Each crew consists of a whaling captain Umailiq (oo may lik). 8 hunters a "boyer" and 3-5 women to do the cooking all day long for their crews.

These hunters sleep outside for two months @ sub zero temps with no tents. This is a typical whaling camp. Every camp is set up identical in each and every aspect. It does not matter which tent you visit. everything is the same, and located in the same place. Each crew needs 3 10 foot sleds.

One sled is located inside of the tent, covered in caribou skins, for warmth and comfort when sitting for extended periods of time. the second sled is down at the edge of the ice, this is home. 8 weeks 24 / 7 right here.
The third sled, is used to make additonal trips when necessary to hual more supplies & equipment out here. it is no easy task to make this rugged, hard ride out here. 7 miles takes hours.

these trails out here, are all made by people power only. Imagine chopping a trail with pick and aze for miles.. .. just to eat !

That man with the axe is "Tigluk" he is over 70 years young !! chopping up the high parts, smoothing out the trail, filling in the low portions. Navigaton is slow, hard, and anything can happen at any time out here. This is a very dangous place to be. Anything can happen with no warning, sudden. and very tragic outcomes.

This is part of daily life out here on the ocean ice pack. Work.. ... hard work and this job has one distinction from all other jobs. There is no pay of any type for anyone. These people work so hard.. an entire community working, living together as ONE. and no one complains ever.

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Old 03-14-2008, 05:50 PM
Location: Boston
905 posts, read 2,198,705 times
Reputation: 461
Just wanted to say thank you for the very informative and personal trip through the daily life of some people. Other's seem to forget that life is not all bluetooth headsets and laptops. It's sad when people I know complain about working a 5 hour shift at work...Hopefully you will post more pictures along with the back story. Thanks a lot
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Old 03-14-2008, 06:18 PM
Location: Bliss Township, Michigan
6,423 posts, read 11,725,972 times
Reputation: 6874
Very nice! I would enjoy seeing and reading more.
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Old 03-14-2008, 06:56 PM
Location: Currently living @ the Top of the World in Barrow Alaska
144 posts, read 665,401 times
Reputation: 66
There are: a lot of myths about Alaska, especially the cold. But if I type in the word Igloo, no doubt you have seen and heard of that word, but I bet you hae no idea what an actual Iglu really is !

Firt of all, they are not made .. ..using snow or ice. NEVER in Alaska, above the Arctic circle !! "how about that" This is an Iglu"

First of all there are no O's or E's in the Inupiaq language. so therefore the correct spelling of that word is IGLU = 1 dwelling IGLUT = 2 & IGLUK =3 +

An Iglu is constructed using whale bones, and sod, when covered in winter by snow this "mound" vagely resembles what you have seen. Other countries use snow & Ice. i.e. Canada, Grenland. In Russia, circular tents are called by the same name. An Iglu is quite large inside in some "dwellings"

This broken down collapsed condo unit had rooms off to the side. These familys are quite large and were kept quite warm inside and well proteced from the wind with the snow covering over the sod.

The many remains from old "igluk" are seen all over the old town site. Point Hope is now a federally protected historical landmark.

Google: project chariot
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Old 03-14-2008, 09:00 PM
Location: Currently living @ the Top of the World in Barrow Alaska
144 posts, read 665,401 times
Reputation: 66
Default Back on the ocean ice.. .. ..

Things are happing slowly, it takes a long time to set up a typical whaling camp. moving things out here is a slow arduous process and takes much time. People out on these trails have much work to keep these trails open and smoothed out.

The sled on the bottom of the umiak is protecting that thin skin, from becoming ripped or torn. These six ugruk (oog rook) skins are hand sewn of course using a water tight zig - zag type stitch. The material used to sew these skins together must be strong and tough. The preferred method is "dental floss" !

AT night when these women go to sleep in the tents. they have what is called a "boyer" to keep that tent nice and warm. His job(s) and responsibilities are as follows: He must stay alert and awake by himself alone all night long. Chopping wood to keep up with the wood stove. Using an Ulu knife he cuts small pieces of seal blubber for use for fuel if the wood is very wet. He has many dishes and cups to wash. He has a dozen thermoses to rotate between the tent area and the hunters. He must make water for cleaning and washing, this is done using snow for a water source. He must "make" delicious fresh drinking water for use in cooking and for making Hot Chocolate, Hot Coffee, Hot Tea, He must constantly be aware of the direction of the wind, and just in case.. .. .. he is armed with many rifles, in case of an attack by polar bears. So hand your lighter, matches over to this boyer, and lie down and go to sleep, he is very well trained .

This is a three year old child ! and this is a different world !! Just how do you think these people obtain delicious fresh drinking water out here in the middle of frozen no where ?? 700 + people need alot of water each day for cooking and for drinkinig.. Just where do you think this all comes from ?

I have some bizarre true stories to tell you, and amazing photos to display of this unique incredible lifestyle & culture that is shrouded deep in mystery.

Here is another "boyer"' on his way to work !!! LOL ! thi is just tooo much to believe. Children are brought out here to learn, and this is where they spend their time, learning and working. children

Even though fire-arms are everywhere up here out on the ocean ice, and in this village. I don't think I have ever heard of anyone getting hurt in any firearm accidents. usually people die up here. because they didn't listen and obey, the very last words spoken to them.

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Old 03-14-2008, 09:33 PM
Location: Commonwealth Of Virginia
624 posts, read 1,068,123 times
Reputation: 289
Smile Hello

Majik_Imaje , please know that your postings about Barrow and life there ,has been very special to me. You sound very proud of your life, and happy, and your writings carry a sense of pride.

I am thousands of miles away, but feel like I am there.

Thank you!

Hike huskies.....on ahead.....
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Old 03-15-2008, 01:53 AM
Location: Haines, AK
1,121 posts, read 4,126,183 times
Reputation: 668
Default stellar story, excellent photos

It's photos and stories like this that keep me coming back to this forum long after I've moved back to AK.

Love to see more, it's a whole 'nother world from down here in SE.
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Old 03-15-2008, 02:50 AM
Location: Currently living @ the Top of the World in Barrow Alaska
144 posts, read 665,401 times
Reputation: 66
Default Lots more to show & tell

Well I sure want to thank all of you for those most wondeful comments.

Infected Mushroom .. I am about to wisk you away to a different land & a different planet. with stories you will never believe. Images that will amaze you.

Nephler - I promise you lots more, as in pages !

Sunset_Va hang on and fasten your seat belt !!

The bravest man I have ever known

There was a man.. .. who lost his nose !! This is a very true and easily verified story.

His name is Wally Tingook from Point Hope Alaska.

When the sky is overcast, out on the ice hunting, it is difficult to see any changes in the that ice. The contrast is so low that some blocks of ice seem invisible at times, when riding on a snowmachine going fast.

It was such a day and conditions such as these when Wally was out hunting seals one day many decades ago, He glanced to one side to see if what he thought he saw, was a seal, not seeing the upcoming wall of ice. he slammed into it very hard and the resuting crash tore off the windshield which in turn severed much of his nose.

Alone, injured, bleeding profusely. Wally packed his nose in snow & Ice. Somehow he was able to "wobble" that snowmachine back into town, to the tiny village clinic. Upon entering the clinic, the two native health aids were quite shocked to see the bloody condition of his face and clothing. The health aids screamed in a panic runing in circles not quite knowing what to do first. The nearest doctor is in Kotzebue and that requires at least two hours to get medivac for treatment.

Wally screamed out.. "HOLD THE MIRROR" and using needle and dental floss with no medication. he sewed it back on himself !!

This is a different world we live in up here. sometimes the only way to survive is to do it yourself.

I present my good close friend Wally Tingook !!

Events such as this happen or even more bizarre are a way of life here in the Arctic. "anything can happen at any time.. .. and usualy does in many unexpected ways!"

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Old 03-15-2008, 03:42 AM
Location: Currently living @ the Top of the World in Barrow Alaska
144 posts, read 665,401 times
Reputation: 66
Default Living in the Arctic - Eskimo style

At the edge of the ice. hot food is brought down there to feed these hunters many times each day.

The captain is responsible for feeding his crew for the entire two months.

The captain and his crew and the umiaq are his domain he is the boss.!!

The captains wife is umailiaq also . she is a Whaling Captain ! Her domain is tent. .. and the ICE.. she is BOSS over all. !! She tells that Captain where she wants that umiaq set up !

Yummy delicious hot food served 3- 5 times a day. Even fresh hot doughnuts are made out here !! These doughnuts are one of the main staple foods out here. they are made in each and every campsite.. .. daily !

Now how? in the world are you ever going to get dough to rise, in a drafty tent when it is 50 below zero outside of that tent. ?? Sure that tent is warm, sorta. but the drafts are ever present, especially when a child comes in to warm up.

Once that dough is all mixed up and ready. then it is put into a clean plastic bag. That woman will put her parky on and that bag of dough is placed inside the back of her parky and she will carry it around in the same manner in which a child is carried in the Arctic.

The heat from the warmth of her back will cause that dough to rise just right ! That woman is Emily Lane. she has twin daughtes. Josie & Minnie.
Those twins were Emilys whole life.
Minnie is pictured here. carrying a child the traditional manner. Apu (carry child). (Ah Poo) Amauq (ah mock) same meaning. Men carry infants also. under their parkys in any weather or conditions.

One day in 1991 Emily and her twins and emily's younger brother Frank were going up towards Kauqtaq to hunt for fossil ivory during the late spring.

THEY WERE WARNED: DO NOT make any noise up there, the ice & snow on the mountains cliffs is / are ready to Katak (kah tack) "fall" .

While they were searching among the rocks and such the snow and ice did fall. Frankie was lucky and grabbed his sister emily and pulled her out when she was buried up past her waist. they frantically searched and looked for the twins. Where were they just seen at.. they frantically dug in all directions for a long long long sad time. Eventually they had to go back to the village for help (40 miles). Lots of people rushed to this area. and began to dig. The twins were found ... ... .. holding hands.. .. .. born together, died together at such a very young age !

When you need / want delicous fresh water.. .. we have to "make" it.

Yes we melt snow for washing and cleaning bur for delicious fresh drinking water. ?? Where is it? where does it come from?

Well we have choices. Send someone 80 -90 miles away. One way.. and go up to the Kupak river and with pick, Axe chop out huge pieces of ice and transport it back down to the ocean ice. This requires the use of a precious snowmachine, one or two people and a lot of lost time. not to mention the expense of driving over 160 miles round trip @ $5.00+ a gallon for the gasoline used to make this trip.

There is a much easier method to use. to make delicouos fresh drinking water out here, with nothing but salt water frozen ice as a source ! but just how do you get all of that "salt" out of the water ? Again we use an aged old recipie :
Inupiaq Technology .. time tested for many thousands of years.

Just take any large piece of ice that you find and stand it up. Brush all the snow off that ice or this will not work. take all the snow off that piece of ice on the tops and the sides. Now.. wait & watch what happens !! Even though this ice is frozen solid. We can easily get ALL the salt out of it.!!

Just go wait and watch...As that sun beats down on this piece of ice. the ice will soon become crystal clear near the top. Wait & watch. when enough of that large portion of the top has become crystal clear. just take your kettle over there, using an ice pick, chop horizonatally and fill your kettle. Now go back and melt that ice on the woodstove. The most delicous fresh drinkin water you have ever tasted in your life.!

To speed up the process we can place that ice on sand. We use sand out here to cut gigantic holes in the ice if need be. When a whale is hiding under the ice. How they find this. is another story you will never believe.

Out here, the "feelings" you experience are "different". One side of your face is sweating, and the other side is being frost bit.
You can easily get the best tan of your life, out here, in about ten hours. but only on your face and hands.!!
The peace, the quiet is fascinating. The only sounds you hear, are the wind, the ice cracking, and the thoughts going through your head.

The order of the day, is wait - watch - look & of course.. .. "listen". you never know, what is going to happen and when. so wait and watch.

When I say these women work incredibly long hard hours under the most difficult of conditions. that in itself is an understatment. there is just no way to describe using mere words, the difficulty at times, to do something that is very simple.

I sincerly doubt you will ever complain again about washing some cups !!

Even if it is 50 below with that wind.. .. .. always at your back so you can keep warm(er).

We are on land here. .. can't you tell ? (chuckle) We had to evacuate the ice, due to the sudden shift of the north wind. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES.

time to killigvuk, This is a very organized mass panic, mass exodus off that ice asap. Ice is heading our way.. .. and if we do not get out of here, that ice will run right over everything and crush everything in its path.

It takes a good eight hours to set up a working funtional whaling camp. It takes less than 15 minutes to break it all down and scram. RUN.. .. if you do not have a "ride" that's ok.. just run. someone will be there to pick you up as the people driving the machines, drive in circles until eveyrone is safely picked up and taken off that ice. It was just after this mass scamble that people were very thirsty from running and moving so quickly out here. that was the circumstances which led to the above photograph .!! where did we put this and where did we put that. it is time to make hot coffee, and tea and hot chocolate.
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Old 03-15-2008, 06:09 AM
Location: Currently living @ the Top of the World in Barrow Alaska
144 posts, read 665,401 times
Reputation: 66
Default Living on the ocean ice

Once that wind shifts again to North wind, we go back out on the ice again. When we go back out there. Much work has to be done due to the ice advancing towards our camp sites. This is what we see when we came back down to our original camp site.. .. it is gone!

GOOD THING we didn't leave anything out here as it would be gone, crushed, buried in a mountain of tons of ocean ice.

So much of what we do up here, is not possible where you live.

Eating hot food outside in this weather has its price to pay. yes the food is absolutely delicous. but your body reacts to this food in ways you never expected.

for one, your body relaxes later after eating that hot food, and you begin to become, just a little bit lazier, all relaxed, and as such your body will not push out enough body heat. time to get warmer. this is done by working, and if that doens't get your body generating enough body heat then we have otehr options.. go to the tent area ?? that will not help you keep warm. Sure you will warm up in that tent. but women are very busy cooking in there and sometimes there is no room for you, to just sit around in their way.

Hunters stay at the lead opening. In all types of weather. this is hard core hunting at its extreme.
that Ice, on the other side of the lead opening is moving right to left in this image due to the strong constant north wind. It just never stops. It is relentless, and some times very vicisous. It hurts. that is the reason the canvas tarp is covering the wall of ice, to keep that wind off the hunters. That ice pack is moving perhaps 15 - 20 mph. Do not stare at that ice moving.

It is very easy to hallucinate out here on the ice. all you gotta do is stare at that ice, long enough. and at some point in time. that ice will STOP. and you will experience the sensation of moving in the opposite direction. I was constantly falling over, much to the delight of these hunters. I am just a dumb city boy from Boston. what do I know about such simple things ?
but I sure did learn the hard way. I constantlly had these hunters in fits of uncontrolable hysterical laughter. I was their source for much needed entertaintment.

Are you cold ?? then walk over and pick up that hacksaw. I am going to help you become very warm, very quickly.

SLICE small thin strips of that caribou meat which is raw, and frozen. this also works the same with raw frozen fish. this is a hunters breakfast.

you can hunt all day without ever getting thirsty.

quaq (caulk) when you slice those thin small strips of meat, just SWALLOW them whole, do not chew Fill your stomach FULL. Now your going to experience something you have never ever experienced. your body, your stomach has to work very very hard, to digest all of that raw frozen meat or fish. You will begin to generate and produce body heat the likes of which you have never, ever experienced in your life. DANGER: do not attempt this at home or in damp enviorments. it will have the opposite effect. do not attempt to stay inside. your going to burn up bad, and probably end up in the hospital. At 30 - 40 below zero. we are taking clothes OFF, because we are just too hot !! Can you tell who has recently eaten in this manner? yes of course it is obvious. John Tingook is nice and comfortable again. all warmed up just right to stay here in this weather. a two month long wonderful picnic among the very best of friends

Oh what a time we have out here. when was the last time.. .. . .you went on a "picnic" that lasted two months ! This is just the absolute most exciting time of the year. Oh what a time! I have been on 5 sacred whale hunts with the Inupiaq people of Point Hope.

Jacques Cousteau, the BBC London, Paramount studios all tried to gain access into this village. They were all denied access. Many more have tried but it was always in vain.

People here are still hurting over what John Denver did to them in the mid /late seventies.

I have: "carte blanche", in any village, only because I did things "different"

Everyone that comes up here, wants to "take". I did the exact opposite. I gave !!! thousands of gorgeous 11 x 14 color enlargements all processed using snow, and brought right back down to the ice and given away for free.

I did not want or need these peoples money, nope, I wanted their trust.

This just has to be a "first" !!
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