Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day 39 Heading home--Decompressing--

Day 39—Heading home—Decompressing—

We spent the last days in the field removing that burial I mentioned in the last post and yesterday, the absolute last day in the field, we shot in over 400 test pits and backfilled the same 400 pits. I was the one holding the stadia rod and moving like a jackrabbit from hole to hole. It looks like we were never there. Laura was driving an ATV towing a wooden pallet to smooth out what we backfilled. We did this, naturally, in the pouring rain, not a drizzle, not a gully washer, just steady rain all bloody day. The rain and fog did not prevent “boating” we could hear gunshots pretty much all day. The ice has moved offshore and there has been open water for the last few days so the boats are launching and heading for the ice offshore to hunt bearded seals, ring seals and walrus.
We got a real good picture of the project crew at the end of the day that I’ll post as well as one of a killdeer nest inside a caribou skull nailed to the outside of building 553.
Question that I get a lot is “Will you come back here next year?” If there is a project—Yes I would. I like it up here, I eat healthier, work harder (physically at least) drink less (not by choice!) and socialize more. I enjoy the company of the “kids”—they are not really kids, but adults lingering in front of their lives, like waiting at the top of a slide to start the descent (stolen from Charles Wohlforth—beautiful imagery) They are bright, energetic, (and lazy sometimes also) intelligent and adventurous, I think you have to be to even come up here let alone stay for 6-12 weeks. Tom and I spent a lot of time at 268 with the SDSU and UTEP groups (both doing climate research) playing cards, charades (Yes I know, silly but fun and you can’t give them anything that references a date before 1985, because they have no clue what you are referring to). Rene got one of mine—Magnum Force---that 70’s Clint Eastwood movie and she had never heard of it so the only Magnum she knew was the condom, which she tried to act out—hystetrical!! We got into a huge discussion over dinner one evening in the cafeteria as to whether Zombies or Vampires would win in a battle, then it evolved into would Care Bears be able to convert Zombies with their “cuteness powers” I haven’t laughed that hard for a long time.
Some one made the statement that you need 5 quality human interactions in a day to stay mentally healthy. That is not always an easy thing to do. That does not count emails, facebook, twitter, or other electronic communications. Face to face contacts only with 5 different people. Not an easy thing to do. Another discussion springboarded off that, first we had to qualify and define what constitutes a quality contact. We started with sex and worked our way backwards to ordering coffee at Starbucks. Never could find a decent dividing line of what differentiates quality from non-quality human contact.
Our Archaeology group basically stayed in the hut—not the same thing at all, all nice people but lower energy levels, not a critique, just an observation. No one seemed to want to venture out to meet new people, which is one of the real attractions of Barrow for me, and as long as they’ll let me hang with them, and they are comfortable with that, I’m good.
One other thing that is attractive, for me, is the Inupiat lifestyle, built on subsistence hunting. It is really about respect and humility ( again sparked by Wohlworth’s writing)-- respect for the animals, respect for the environment and respect for the weather. According to Wohlforth, they feel that animals have the same kind of spirits that people do and disrespecting them and their sacrifice of giving themselves to the people as food could easily result in a failed hunt next time or in a fatal event. The whales are given a drink of fresh water when hauled ashore, to ensure that they have been treated correctly and that the spirit of the whale will tell other whales and they would allow themselves to be taken. It was the title of a book “The Whales They Give Themselves”. The ice cellars MUST be cleaned out before the spring whale hunt of all food,-- geese, ducks, caribou, seals, fish and walrus as well as whale so the whales will know that they are expected and appreciated and needed.
It is a totally different way of looking at human/animal interactions, not as predator and prey but as partners inhabiting the same universe.. They have nothing but respect for the other predators, polar bears, wolves, foxes, eagles—all top level predators that have skills that people do not. They do their own acquisition hunting and butchering. They can make the connection from the rifle shot to the meat on the plate in a more direct way than almost anyone down south can. They buy supplies from Stauqpak but usually not meats. I think way too many of us are disconnected from the food we consume and the factory farming that produces it with absolutely no respect for the animals involved. Animals are meant to live the lives that animals should live, not be assembly lined like non living creatures. Just because we can do it does not mean we should do it.
Sport and trophy hunters get no respect. They will gladly guide, for the money and maybe the meat, but mainly the money. Catch and release fishing makes them crazy. Why would you play with and torture your food and not accept the sacrifice? Most catch and release fish die anyway, and are not utilized—disrespectful.
As far as the weather goes, it is NOT tough and manly to refuse admit you are cold and suffering. Admit it and get help. If you think you are tougher than the weather, just wait awhile and see what the weather has in store for you up here. The Ice—always respect the ice and how fast it can change and the danger it poses while whaling or even boating. When the ocean is open the wind can move ice over a great distance an ivu can occur—an ivu is massive blocks of sea ice pushed on shore that can crush pretty much anything. The frozen family found in 1986 was probably the victim of an ivu and they were up on a bluff in town. Mother,father and little girl, crushed by the ice and preserved for hundreds of years. The Borough throws up huge berms of sand to protect the road from incursions of sea ice.
The humble part is recognizing that any mistake or turn of bad luck can, and
probably will, hurt, maim or maybe even kill you.
This will be my last entry for this season, hope you enjoyed and will look forward to doing it again.
Pictures are one of the group that can be enlarged and zoomed, one or two of the killdeer nest, one of bowhead whale scapula, one of tundra flowers and one of the bearguards hard at work —I somehow managed to catch them both yawning at exactly the same moment, and lastly one of the Quonset huts where we live on a misty foggy spooky day.

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