Week 08 For Real!

Date Posted: 4.12.2010
Location: 77º47'N 70º45'W Siorapaluk, Greenland
and 44º54'N 92º47'W Expedition Basecamp, Minnesota, USA
Weather Conditions: Some clouds 0ºF (-18ºC)
and Sunny, 65°F (18°C)
Christine took a last look out the window onto the sea ice in front of Siorapaluk before she went to bed Tuesday night. Cheering out loud, she couldn’t believe her eyes - the walrus hunters were arriving in the community with loaded sleds after just two days on the ice!! Safe to say though, Mille’s cheering (accompanied by Timber’s startled and excited barks) some 15 hours earlier, will not be
easily outdone anytime soon.

Everyone in Siorapaluk gets to enjoy the walrus
Everyone in Siorapaluk gets to enjoy the walrus
  Listen as the hunters just returned
  from the walrus hunt
Yes, it’s for real. Radio permit – check! Firearm permit – check! Remote expedition permit – check! Traveling in national park permit – check! Thule Air Base team member entrance – check! Rescue permit – check! Polar Husky health certification – check! Team member health and dental certification – check! Official Dispensation for Entry with two teams of Polar Husky Sled Dogs to Thule Air Base in Greenland – check!!!!!!!!!! Tuesday morning at 6:49 AM the email landed in Mille’s inbox, “I bursted out loud in the happiest of cheers, jumped over to give Timber the biggest hug ever, and ran outside cheering to the Polar Huskies that we are off to Greenland!!!!!

Oh, there are no more date and plane options for us to fly with the National Guard. Thus permission to land DC3 at Thule Air Base from The Pentagon – check!

Polar Husky Training Run
         Polar Husky Training Run

Yes, for real. The fantastic news was quickly followed by many phone calls, a flurry of emails and plenty head-scratching, to figure out: now, exactly, what!?  In true Polar Husky style a few more challenges needed to be resolved. Like, how to actually get to Greenland at this point. Also true to Polar Husky style, solutions came about. Now, instead of heading for the state of New York, in a few days we are going on a much shorter drive to Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada and will be flying to the Thule Air Base in Greenland straight from there. Well, some of us at least. Our heroes at Borek Air did have to let us know that all of our stuff and all of us, is simply too much cargo to carry on a DC3-plane… So, the plan is that at least three of us will still fly to Thule Air Base with the National Guard.

A walrus skull - lots of questions were asked about walrus during the chat!       
A walrus skull - lots of questions
were asked about walrus
during the chat!
  Watch as we make news in Greenland!

The first phone call arrived Tuesday morning following the celebrated email was from Greenland. Mille threw herself at the phone in case it had to do with the permission that was just received. On the other end of the line it was Greenland’s famed TV-anchor and news journalist Inga  Hansen with Greenland Broadcasting Corporation KNR. For real! Hearing about our upcoming Expert Chats with scientists from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Inga wanted a quick interview to add to her news story about GoNorth! and our student explorers around the world airing that same day! Actually, it turns out we all made news both in the national paper, on the morning radio and on TV that day! “While Mille understands the news story because the subtitles are in Danish, I really did get the main theme of it from the footage,” says Aaron with a grin, “but I thought it was very nice to see all the great questions and conversation going on in the chat room on national TV. It made me very proud of the students explorers!”

The puppets for the book being admired at the Kaffemik
         The puppets for the book being admired at
       the Kaffemik

In the meantime Christine has been busy filming away in Siorapaluk. First, there was a full day of Easter games! To Christine’s great relief it turns out that the darker line of ice mysteriously stretching out from the beach shore in front of the community is not a sign of thin ice! Instead it’s a stretch of ice, one foot-or-so wide (about 30 cm), that is used for ice fishing!


  Listen to find out what an Ice Fish Race is!?

  Listen to what goodies were being
  served up on the ice

  Watch the blindfolded Easter egg hunt
On Monday afternoon the whole community came to Kaffemik at the school. They came to the school to share their making of the book “Minik – the Little Hunter.” Christine and the students had set up coffee tables booming with the treats brought into Siorapaluk by the boxes on the helicopter a few days earlier. The boxes were full of fresh pineapple, orange slices, mini carrots, three kinds of cookies, hard candy, chocolate, and popcorn (a Siorapaluk favorite with coffee, tea and cold drink)! As the community came out of the school afterwards, Christine realized it was also Easter Games Day out on the sea ice! Starting with ice fishing, the games included a blind-folded Easter egg hunt, one-footed egg races and a whipping contest!

Meat and fish hangout out to freeze dry       
Meat and fish hanging out to freeze dry  

Later, Christine sat down with the whip master himself: Ikuo Oshami. Ikuo came to Siorapaluk from Japan some 35 years ago, and today he is not only one of the most respected elders and hunters in the northern region of Greenland. His dogsled whips are shipped out to hunters, guides and even the Danish military operating in Greenland by dog team, the Sirius Patrole. This year alone Ikuo has already made and shipped out more than 100 whips throughout Greenland! Making each whip is a long process from hunting the seals to skinning, drying, softening, cutting, assembling and finally testing the whip. Ikuo uses skins from two kinds of seals for each whip: ringed seal and bearded seal.

Musk ox
         Musk ox

Not only an incredible hunter traveling many miles with his dog team to hunt and fish, Ikuo use every part of what he harvests and his tremendous traditional knowledge about how to prepare and treat each type of skin. Walking into his storage space below his house – a cold room to keep everything in best possible condition – Ikuo has every possible hide and pelt neatly organized. “I have never ever seen anything like it,” marvels Christine. “I should have known from the four kinds of meat hanging to dry in organized rows outside Ikuo and Anna’s house (Arctic char, halibut, caribou and musk ox meat), but the beautifully worked skins of polar bear, musk ox, hares, foxes, wolf, seals and caribou still took my breath away – and nothing is wasted!”



[image left: Ikuo with seal skin]

That evening Christine cooked up a most delicious musk ox steak from a chunk of meat Ikuo hunted just recently north of the community. It is a region where a huge herd of musk ox roam across the glacier. The area is actually often referred to as Musk Ox Land and it is believed to be the area where musk ox came across from Canada some 90 – 200,000 years ago!


  Listen to Christine’s experience in Ikuo’s ‘treasure cove’

  Watch what Ikuo hunts for and learn about quota systems

  Watch Ikuo talk about the musk ox herd – and their shrinking stomachs!


Earlier in the day Ikuo’s wife, Anna, flown to the neighboring community, Qaanaaq, to meet their two-week old grandchild. Anna took with her the most beautiful pair of baby kamiks that her and Ikuo made together in the days before departure. The inner sock was made from the softest part of a caribou leg, the outer boot made from seal skin and the upper ruff from polar bear hide which made sure no snow can get into the boot.

Baby kamiks
         Baby kamiks

Anna said they are warmer than anything you can buy at “a store near you!” On that note, as part of the butter mission we set out on last week, we can report that one pound of butter (1/2 kg) costs 39.90 DKr or about $8! So, it is approximately three times what butter costs around Expedition Basecamp. But then, butter has to travel a long ways to make it onto the store shelf in Greenland. What does butter cost in your neighborhood (and where does it come from)? Post it to the Earth Zone, and make sure to take the My Footprint challenge and post your results in the Zone as well. The link to calculate your footprint will be right on the Explore landing page this week – and watch out for the postings of each of our foot prints as well!

  Explore the Northwoods.
  Can you find the wall tent Andrea and
  Tim have been staying in all week?
This week the Polar Huskies have been putting their paw prints a bit further north. Because it became so warm around Expedition Basecamp we loaded them up in the dog truck early this week and drove about five hours north, where Tim and Andrea set up camp in a wall tent on our good friend Tim White’s land in the North woods. “Its been a tremendous week of training!” says Andrea. Tim adds, “Frankly, in the much cooler temperatures it is really obvious just how great shape the whole gang is in. They are all crazed to go!”

Polar Husky Superstar Tucker       
Polar Husky Superstar Tucker  

No one is more ready to go than Tucker. While this week’s first Polar Husky Superstar is very very shy with new people – Tucker is endlessly keen, eager, and excited about his job as a might Polar Husky sled dog. The greatest drawback to Tucker is that he is so fixated on pulling that sometimes it can be hard to get him to listen to what actually needs to be done. For example, say you are heading across an area that calls for caution, like traveling in an area with thinner ice and possibly open water, well, don’t put Tucker anywhere near the front of the team as he will plow right through whatever seems to be the fastest most direct route - ice or no ice. On the other hand, if you need a fearless leader, Tucker is your guy. Sometimes, that’s simply what it takes. With his terrific pulling technique and endless enthusiasm, Tucker runs anywhere in the team depending on where his craze is best used and most needed.

Polar Husky Superstar Kodiak
         Polar Husky Superstar Kodiak

This week’s second Polar Husky Superstar, Kodiak, is a lot more the cool guy than Tucker. However, he is barely second to Tucker when it comes to technique and enthusiasm. Actually, a lot of Kodiak’s cool attitude is really just his being super-goofy. Beginning when he was just little puppy, Kodiak has always enjoyed eating while laying sprawled out on his side. It's not because he isn't excited about the food, and Kodiak is the furthest from lazy! Kodiak just likes to do things different. An avid hunter, Kodiak is very patient at the same time he loves being on the move at a fast pace. This makes him an ideal point dog because Kodiak can also carry a lot of pressure without it fazing him the slightest as he throws himself, all crazed, into the air no matter what anyone else is doing. Crazed Polar Huskies are our greatest resource of power once we are in the field. As we soon set out onto the impressive and humbling ice sheet on Greenland we will be looking to the craze of Tucker, Kodiak and the rest of the gang. For real!