"having the knowledge will help them, if at some point they have to use the moving ice."
March 27, 2011 3:04 PM   Subscribe

"A group of Inuit experts, community researchers, and university researchers, have worked together over the past several years to document specialized Inuit knowledge about sea ice."

Some notable segments: The Igliniit (trails routinely traveled) system which uses "snow machine-mounted technology" to track and record Inuit travel routes; Cape Dorset sea ice map (crack overlay is cooler than you would think) with information from local elders about good places to hunt walrus and gather eggs; and special discussion of their methods working with elders and hunters to get local knowledge without being cultural tourists.

You might also like the Carleton Library Geogenvirospecialist's Blog or the Inuit Sea Ice Use and Occupancy project page, the Canadian International Polar Year (2007-2008) project page, particularly the photo exhibit or ArcticNet's photo gallery. [via ResearchBuzz]
posted by jessamyn (27 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking of Inuit maps, these tactile maps are awesome.
posted by zamboni at 3:13 PM on March 27, 2011 [17 favorites]

Rumor has it that zamboni's expertise cleans up in ice circles.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:21 PM on March 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

zamboni's expertise cleans up in ice circles.

There's no terrestrial explanation for ice circles.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:38 PM on March 27, 2011

The Wikipedia entries on the pre-history peoples of the Arctic are fascinating, too. There were several waves of settlement, and Vikings were met.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:49 PM on March 27, 2011

Working together to document and share Inuit knowledge of sea ice...

Thin ice and thick ice, light ice and heavy ice, sludgy ice, brittle ice, ice that formed in sheets, ice that formed in clumps, ice that came in on the bottom of your neighbour's boots all over your nice clean igloo floor, the ices of winter, the ices of spring, the ices you remember from your childhood that were so much better than any of your modern ice, fine ice, feathery ice, hill ice, valley ice, ice that forms in the morning, ice that forms at night, ice that forms all of a sudden just when you were going out driving, and ice that despite all your efforts to train them, the huskies have pissed on.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:13 PM on March 27, 2011 [15 favorites]

Not sure totally what fff is referring to but you can get a good overview by reading a few of the articles in the Prehistory of the Arctic category.
posted by jessamyn at 4:31 PM on March 27, 2011

There goes any work that I was going to do this morning.

I love that it has become accepted that if you're going to do a website for an indigenous group there has to be lots of elders involved, and they have to be presented directly sharing the knowledge, otherwise you might as well have thrown the money into the ocean.
posted by fido~depravo at 4:48 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Aren't the inuit meant to be the skraelings that the vikings recorded attacks from?
posted by fido~depravo at 4:49 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Or the Dorset people, who were there before the Inuit. Something very romantic about stone age folk winning for once - there is a good explanation of this in Jared Diamond's Collapse.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:59 PM on March 27, 2011

The website for the former exhibit Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga has information on the places in North America there is evidence that the Vikings went to, and on the people they probably or definitely encountered when they did. Information is scattered throughout the site, but one way to find things is to click on Viking Voyage in the top bar, and then enter that part of the site, and then click on numbers 5, 6 especially and maybe 7 on the map at the top and keep following the links in each section (there links on the left and are little Next buttons on the bottom of many pages.)
posted by gudrun at 4:59 PM on March 27, 2011

The photo of the retrieval boat on the ice floe says a lot about what it's like near an Inuit camp. You can follow the red blood trails on the ice for miles.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:01 PM on March 27, 2011

Greg_Ace, I think you missed a few. I have it on good authority that Inuits have 150 words for ice.
posted by vidur at 5:09 PM on March 27, 2011

Oooh, goody.

I am regularly on the sea ice with Inuit (Iñupiaq) hunters. I was just out there last week, as it is trail breaking season for spring whaling right now -- the hard work of actually cutting your way through that stuff to make a camp where whole families will spend many days waiting patiently and quietly for bowheads to appear.

Those who haven't been out there often picture sea ice as flat, but in fact the pressure ridges throw up massive piles that can be 30 feet high or more, and as many shades of green and blue as pure white, and finding a path through that to the ocean's edge to make hunting camp can be grueling work, involving backbreaking cutting and frustrating dead ends. There is something truly awesome about being miles out from the shore in a lunar landscape where it is sometimes hard to tell which way leads home and where you may encounter a bear hunting seals around any corner and to imagine people doing this work before GPS and HVF and snow machines or even firearms made it relatively less dangerous. Relatively.

And yes, the elders know it like New Yorkers know their blocks and restaurants. I know many climate scientists who work out on the ice, and to a one they would tell you science has yet to catch up to what an elder hunter knows about the mysteries of that environment.

This is a really cool project. Thanks for posting it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:24 PM on March 27, 2011 [23 favorites]

Oh, and the sea ice is moving, all the time. Imagine being in a permanent earthquake. In an afternoon a huge high ridge can form where there wasn't one before.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:26 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here is a fantastically beautiful movie by a young Iñupiaq filmmaker that captures the visual world of hunting out there: Andrew MacLean's recent Sundance winning Sikumi ("On the Ice") in its short version (his MFA project for NYU). It's now in premiere as a full length feature. (YouTube, contains some violence.)

Riveting. Highly recommended.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:33 PM on March 27, 2011 [11 favorites]

What exactly does Intuit do anyway? I keep getting e-mails from them?
posted by championsgate at 5:36 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dorset people's is a good starting point. From there you'll find links to other settlement waves.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:36 PM on March 27, 2011

For hal_c_on, some relevant early Inuit Wikipedia links:

Paleo Eskimo article
Saqqaq Culture article
Inuit article
...and finally...
Dorset culture

these cultures came together in Greenland, so this is what I know. Absolutely fascinating... if ever you are in Greenland, do stop at the national museum in Nuuk.

If this continues to be a topic of interest, then also follow the threads in Wikipedia for Alaska, Siberia and Canada, with even more information about Inuit history.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:11 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

for anyone interested in map-territory relations, David Turnbull's Maps are Territories: Science is an Atlas is a fabulous place to start.
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 7:57 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is the Greenland museum worth the trip?

I'd love to do an arctic circle tour. Canada's North, Greenland, Iceland, the top ends of the Nordics, the iciest bits of Russia.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:02 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just finished re-reading Smilla's Sense of Snow - what a great follow up!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:19 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

five fresh fish, the Greenland museum is absolutely worth the trip. Beautiful photos, thousands of artifacts and long descriptions of what we see, and context for what we see. But given the small-ish size of the museum, not everything is displayed.

I imagine that even more is displayed in Copenhagen...

And go see the current museum in Nuuk before they move everything to their new location here. Not sure when the current museum collection will be moved to the new location, but I know I will go see the new 3000 sq meter installation once it is open. It will be extraordinary!
posted by seawallrunner at 8:21 PM on March 27, 2011

fourcheesemac, could you please memail me? thank you.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:51 PM on March 27, 2011

five fresh fish- I've travelled to baffin island (auyuittuq) and ellesmere island (quttinirpaaq). I highly recommend the arctic- the landscape is riveting and beautiful. An arctic circle tour would be amazing.
posted by parki at 9:05 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

as a Canadian (born in the east, now living in the west) I want to do the NorthWest Passage.
But the trip I really long for is to see Novaya Zemlya and Severnaya Zemlya in the Kara Sea.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:44 PM on March 27, 2011

I am regularly on the sea ice with Inuit (Iñupiaq) hunters. I was just out there last week

And suddenly sitting in my basement eating Oreos and watching Netflix makes me feel EVEN MORE like a total fucking loser.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:07 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

outstanding, thanks for posting this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:47 PM on March 27, 2011

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