PHOTO BY JAN BUTCHOFSKY-HOUSER. ICEBERGS DRIFT FROM THE GLACIER SERMEQ KUJSLLEQ--THE WORLD’S MOST
PRODUCTIVE GLACIER AND WAS DECLARED A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE IN 2004, ILULISSAT, GREENLAND.
he old Eskimo word for winter, ‘ukiug,’ The word Inuit refers collectively to the primary Among 220 passengers onboard an August, 2007, but toxins are carried by ocean currents from
also means ‘a year,’ but not anymore,” indigenous people of the Arctic. Originating in sailing, my wife Jan and I have come ashore to the industrial nations up into the Arctic waters
muses Ikuo Oshima. Staring wistfully Central Asia, they migrated to the Russian Far East, explore and to ﬁnd someone speaking English who where they enter the bodies of marine animals
from his porch over a scattering of stubby multi- across Alaska and Canada, reaching Greenland can tell us about life in the settlement. We’ve been and polar bears. These are our sources of meat,”
colored cottages toward Robertson Fjord, dotted about 4,500 years ago. Eskimo is an archaic term, directed to Oshima, who is university educated and he continues, “and so now the breast milk of Inuit
this August morning with drifting icebergs, Oshima as is igloo. They prefer to be called Inuit and they ﬂuent in four languages. As such, he is much in mothers contains ﬁve times more contaminants than
is one of 90 hardy souls residing in Siorpaluk, a live in houses nowadays, usually painted one of the demand these days by visiting media, hot on the trail that of American mothers.”
Greenlandic Inuit settlement that seems to be colors of the rainbow. of global warming.
Even in this remote and rawboned village at the
thriving in spite of its foreboding title as “world’s
“We can’t live as we once did,” laments Oshima, a “Japanese television, the BBC, National Geographic planet’s livable fringe, commercialism and politics
northernmost hunting and ﬁshing village.”
STORY AND PHOTOS: DAVE G. HOUSER AND JAN BUTCHOFSKY-HOUSER native of Japan who took up life as a professional and many others have come to make reports here,” are also combining to make life more difﬁcult.
Siorpaluk’s location, about 845 miles (1,360 kms) hunter in Siorpaluk more than 35 years ago. “When says Oshima, who is quick to point out that climate
“There are goods and services available now
from the North Pole, places it squarely at the I ﬁrst came here there was plenty of seal, walrus, change is not the only problem facing the Inuit
– electricity, phones, microwaves, computers -- that
frontier of the Inuit people’s struggle to maintain a narwhal and polar bear and we hunted only by kayak population.
I wouldn’t have dreamed possible 35 years ago,” says
traditional lifestyle in the face of an unprecedented and dog sledge. It was all here at our front door. But
“Pollution is a frightening problem as well,” he Oshima who, with his Inuit wife Anne has raised ﬁve
meltdown of the Arctic now the sea ice comes later and we have to go much
admonishes, “because it doesn’t look like children here. “The more you buy into these things
ice sheet. farther away to hunt.”
there’s any problem. It
Siorpaluk is one of several remote ports-of-call on appears to be quite
a newly introduced northern Greenland voyage of pristine here
the Norwegian expedition cruiser MS Fram.
WHERE ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS February/March 2008 NZ ADVENTURE 13
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