Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Nalukataq

On Saturday, June 21 we ushered in the beginning of summer by attending the Nalukataq festival. Two whaling crews (one of which was the ABC crew) celebrated their successful whaling season with the community. They shared their catches with the town, serving goose soup (remember the geese we cleaned a while back???), caribou soup, frozen raw whale meat (quaq), muktuk, etc. Everyone was welcome to share in the fun and some of us even got a portion of quaq and muktuk to take home.

After the food was distributed, the blanket toss began. A "blanket" made of seal (or walrus) skins is used as a trampoline. People stand around the edges of the blanket and move it up and down in unison - this is what gives the blanket its "spring". Everyone is invited to take a turn if they'd like getting tossed (sometimes VERY high) in the air. Some jumpers throw out candy to the eager kids (and adults) waiting for some sweet goodies below. Ali and Glenn both took a turn on the blanket, as well as a number of other BASC researchers. Luckily, all survived the toss without any broken bones or other long-term injuries!

After the blanket toss, we headed to the Arctic Ocean coast for a "Polar Plunge". Ali, Ian and a few other brave BASC researchers (Tony, Barry and Romain) took the plunge into the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. Luckily, no one had heart failure upon entering and no one ended up with hypothermia from the swim. I passed on this experience, as I've already done my fair share of Polar Rolls (rolling around nearly naked in the snow at -40F) and Polar Plunges ... and Glenn decided he also wanted to keep to the warmer, drier climes of solid ground. We were, however, the official photographers and "warmer uppers" for the swimmers when they exited the water. What we didn't realize was that we wouldn't be the ONLY photographers. As the plungers got ready for their swim a passing vehicle decided to stop to watch the fun. This caught the attention of a few other passersby (including the 15 passenger van used by "Northern Tundra Tours" to take tourists around to local sights). Apparently, we ended up on their tour ... as the entire van emptied and the tourists took pictures of the group doing their plunge. Ironic - the tourists come to Barrow to see the local sights and end up taking pictures of tourists doing the polar plunge. But, we were happy to be the entertainment, if only for a few minutes. Blankets, towels and dry changes of clothes were quickly made ready when the plungers decided to exit the frigid water (to the cheers and hoots of the adoring audience). Everyone was glad they did the plunge ... or at least no one voiced their regrets out loud!

So now that the first Nalukataq of the summer is past, we must unfortunately start thinking about packing up our lab and instruments for the journey back to Villanova. The goal is to have our boxes and crates to the Northern Air Cargo facility at the airport by Wednesday. So, we still have a few days to get ourselves packed and ready to head back to the lower 48. We managed to get everything up here in one piece - so let's hope we can maintain the same record for the trip home!

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