Sunday, October 24, 2010


I think we should start this post with memories of the sunny days we had this summer in Barrow. Because they are a memory, that's for sure. It's been a bit nippy here lately. Not anywhere near as cold as it will get, mind you. However, when it's 25∘and the wind is blowing 20 mph, (that makes it about 8∘) you start thinking of the warm days of the past.
I think the "girls" are thinking about the sunnier days, too. It wasn't so cold on the day we took this picture as it was windy. They didn't seem to mind until we'd been out for about 45 minutes. It was like a timer went off and we had two dogs that seemed to be asking when the torture would be over!

Colder weather also brings thoughts of outer wear. What am I going to wear to keep me warm? Do I have the clothes I'm going to need?, etc.
I'm quite lucky in that I work with one of the best known sewers here in Barrow. [She makes many of the outerwear pieces you see folks wearing...mostly those of us who are visitors as sewing is a tradition passed on from the women to the women...most of them do their own sewing. Younger girls learn from their mothers or grandmothers (Aakas).] You see beautiful parkas all over town. It's not a fashion statement, it's a statement of what to wear to keep warm, especially in the windy climate. Yes, down jackets will do, but they seriously do not hold a candle to the traditional parka.
My colleague and sewer extraordinaire agreed to make a parka for me. She has made parkas for two of my other officemates and they are beautiful! All I had to do was pick out my outer material, the fur for the ruff (siña) and get the lining (8 oz. weight). Remember I told you about the cleaners where all of the fabric and fur is located? So off we went on a Saturday to pick it out. 

The outer material of the parkas (known as Quppiqs) is typically veleveteen. I also had to be sure I didn't "match" the parkas my officemates already had. What a
Yes, I am in there!
fashion faux pas (or faux paw!) that would have been. And you have to think about the fur trim, the ruff. I had to decide which fur went best with the teal fabric I picked out. When you don't have your own skins to use, you get them at the cleaners, and it's mostly fox. I picked the silver fox that had lots of black as well. It's really a project to "begin with the end in mind".

Magically, and it was just like magic, she arrived with my Quppiq really not long after I gave her the material and she took my measurements.

The most amazing part is the hand embroidered trim. All of the triangle designs are done by hand. Being the artist that she is, she picked the colors and incorporated the silver to match the fox ruff.

 I get why fur is used for the ruff on the hood and the hem. It really keeps you warm. As I stood in the wind today to have Husband take this picture, I was toasty warm and it was blowing about 15 at the time. You can see it's not exactly a warm day outside. Thanks to my friend, I am clothed to meet the Arctic chill, so I say, bring on the weather, I am READY!

Fish ON!

It's been awhile since I wrote. That doesn't mean there hasn't been a lot going on...mostly long days at work...really marathons. There don't seem to be any boundaries surrounding work hours. Basically, if you're awake, you work. I get email from colleagues on any of the 7 days and at any of the 24 hours in those days. So it isn't any wonder that I've fallen prey to a monster cold. In fact, being sick is the only reason I have some free time! I guess that's how you get a day off!

Again, we must revisit the whale is not a fish observation in order to explain the title of this entry. I thought about that when I wrote the title. However, Whale ON does not have quite the same panache, so there you have it.

Fall whaling season is here. It causes great excitement. When the first whale was caught, the mukluk telegraph was in full swing. We went to the beaching area at lunch to see if we could see it being brought to shore. The crew who took the whale are in the boat in the first picture. The flag tells us what crew it is. All of the boats around are helping to escort in the whale. They will all get a share of the meat once it's cut up. You can see a fin to the left of the orange buoy in the next picture. The whale is tied to the buoy. That's a helper boat escorting it in.

The fluke is separated from the whale to decrease drag as the whale is brought to shore.

The head of the whale is separated from the body right after the whale gives itself to the crew. This is to allow the spirit to be released from the body and go on to its next life. Separating the head is common on hunts of all animals as the Iñupiaq are always reverent of the spirit of the animals who have given themselves to them.

On this day, a total of 3 whales were taken. Also, the first whale ever taken in Wainwright was brought in. We went back after work (well phase one of the workday, anyway) to check out the progress on the butchering. It was windy (blowing about 25 MPH) and those workers looked pretty cold. You can see what a big job this was. They had all three whales on the old runway by the military hangars from the 50s and they finished the job just as the sun was setting. Now, normally I'd think this was pretty gross. You probably are thinking so, too (and these are the least graphic of the pictures we took). But you've got to remember it's the way of life here. It's how they survive today and how they survived 100 years ago. 

When you stop to think about it, that's pretty continue a tradition that's been going on for that long. 
Oh and just for grins, here's Husband sporting his sealskin hat...nice and toasty for the cold days!