The Challenges of Change

With a sharpened steel pole you can push easily into the soft organic topsoil, but then it suddenly stops as it reaches the permafrost, just like hitting concrete.

North of here is the Arctic Ocean. As I write, the clouds are low and the winds are blowing in hard. There are white caps on the now dark grey sea. The waves don’t break but sort of collapse on the beach, which is a black-brown, with almost no shells. However, what seems forbidding right now is also a beautiful home to all manner of sea life! We recently saw fluorescent sea comb jellyfish, countless fish, curious seals that pop their heads up along the shore to see what you’re doing, massive walruses, and whales, such as the white belugas the size of dolphins and the humongous Bowheads (which may live for 200 years!).

What parts of this environment help people to live here?:

Given how extreme it is, I am amazed at how much wildlife the ocean and tundra support, and how much is still used by the Iñupiat people. Animals they eat include Bowhead whale, walrus, seal, caribou, many types of fish, and even polar bears and wolves. Fun fact, the town Utqiagvik is allowed to eat up to 25 Bowhead whales per year. Nothing is wasted here! For example, whale blubber and skin is eaten (it’s called muktuk and the skin is rich in vitamin C). The skins of animals make the world’s best extreme cold-weather clothing and protective gear. In previous times they made raincoats from strips of seal intestine.

What challenges do people face living in this environment?:

The main challenges for the town’s people, apart from the constantly dark winter months and the extreme cold, are different from anywhere else.