I plan to devote several blog posts to presentations from the 2017 Snowalkers Rendezvous in Fairlee, VT. The quality of the presentations is top notch, with several giants of northern adventuring in the line up. Here is the first:
David Pelly- “How Inuit Find Their Way – Navigation in the Trackless Arctic”
David’s talk was drawn from an article that he published in 2001 in ABOVE & BEYOND magazine -January/February 2001. Here’s the link to this highly interesting article
Canadians were well represented at this year’s SnowWalkers Rendezvous.
David presented leadoff slides of traditional Inuit tattoos. In 1982 David moved to Baker Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada, where David eventually learned to speak Unuit.
As examples of superior navigational abilities, David shared with us observations about the uncanny ability of a native named Tulurialik to discern from thousands of small piles of snow out on the tundra one that held a fox trap. David shared with us another story about traveling with Tulurialik on a snowmobile in complete white-out conditions where Tulurialik reoriented a snowmobile’s direction after recognizing a tiny protruding rock as a feature he remembered from passing through the area previously.
Possessing superior visual acuity, the Unuit subsistence hunter’s observations were fundamental to their survival. Men were raised as hunters and were usually taught by their grandfathers. They studied cloud masses and colors, indicating the location of distant land masses. Snow ridges reflect wind directions that offer clues to direction of travel on snowmobiles. Directions for wilderness travel as long as 200 miles are commonly transmitted orally, without maps. Mapping in the Inuit way is extremely sparse compared to the expanded view of modern maps. Descriptive place names and stories are techniques that increase the memory of a path of travel. Proportions do not matter- what matters are the indications of water borders (bodies of water).
As part of the presentation, David displayed a hand-drawn inuit map with minimal lines that looked nothing like I had ever seen.
“ I could actually do a whole half hour talk about this hand drawn simple map,” he said.
David’s talk was bittersweet, as things for the Unuit have dramatically changed for this culture, even in the past 15 years. I encourage the reader to check out the charitable foundation headed by David Pelly in the memory of his 20 year old adopted Inuit son, Ayalik, who had died unexpectedly in his sleep. Money from the foundation supports sending Unuit youth from Nunavut on extended outdoor adventures throughout North America.
The events that will transpire today are the same as the things that have always occurred. People living and dying, animals living and dying, clouds rolling in and rolling out, air sucked in and sucked out, as it has for aeons. This moment right now, to paraphrase Emerson, is a quotation of the moments that have come before and will come ever after. This idea is expressed nowhere more beautifully than in the Christianity hymn Gloria Patri. “As it was in the beginning, and now, and always, and to the ages of ages.” This thought is not supposed to be depressing or uplifting. It’s just a fact. However, it can have a calming, centering effect. No need to get excited, no need to wait on pins and needles. If you haven’t seen this before, someone else has. That can be a relief.” from “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living” by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman
The softcover book lists for $ 28.95, with 286 pages, including 34 pages of full color photos. Most pages have two photos. Originally written on my iPhone, additional dialogue and background was added. Over 50 hours of professional editing completed the process. Thanks for your support over the past ten years of hiking! Books can be ordered through the “Buy Now” Paypal button at the top right of the page.
Thanks for supporting a Maine writer !
For the last 3 days, our house has been without electricity, due to an October 30th storm that downed power lines all over the state of Maine.
We’re back into a simpler life style – out to camp.
Its in Hope, one town over, and just 9 miles from our house. Heck, if we lack anything here, it is no problem to stop by the house and get it tomorrow, or even right now!
At its peak, some 494,000 customers were without electricity, surpassing the number of households that were cold and dark in the Great Ice Storm of 1998. Over 300 power crews are still at it. Back in 1998, it was almost two weeks before our power was restored.
I bought a small 3500 watt Honda generator right after that, and while it helps with lights and keeping the refrigerator and chest freezer going, we can’t use the well pump, electric hot water heater, or our kitchen stove freely and have to improvise and shuttle usage to keep things together. It was stressful, but it gets us through the times when we lose power.
A number of our aging neighbors have taken up the final solution and have installed mega-watt propane-fueled generators that automatically fire up when the grid fails. That route allows one to run the whole house without compromise. That’s out of my league.
On the other hand, it is no problem for me to get fresh drinking water at the house. We’re blessed with a shallow well, serviced by a pump and water tank in the basement. Unfortunately, the well pump overwhelms the generator and trips the circuit when I try to get it to run. Yesterday, I lifted the well cover, tied a bucket onto a galvanized pail and threw it down into the well, and drew out as much water as we needed to flush the toilet, wash up, and drink water. What is making this all possible is that it has been unseasonably warm, to the point of zero killing frost outside.
With no freeze, we still have water at our Hobbs Pond camp, which we draw from the spring fed pond by another shallow well pump.
There is power here! The camp’s power was restored at 5:15 PM, the night the storm passed through. We have the outhouse out back and the 380 square footprint of this little (now insulated) camp makes it easy to heat with a wood stove.
There is no cell reception at this location, however we have a land phone line and now internet here as well.
Life is good. Embracing improvisation helps once again, and so does the fact that both Marcia and I have each spent months, and even years living outdoors, hiking through the countryside, and living out of the few items that we carry on our backs. At our little camp, we have more than ancient kings could ever dream of.