Life in Greenland’s polar desert

Stephen Pax Leonard from the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge has written a couple of stories for The Guardian in the polar region which you can find here. You should read “The disappearing world of the last of the Arctic hunters”.

Here’s the latest one for The Observer :
“Stephen Pax Leonard spent the last year studying the language of the Arctic Inugguit. He was ready for the months of darkness, brutal cold and finally the all-day light. What he didn’t anticipate was his creeping horror at the way the rest of us live

I retire at just gone midnight, but am awoken at 2.50am by Qaordloqtoq, the young man who runs the kommune (local council) in the tiny settlement of Savissivik in northwest Greenland. He is standing at the entrance to the living room, shining a torch-light in my face, and it is obvious that he is excited about something. He tells me that I have to come immediately as there is a polar bear in front of my house. We run outside into the pitch black. I have my pocket video camera, but no torch, and stumble with sleepiness in the deep snow. I am still half-asleep and in my confusion I forget for a moment that I am in a hunting settlement and have in my mind this image of people watching a polar bear walking rather majestically between the houses and very close to us.

Sadly, I am mistaken and the truth is remorsefully other. A dead male polar bear lies directly outside my house. It was shot two minutes ago. He had smelt the seal blubber lying around the settlement and had taken his chance. The hysterical barking of the dogs woke up my neighbour and the animal was killed quickly with two bullets. It took three men 20 minutes to skin this vast eco-icon of the Arctic. It was done there and then, at 3am and in temperatures of -30C. The meat is shared among all the inhabitants and the fur is used to make nannut (meaning polar-bear fur/skin trousers) which are still used by hunters today. There are no hunting trophies and there is absolutely no waste.”

Read on….

Photograph: Stephen Pax Leonard

2 Responses to “Life in Greenland’s polar desert”
  1. xandimusic says:

    great photos everywhere on your blog, especially the Flickr photos are excellent!!
    Peace and greetings

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