The sun last rose above the horizon here in Barrow on November 18. It will rise next on January 22. The moon, as it appeared today at noon over the Chukchi Sea.
I am documenting an Elders and Youth Conference dedicated to keeping the Iñupiaq language strong among those still fluent and to revitalize it among those who aren't. The conference began this morning with a ceremonial lighting of the seal oil lamp, as would have lit a gathering in the garqi of old - a place for communal gatherings, where learning was passed through the generations.
The seal oil lamp was also the source of light and heat in the traditional sod iglus. As she lit the lamp, Rachel Riley of Anaktuvuk Pass recalled how she lived in a sod iglu as a child. The seal oil lamp, she stressed, was the only source of light in the iglu. The entrance to a sod iglu was a short tunnel that dropped below the surface of the ground.
It was so well insulated from the cold that such a lamp would keep the iglu warm in the deep cold of the Arctic.