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« Elders past and the whale; children present and connected | Main | A hymn for Eli »

Winter light: the noon moon over the Chukchi; the seal oil lamp

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.

Reader Comments (2)

Well, that's a new one for me. Sod igloo! I thought they were made from ice. My grandsons made a snow igloo after a big blizzard 5 years ago. It was 12 feet in diameter. It was a wet snow and they cut blocks with the shovels. It was very impressive! They made a huge snow fence with the snow blocks to stop the drifts on the driveway in the front of the house. They didn't know about the seal oil lamp as we don't have an abundance of seals in Colorado. Think we could have read a newspaper on the patio last night by the light of that full moon! It was so beautiful and bright!

Spellcheck corrected your spelling of iglu to igloo. Guess it doesn't know their language either. My apologies. We didn't have spellcheck or Google back in the 40'ss and 50's and I don't remember looking it up in my trusty Webster's Dictionary back in the good old days. We may have had one day of learning about Eskimo's. They were not citizen's of the USA back then and our geography class was short on substance. But, I'm sure getting a wonderful, up-close education from my favorite blogger from Alaska! Thank you very much! Your whaling series is wonderful. Had no idea the whales were so big until you showed them butchering them. May have to start calling you Professor! I haven't fallen asleep in your lectures....yet.

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Gunka

What a beautiful photo of the noon moon.

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergrannyj

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