Pieces of home on the North Slope of Alaska


It is the season for hunting the seal

The water is as cold as it’s real

     It’s not very nice

     To swim with the ice

And feel yourself start to congeal.

The sea ice has broken up, and the Inuit are going out to hunt seals.  Mostly, they hunt seals from boats and use a .243 rifle. Some will take a boat into the Arctic Ocean, and find an ice floe to camp on.   A bearded seal will weigh between 300 and 600 pounds, and can be difficult to get into the boat.

Just as with any human activity, even gunny sack races, accidents happen and injuries follow.  We see the survivors.

As soon as alcohol enters the equation, the injury quotient rises.

As before, I can’t give details that would identify a patient, but I can say that morning report was really interesting and uniquely Barrow today.

I walked to the library after clinic.  I insisted that I pay my overdue fines (the young woman at the desk didn’t want to take my money, I think because of her reverence for elders), and I stayed for a lecture.

The lecturer, a grad student from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, talked about seasonal heat flow variations in lakes.  She and her professor gather a lot of data from a lot of lakes, but they gather the most from Fresh Water Lake, close to Barrow, and Alkali Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska.

While I am enjoying my time here in Barrow, I’m also starting to miss home, especially when I see pieces of the neighborhood here.  The two giggling teenagers zipping down the dirt road in a Polaris vehicle made in Vermillion.  The Wells Blue Bunny ice cream bar from Lemars, featured as the dessert at the hospital.  The jar of Sioux Bee honey sweetening the tea at the guitarist’s house. 

I wouldn’t have stayed for the library lecture but for the Sandhills content.  Those readers who know me personally know my emotional attachment to the Sandhills.  Briefly:  they are beautiful, quiet, clean, and inhabited by a people who are as genuine as possible.

With the faint taste of home in my mind, I went out of my way to walk past the airport returning to the hospital.

I took a few minutes to read the granite marker to Wiley Post and Will Rogers, who died in a plane crash 16 miles short of Barrow before WWII. 

Including the five minutes I dawdled on the concrete around the monument, the only pavement I’ve seen in the last month, the walk from the airport took 15 minutes.   

The weather continues cold and windy; the locals are grumbling that they aren’t going to see summer.  The temp has cooled enough that ice floes are forming in the Arctic Ocean, the wind drifting them to the shore in a stark white line contrasting to the leaden blue of the waves.

Hey, if you can’t handle the cold, stay out of the freezer.

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2 Responses to “Pieces of home on the North Slope of Alaska”

  1. Dean Hughson Says:

    Read Dr. Brodkey’s comments on Wiley Post

  2. Dean Hughson Says:

    Read Dr. Brodkeys comments on Wiley Post

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