Lectures on the Sadlermuit, egg foo yung on the beach


On the ocean we watched chunks of ice

After lectures not once but twice

    We had egg foo yung

    In the blaze of the sun

And enjoyed a supper so nice.

Bethany and I walked over to the Heritage Center in the early afternoon to catch the bus out to the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory for a lecture. 

There are one or two lectures a week here in Barrow.  Some are at the Heritage Center, some at the library, and some at NARL.  The woman who runs the program declares she’s a quarter Irish, a quarter French, a quarter English, and a quarter Inuit.  She makes sure the lectures are informative and are accompanied by first class snacks.

I didn’t know about the programs till I stumbled onto one about snowy owls.  I missed a good one about how birds accommodate their circadian rhythms to the twenty-four hour daylight, and another about NOAA.  The lecture we took in was about genetics of the North Slope Inuit.

The Inuit, as we know them, spread from western Alaska across the Arctic about 1200 years ago and in the process displaced the Dorset people.  A relic population of the Sadlermuit of Hudson’s Bay were wiped out by an epidemic spread by whalers in 1902; there were fewer than 100 at the time. 

The Dorset culture hunted seals and walrus well; their parkas didn’t have hoods, they lived in scattered dwellings and were sparsely populated.  They didn’t hunt whales.

Now that we have DNA testing we can match DNA of that last group with the DNA of the people we identify at Dorset sites, and for a long time we thought that the Inuit replaced the Dorset.

But we can now say a certain amount of Dorset DNA lives on in current Inuit populations.

I would be really interested to see if there’s Inuit or Dorset DNA in Denmark.  After all, the Danes ruled Iceland and Greenland for a thousand years, and where there is cultural contact there will be gene flow.  It’s in the nature of young men and women.  Consider the woman who runs the lecture program.

On the bus out and back we talked with other lecture attendees.  One fellow has retired to Barrow after living here thirty years; he worked in Planning after he worked in construction.  One woman is a health educator and teaches at the College.  One woman is a NOAA officer, just finished a tour on a boat, is here in Barrow training other NOAA officers, and will be going to a 13 month tour of duty in Antarctica.

I talked about what I do.

The NOAA officer seemed fascinated by my job description, expressed an idea she’d toyed with of going to medical school.  Then she threw back her head and laughed and declared she didn’t like being around sick people.  I agreed, then, that med school wouldn’t be a good option for her.

In the evening, after my good, solid nap, Bethany and I walked over to the Brower Café for supper.  The building dates from 1889 and was originally a haven for stranded whalers. 

We ate excellent egg foo yung and sizzling rice soup while we watched the sun glinting on the Arctic Ocean, white ice floes gleaming in the distance.

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