Thursday, 27 November 2008


Well, I'm going to jump on the band wagon and write about what's been on people's lips recently up here. Sorry if you've heard all about it before.
Last week at work, one of my patients came up to me smiling and happy with some news to share. She had just heard recently from people she knew in Pond Inlet. She started off by telling me the ice there is freezing up and there are a few spots where a pod of about 200 Narwals are surfacing for air. On the inside, I'm thinking, wow, now that would be cool to see. And then she continues her story. The inuit are harvesting the narwhals where they're coming up for air. And my heart dropped about two feet and I wanted to say "how could you?" or "the poor whales" or anything about how sad it was. But the smile on her face stopped me. Instead, I plastered a smile on my face, and said something about how good that was, and asked her if she liked eating Narwhal. She nodded with her big grin still in place and told me it was very good. She couldn't describe the taste, but apparently it isn't fishy, nor is it like red meat or chicken or any other land animal. She said it was very chewy. I wonder now if she was thinking of the blubber from these animals, which is a big favorite up here.
And the reality is, the ice was frozen for somewhere between 30 and 50 km around those holes in the ice, and the holes (about three of them) were already down to the size of a desk. The icebreaker ships are too far away to rescue them before the holes close over. Try as they might (and they have) the inuit can't keep chopping the holes wider for much longer, because the ocean water is rapidly freezing and becoming thicker all the time. And so, it's either harvest the whales while they're still struggling for breath, or let them die a slow starvation as they struggle just to get a turn to breathe. It's humane, because those holes will close over in the next few weeks. And not a bit of the whale will be thrown away. The hides will be scraped clean and used for clothing or decoration. The tusks will be sold or carved. The meat and blubber will be eaten with relish. The innards... I'm not to sure about them, but if they don't eat them their dogs will.
I see the positives, the necessity behind what's happening. It just was hard to hear at first and be excited. It seems so sad that such a large number of wild animals are being killed. I suppose I need to learn a bit about living off what is available. And with the way food prices in the north are through the roof, what better way then for it's people to live off the land like they always used to do, before we started telling them to eat like us.

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