The height of surrealism is to try to explain the descent of Celedon – culminating point of the festivities of La Blanca – to an Inuit woman who does not speak any language apart from the Inupiaq. In my disclaimer I will say that the situation came to us, as the downpours come in the afternoon of April.
Inuit family in motorboat towards Northabout.
On day 1 a speed boat was presented in front of the Northabout. It was a visit. The hunter Pullaq Ulloriaq and his daughter Bebiane honored us with their presence on board.
“The Inuit are tight and distrustful of foreigners. It’s hard to get in touch,” some experts had warned.
It was not so in our case. We set up an improvised party and gave them coffee, chocolate and port. “Schikool (cheers)” said the Inuit every time he raised his arm; With gestures and drawings he informed us of his hunting calendar: Fish in September. Narbal in October. Polar bear in December and January.
Hunter of Nukagpianguak
And musk ox and caribou in August. The narbales are captured in the Bay of Qaanaaq. They mount a fleet of kayaks waiting at the entry. The rest is done. Pullaq also explained the secrets of the local delicatessen: with a net tied to a pole catching birds on the cliffs. Then he puts them with feathers and everything in the skin of a seal with its fat, extracted in one piece. It covers everything from rocks to preserve it from vermin and leaves it rotten for 6 months. After that time the local delicacy is eaten raw, in the special moments.
When the food was finished, María Valencia took out a wad of postcards. From Spain and Euskadi. The idea was to describe the guests to our land. I had to deal with a postcard with La Blanca’s “chupinazo”. I explained it to Bebiane. He looked at me, as it can not be otherwise, like the oxen to the processions. These foreigners are crazy, I say he thought.
View of the village of Soriapaluk
Soriapaluk is a fascinating village. The most extreme and northern of Greenland, its neighbors live all of the hunt. Contacting them is not easy, but we set up a consistent plan to introduce ourselves through the houses giving away cakes.
It worked perfectly, and soon the famous hunter Nukagpianguak invited us to coffee, a jovial guy with a dark, tanned face like a sailor. The afternoon in his company and that of his numerous offspring was grateful.
He was dying of laughter after dressing Maria with bear pants, parka feathered pants, and kamik seal boots with arctic hare lining.
He also taught Javier Zardoya the art of whip and sledge and guided us all through the gallery of trophies in his hall.
We asked Nuka – as he likes to be called – if it was going to be possible to travel north. He answered, “Weather is in charge”
María Valencia dressed in Inuit clothes
Naotaka Hayashi anthropologist in Soriapaluk
“The Inuit family consists of five members: the mother, the father, two children and an anthropologist,” says another old joke.
The anthropologist from Soriapaluk was Naotaka Hayashi. He’s Japanese, but he was there doing a job for the Canadian University of Calgary.
His work was truly commendable. “To understand the books that teach inupiak I had to learn Danish.I then came here.It cost me two weeks to receive me in the first house.A different language is spoken on each coast.And in every town.And in every family.I am here to study how new times disrupt local cultures.
– Factors such as climate change?
-Of course. Among others. In recent years the weather has been crazy. Years of great heat and others of intense cold, alternating. All the local comment. It is a mess, “he said.
12.- The Inuit: a people at the crossroads
Grise Fiord is a grain of human sand on an immense island the size of England. Only 140 people inhabit this village which is the only settlement of Ellesmere, the northernmost insular of the Canadian Arctic. The rest is unleashed nature and implacable severity.
11.- Towards the mountains without a name
On August 8 we marched up the glacier carrying the equipment on pulkas or sleds. We wanted to climb the highest peak in the area. We were in the mountains that surround the Manson polar cap, the so-called North York Land. It is a remote white territory on the map.
10.- A lost world
There was a movie – an adaptation of a Jules Verne story – that marked my childhood. The movie was about explorers flying over unexplored Greenland in an airship. They discovered, among other wonders, a surviving Viking community, plus a bay lost in time and mist where the whales were going to breathe their last breath.
9.- Weather is in charge
Everyone has a plan until it gets spoiled. I had a plan. I had been watching the ice charts, the satellite images of the Sentinel – sent and analyzed by the expert Íñigo Orue – and the charts and had observed the following: the Strait of Nares is like a bowling alley.
8.- Soriapaluk, a village on the border of the cold
On day 1 a speed boat was presented in front of the Northabout. It was a visit. The hunter Pullaq Ulloriaq and his daughter Bebiane honored us with their presence on board.”The Inuit are tight and distrustful of foreigners. It’s hard to get in touch,” some experts had warned.
7.- Defeat in Smith Strait (Chronicle 2)
The ice chart, an indispensable tool for anyone traveling on icy seas, gave rise to some hope: even Cape Alexander, the westernmost point of Greenland, only a third of the surface of the water was covered with ice. Enough for us. So we marched through a white maze dodging icebergs thanks to the skill as helmsman of Aitor Basarrate.
6.- Defeat in Smith Strait (Chronicle 1)
They say that any polar adventure involves some kind of suffering. On July 27 we started our first major battle against ice. And we lost it. I will never forget the crash of the ice against the helmet. Runs from the beds to deck. And the long hours of hopeful and nervous glances trying to peer out into the ice maze.
5.- Ghosts of the Baffin Sea
There are few experiences in life more disturbing than seeing an iceberg appear in the fog. We saw it on the third day of navigation from Upernavik to the north by the bay of Melville; Of course, it was not the first floating block of ice we came across; But this was veiled in mystery by an oleaginous haze, typical in this area of the Baffin Sea.
4.- Shipwrecks and beluga carpaccio
An Inuit wedding is a strange mix between tradition and modernity. They emphasize the traditional costumes: The grooms dress old fashioned, he with white anorak and she with a colorful coat; And both in sealskin pants and boots. We were fortunate to be invited to his wedding by Nunarleq Mathaussen, a pure Inuit who married Ane, a local girl with Nordic features.
3.- Quixote things and other unforeseen
People come to the Arctic in the hope of seeing new and wonderful things; To bring in his pocket money to tell that really worth it.
The lucky ones attend a northern aurora, spot a formation of whales or discover the polar bear at the time of breakfast with a seal; But what is really unusual is to see is two Basques carrying on a dingui – a standard Zodiac – and with a poke in their hands fighting against an iceberg.
2.- The Strait of Nares, the gates of the White Hell
If the Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition succeeds, it will be the first time a Spanish team has reached the Geomagnetic Pole. But the most interesting is the territory where the bet will be developed. Authentic “door of the white hell” the Strait of Nares (which the expedition intends to cross) was the passage chosen by numerous expeditions throughout history to reach by sea the North Pole, because it was mistakenly thought that behind the ice barrier, a warm sea existed.
1.- Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition
Adventures begin in the most unlikely places. The Mars Gaming Northabout Expedition came to being one haunted night, in the middle of the countryside, somewhere between the English cities of Bath and Bristol.