Coastal Erosion Threatens Indigenous Heritage Sites
“When we go out today,we have to stay together. And if the bear guides say back to the skidoos, you get back NOW.This is polar bear country.” Anne Jensen is an archaeologist of the charismatic – and extremely hardy sort. To conduct excavations in the Arctic, you’d have to be. She had held us all entranced in the disused theatre now used as a storeroom by BASC, telling us all about the history of the region and her efforts to preserve old indigenous grave sites and remove remains for reburial before coastal erosion washes them into the water. We’d heard from Chris yesterday how the retreat of the sea ice leaves the coastline more vulnerable to storms and pressure from wild ocean waves.Today Anne took us on an excursion to Point Barrow, the northernmost point in the USA,to visit one of the sites. We weren’t going to be able to see much. The locals told me this was the worst kind of day for a trip out.
Our expedition leader Marc Cornelissen rounded up his charges before we settled onto the snow machines and sledges.”Has everybody got FULL Arctic gear? I don’t want to hear anybody has forgotten a pack, their gloves or anything else. This will be a long ride, the strong wind in our faces on the way out and you need to make sure you don’t get cold”.
It was an amazing trip, a tiny taste of the life of an Arctic explorer. Sitting on the flat wooden sledge,the wind and the exhaust from the skidoo blew the snow into our faces and everywhere else.At times I couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the snow began. And when we reached the point where the two seas meet – all we could see was snow-covered ice, all around.
In spite of the wind and snow, I managed to record Anne Jensen’s introduction to the location. Available below, for your listening pleasure.Click onto the link:
DateMay 3, 2008 | 6:33 am
TagsAlaska, archaeology, Arctic, Climate, Climate Change College, ice, indigenous, Inupiat, polar bears, snow, USA, Youth