Today's selection focuses on the Inupiat (one of the groups often called Eskimos) of Barrow and sea ice. Inupiat whalers travel miles out onto the ice, and use it as a platform to harvest whales in open water. But the ice doesn't just sit there, it is dynamic. Enormous masses of ice can crash together creating man-killing ice quakes and opening watery gaps between the men and shore. Hunters often have to break camp in minutes and race miles for safety. One of these races is described in today's excerpt.
There's a lot in this excerpt, including an explanation of how the Inupiuq language facilitates work and survival on the ice, and why Inupiat hunters stop a lot and look around (hint: man isn't necessarily the top level predator out there), and the ways Inupiat traditions of respect for older people work themselves out among the hunters.
The Daily News will have another excerpt each day this week.
Wohlforth has set up a web site for the book. with many photos and additional text, including photos not in the book, and the text of an article from Orion magazine.
How do the supercomputers come into this? The book is meant to be more than a description of Inupiat whaling. Wohlforth's goal is to describe the cultures of scientists and Inupiat, as they come face to face with the impact of global warming in the north country.
Parenthetically - I've had several posts on whaling in the last few weeks. Other recent posts include a description of 19th Century Aleut whaling methods, a description of 19th Century U.S. whaling enterprise organization, and a link to a post by Tyler Cowen on stone age Korean whaling.