It's A Very Small World...
In this bustling base for North Pole expeditions, everything is expensive in short supply — from "hotel rooms" (our $125/night accommodations were no more than a double-wide trailer with bunk beds) to dog sled guides (especially those who speak English!) Surrounded by icy seas, there's only a three-month window of opportunity for ships carrying tourists and deliveries to reach this northernmost municipality in the world.
We met our guide, a Thule Inuit named Martika Qujaukitsok, through a friend of a friend. A subsistence hunter, he'd never taken people out on an expedition before. Martika (also called Thomas) was very kind, and generously let us take a glimpse of his life in this beautiful but deadly place.
He spoke no English and we didn't have a translator on the expedition, but before we left, we learned a little more about our first-time guide. He's never left his birthplace, the small community of Qaanaaq, Greenland, and he knows only one way of living — that of his ancestors. He spoke about how his traditions, like the arctic landscape, are rapidly changing.
"I drive my dog sled because it is my culture and my life," said Martika. "It will always be that way."
Asked about the ever-increasing hunting quotas placed on Inuit hunters, he replies, "From the outside, they think our hunting is bad. Hunters make and hold the circle of life. We hunt to survive."
He gestures to a group of younger Inuit men. "Our children don't participate in the hunting life anymore. They are foreign to their own culture because they do not go out and hunt."