Our welcome to Kaktovik was incredibly warm. Smiles, waves, and little kids running up to give us hugs. Ellie and I spent yesterday in the school, visiting several classrooms and meeting with over half of the students. I missed my students yesterday, the first day of school at EHS, so spending the day with the Harold Kaveolook Rams seemed fitting.
Ellie and I came to teach the students about our research and ended up learning from them. The kids of Kaktovik, along with many adults, were happy to tell us their stories of hunting, fishing, camping, and snowmobiling in the same areas as we surveyed. Their connection with this place is remarkable, and their stories invaluable for outsiders. We heard legends of fish in Schrader Lake so big they could eat caribou, and another story of a giant fish caught in Schrader, that when gutted, revealed fish that it had eaten, including some tagged by scientists decades ago.
We finished the day with a talk at the community center, attended by some surprise out of town guests: officials from ANWR, Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of the Interior. They enjoyed our talk, and we appreciated them taking the time out of a busy trip to come hear what we had to say.
The variety of people that we've talked to is amazing. Kids, Inupiat community members, hotel staff, teachers, tourists, pilots, land-managers, scientists. I appreciated the time people took to talk to us and share their perspective. Small towns are complex, especially so Kaktovik, at the epicenter of the effects of climate change and climate research. I know my understanding of the place is limited, but thanks to the members of this community and other visitors, I know Kaktovik more than when I arrived.
And now... we wait. As we learned on Monday, Kaktovik is notorious for fog delays. We've had beautiful weather, but the fog is back and our flight today was cancelled. Fortunately, we are experienced in weather delays! The extra time give us the opportunity for a polar bear sighting that is more than a distant white lump on the tundra. Tomorrow we try to leave again.