In This Issue...
F.I.D.O.: Marit Holm
Nunavik Dog Slaughters, Part III
Greenland Dog / Inuit Dog, The Same Dog
Differences in Mushing: Greenland and Arctic Canada, Part I
Behavior Notebook: The Human Role
Book Review: Frozen Horizons
Product Review: Wheel Dog Harness
Tip for the Trail: Pack a Pruning Saw
IMHO: The System
Annual Index for Volume 7
Frozen Horizons: The World's Largest National Park
by Ivars Silis
reviewed by Sue Hamilton
I turned the last page, then the back cover resplendent with its panoramic view of walruses slumbering on a sandy beach of an icy bay, leaned back in my chair and sighed. It has been five years since Mark and I set foot in the North we now missed terribly, longing for the pleasure of its beauty and the well of emotions that such a place evokes (and certainly yearned for the good company of our friends). For me, coming to the end of Frozen Horizons, was like reluctantly having to leave the Arctic. I felt great inner peace for having enjoyed the experience, yet much sadness that the encounter was all-too-soon over. For those of you who await your first chance to have the magnificence of the North stimulate your senses, Ivars Silis' book will take you there and give you that intimate opportunity without having to buy a plane ticket.
Silis may be described as Greenland's most famous photographer, but this Danish born master who now calls Greenland home is as skilled with the pen as he is with the shutter. Like his photographs, his words are rich in detail, color and sensation. (His work was a prominent component of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History "Festival of Greenland", exhibited in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. May through July, 2005.)
My original interest in the book was piqued by a photograph I first saw back in 1990 on the jacket of an audio tape purchased at the Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik, NWT and then again seven years later as a large poster purchased at the airport shop in Kangerlussuaq on Greenland's west coast. The image, a blur of frenzied Greenland Dogs in their harnesses surrounding a lunging polar bear, has haunted me these fifteen years. How could such an event have been captured? What is the story behind it? Did all the dogs survive? Who took this photo? It wasn't until a few months ago that Dr. Marit Holm (our September The Fan Hitch F.I.D.O.) identified the photographer who, in turn, advised me where I could learn all about the encounter.
Reading Frozen Horizons was not unlike wandering through a dictionary. The original target of my interest, that photograph and its story, led me off in other fascinating directions. The book's subtitle, "The World's Largest National Park" defines the scope of the subject matter. The park, nearly a million square kilometers, borders two Inuit communities: Thule in the northwest and Scoresby Sound in the east. Its tortuous coastline and 3.2 km thick ice cap are home to animals hunted by these Greenlanders, using dog teams. Of course, this is what piques the interest of ISD enthusiasts - the tale behind the intriguing photograph of dogs and bear, and later describing a muskox hunt with the dogs' partnership. "…As we drove up over the crest of the hill, within seconds the one ox we had sighted turned into a flock of 13, standing stock-still in a cluster. We couldn't stop the dogs, who started thrashing at them delightedly." There is also a fine chapter on life with the Sirius Patrol.
Although the "doggie parts" are limited essentially to just three of Frozen Horizon's thirteen chapters, there is far more to enjoy and to help readers appreciate how the park's land and climate have shaped the lives of Greenland Inuit and their use of dogs. In addition to chronicling their way of life now, Silis delves into the history of the region as he accompanies biologists, entomologists, geologists, glaciologists, climatologists and archeologists during their fascinating research as they unravel the secrets of this magnificent region and its cultures past. The author's prose, skillfully translated from Danish to English (with only a few linguistic oddities resulting), waxes lyrical and poetic, is peppered with wry humor, yet brutally realistic about how the extreme forces of nature have and continue to shape the park and all life that has ever walked upon it, how that life has managed to survive - if smart and lucky enough - and just how vulnerable this surprisingly fragile place is to the intrusions of all humans, even "innocent" footsteps trodding delicate surfaces.
Ten years since first published, this extraordinary book may not be easy to find, but is well worth the hunt. I bought my copy from Atuagkat, Postbox 1009, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland; phone: 32 17 37, fax: 32 24 44, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. On the web they can be found at: www.atuagkat.gl/. They were very accommodating and they do take credit cards.
Frozen Horizons: The World's Largest National Park;
text and photos by Ivars Silis, translated from Danish to
English by Tim
Davies; Atuakkiorfik A/S, Nuuk (Greenland) 1995; ISBN 87
558 1143 4.
Editor's Note: The Fan Hitch thanks Ivars Silis for permitting us to share these two examples of his fine photography from Frozen Horizons: The World's Largest National Park with our readers.