Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879 – 1962), of North Dakota, was an arctic explorer and ethnologist. Because of his studies of the Eskimos, his discoveries of land, the application of new ideas and new methods of exploration, Stefansson was considered the foremost polar explorer of his day, and one of the few great explorers of all time.
During a period of three or four years Mr. Stefansson has produced a creditable list of books about the Arctic. In some respects his service in publishing the results of his Northern studies has differed from that of earlier explorers. He has challenged our preconceptions about the Arctic. “Hunters of the Great North” gives details of Northern life such as have doubtless come within the experience of all Arctic explorers, but which are new to the average American reader. In short, it is an elementary text-book of the Arctic.
Stefansson lived among the Eskimos of the Mackenzie River, studying their language and adopting their mode of life, and spending ten winters and thirteen summers in the polar regions. Among Stefannson's most famous discovery was that of a race of blond Eskimo on Coronation Gulf.
"In the present book I have tried by means of diaries and memory to go back to the vivid impressions of my first year among the Eskimos for the story of what I saw and heard."
In describing his confrontation with a polar bear, Stefansson writes:
“I heard behind me a noise like the spitting of a cat or the hiss of a goose. I looked back and saw, about twenty feet away and almost above me, a polar bear. I had overestimated the bear's distance from shore, and had passed the spot where he lay. From his eye and attitude, as well as the story his trail told afterward there was no doubting his intentions: the hiss was merely his way of saying, "Watch me do it!" Or at least that is how I interpreted it; possibly the motive was chivalry, and the hiss was his way of saying Garde!”
Contents I. PREPARATIONS FOR A LIFEWORK OF EXPLORATION II. DOWN THE MACKENZIE RIVER THROUGH 2000 MILES OF INDIAN COUNTRY III. FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE ESKIMOS IV. CAPTAIN KLINKENBERG—SEA WOLF AND DISCOVERER V. THE WHALING FLEET SAILS AWAY VI. LEARNING TO LIVE AS AN ESKIMO—ON A DIET OF FISH WITHOUT SALT VII. HOW AN ESKIMO SAILED THROUGH THE STORM VIII. AN AUTUMN JOURNEY THROUGH ARCTIC MOUNTAINS IX. THE SUN GOES AWAY FOR THE WINTER X. LOST IN THE MACKENZIE DELTA XI. AN ARCTIC CHRISTMAS WITH AN ENGLISH COUNTRY GENTLEMAN XII. THE LIFE AT TUKTUYAKTOK XIII. LEARNING TO BUILD A SNOWHOUSE AND TO BE COMFORTABLE IN ONE XIV. TRAVELS AFTER THE SUN CAME BACK XV. WE GO IN SEARCH OF OUR OWN EXPEDITION XVI. A SPRING JOURNEY IN AN ESKIMO SKIN BOAT XVII. A RACE OVER THE ARCTIC MOUNTAINS IN SUMMER XVIII. ON A RAFT DOWN THE PORCUPINE RIVER SHORT STORIES OF ADVENTURE I. HOW I LEARNED TO HUNT CARIBOU II. HOW I LEARNED TO HUNT SEALS III. HOW WE HUNT POLAR BEARS
Amazing descriptions of life in the arctic. Eskimos thrive and enjoy life in places these explorers would di Amazing description of life in the arctic. Impressive detail and approach to explaining his experiences. The seem less way the Eskimos have adapted to the way of life in the most hostile terrain is something to really think about when considering the strength of humankind and our enxlsss ability to adapt.
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This is a wonderful book written by the rarest of people, a highly educated white of the early twentieth century who doesn't treat indigenous people as inferior. Very interesting and enjoyable description of arctic life.
Non-fiction, travel to the Far North, living with Eskimo. Events of the beginning XX c, still wilderness around, Hudson Bay Company times.
Even, slow flowing travel observations, then more interesting descriptions of what he encountered, in Wilkie Collins and Dr. Watson style.
The kind of life was there, inventive solutions for real life problems at such harsh climate, what could be done to prevent life threatening misadventures that earlier explorers encountered. Live and learn.
Some interesting stuff about wood-moss-earth type of houses, more warm than log cabins (in abundance of fuel, naturally), igloo as a camping kind of housing, ways to solve the freezing perspiration problem and travel at extremely low temperatures without freezing to death, waterproof things - without waterproofing as we know it, meat only eating - without scurvy, extreme complexity of Eskimo language.
If you are interested in the history of region, native people history, both north and below, and don't mind sometimes slow events passing, it's a good book for armchair vacation.
Another, not encountered and not mentioned aspect of their lives before times described in this book, is in Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage by Steven LeBlanc.