Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Snow People by Marie Herbert

When she knew she was going to marry an explorer, Marie Herbert saw herself waiting long months at home for news from distant, uncharted areas...
Within two years she was living herself in a remote settlement of Polar Eskimos.
Wally Herbert had developed a profound respect for these independent hunters - they called themselves "Inuit": the real people - when he travelled with them on polar expeditions and he wanted to help them make a record of their dying culture. Marie and Wally - with their 10-month-old baby, Kari - decided to make this record from within: to go alone, without camera crew or film unit, and live with the Eskimos.
Spirited, enthusiastic and sympathetic, Marie Herbert tells the fascinating story of a year of Arctic adventure: in doing so she has written an important anthropological account of a vanishing way of life.

This is a reread. The first time I read this book was around 10 years ago, at that time I did not know I was going to end up living in Qaanaaq only 18 miles from Qeqertassuaq, the settlement where Marie Herbert and her family lived. I decided to read this book again just now because after having lived here for two years I am now moving away. The settlement where Marie Herbert lived no longer exists, it is now used as summer home. It is still a harsh environment up here and it is getting more and more difficult for the locals to live by hunting alone. This problem is the same all over Greenland. Qaanaaq is still isolated even by Greenlandic standards. Two supply ships a year - one in July and one in September - 1 flight a week which is sometimes delayed (the last one was supposed to be here on Wednesday, it didn't arrive until Monday) and helicopter connections to the settlements and Thule Airbase.
I enjoyed this book as Marie Herbert tells the story of her stay and the tough daily life in a very fascinating and captivating way. Having lived up here but in a modern house I am full of respect that she managed to live in those primitive conditions. Don't mistake that, I also have a lot of respect for the Greenlandic women doing it.

I highly recommend this book.

This is Herbert Island, the island Marie Herbert and her family lived on. When the light is right it is just possible to spot the houses of the settlement.
This picture is taken from my living room window.

This book qualifies for: 
Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge,
A-Z  Book Challenge 2012,
2012 Where are you reading Challenge

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