With our rapidly changing climate, precious artifacts in the Canadian Western Arctic are in danger of being lost forever into the sea. On their first solo mission, Jen and Jacob go to Richards Island, NWT, to help with a salvage archaeological project. As the two co-hosts race against time, one of them pulls ahead in their artifact-finding competition.
Arctic C.H.A.R Mission
“It’s our first solo mission without Dr. Rudy and we are going basically as far north as you can go.”
– Jacob Pratt
Inuvialuit of the Great Mackenzie Delta
A major Inuvialuit community settled at the mouth of the great Mackenzie River because of the seasonal congregation of beluga whales. A daring endeavour, Beluga whale hunting involves a group of Invialuit hunters in rows of kayaks with harpoons and sealskin floats challenging the frigid arctic waters for this rich food source, to sustain their families through the long cold winters.
Beluga, Bowhead and Baleen
While beluga was the most numerous whale at the mouth of the Mackenzie, the great prize of traditional whaling was the bowhead and baleen whales which could reach 20m in length. This required larger boats, crews and a whole other kind of organization.
“It’s pretty incredible because you don’t even really need to dig here; there are artifacts literally everywhere.”
– Jenifer Brousseau
Reconstructing the Driftwood Houses of the Arctic
The cruciform communal houses of the Gupuk site were dug deeply into the ground with a roof structure of driftwood and sod. Trees don’t grow this far north, but the current of the Mackenzie River carries wood from the south. These residences likely housed 20-25 people on raised benches around a central, communal area. LIDAR and 3D laser scanning let us reconstruct this, capturing tens of thousands of points in 3D space in seconds. Thanks to visualization software, we can crawl down through the low tunnel entrance, and up into the dimly lit community space of the Siglit family.
Cruciform House Layout
Beluga, seal and caribou bone were abundant and durable raw materials for making weapons and tools. Every tool had its use. Every use had its shape. Great care and ingenuity were devoted to highly specific implements that embodied the spirit and story of the people who made them.